After the scars of Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur communal-caste clashes, Uttar Pradesh is once again under the heat of communal tension, as it seems to have become a growing trend for past one year. This time, it was the provocative celebrations of Republic Day in Kasganj district of western UP that spurted into violence, as clash broke out between two communities, leading to the death of a 22-year-old young boy, and leaving several people injured. Another person succumbed to his injuries next day at a local hospital. The administration, as a measure to control the riot, snapped internet and communications services to stop propagating baseless rumours.
Three Scorpio SUVs, two Magic passenger transport vehicles and about a dozen of vehicles including heavy trucks were also targeted by the mob on the Mathura-Bareilly highway. The unruly crowd also set afire a kiosk near a petrol pump and a waste dump. Fire tenders were rushed to douse the fire.
The incident was reported on January 26 when around 50-60 motorcycle riding volunteers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had taken out a bike rally as part of “Tiranga Yatra” (Tricolour March). To march through, they entered a road which was already occupied by another community geared up to hoist the national flag as part of R’Day celebration, and were shouting slogans like “Hindustan me Rehna Hoga to Vande Matram Kehna Hoga. Some chairs were laid out blocking the road and bikers were stopped until the flag is unfurled. The biker group were allegedly booed at while passing the locality. Soon, a clash between the two groups broke out.
Rakesh Kumar, Additional District Magistrate, Kasganj, said the “Tiranga Yatra rally was taken out without permission from the administration. On the other hand, the organiser of Tiranga Yatra claimed that no permission is required to be obtained on Republic day.”
Ripudaman Singh, Station House Officer, Kasganj, said the clash occurred after a group in Badu Nagar objected to certain slogans raised by motorcycle-borne participants of the Tiranga Yatra, which had started from the Bilram Gate area.
He said another trigger for the clash was an altercation in which a member of one group allegedly slapped a youth of the other. The group had reached the Mathura-Bareilly highway near the Bilram Gate area when some unidentified people hurled stones at them. A verbal altercation followed, which soon turned violent. The angry mob went on a rampage, damaging more than 12 vehicles and property, a district official said. The agitated people also tried to set afire a place of religious worship and some religious texts.
Briefing the media about Kasganj riots, the Principal Secretary (Home), Arvind Kumar said that in this connection two cases have been registered. The first is against four named and some unnamed accused for rioting, attempt to murder and damaging public property. All the four named accused were arrested by police along with two others in this case.
In the murder of Chandan alias Abhishek Gupta, a case has been registered against 20 named persons for riots and murder under stringent provisions of law, and three accused have been arrested so far. Apart from above 9 arrests in above two cases, 112 persons were arrested as a preventive measure for the apprehension of breach of peace and public order. While ADG Agra Zone, Commissioner Aligarh, IG Aligarh have been camping there since January 26. An IG level officer DK Thakur has reached there from Lucknow and camping there to supervise and monitor the situation closely.
“We are speaking to the people, the guilty are being arrested, and intensive checking and house-to-house searches were undertaken. We will not spare any guilty and will book them under the provisions of NSA. Our strict handling helped us to bring the situation under absolute control,” claimed new DGP OP Singh in Lucknow who had taken the charge just couple of days back.
“Sufficient back up of force has been deputed in troubled areas. Five Companies of PAC and one company of Rapid Action Force had been deployed there soon after the unfortunate incident along with additional civil police officers, policemen from the zone. One more company of RAF has been subsequently provided to control any untoward incidents,” he added.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr.PC have been imposed by District Magistrate RP Singh to defuse tension. The situation is claimed to be well under control.
After the peaceful cremation of Chandan on the morning of January 27, some miscreants have tried to disturb the peace. Sporadic attempts of arson in the outskirts were reported on January 28 also. Strict patrolling has been maintained. District administration has been directed to deal firmly and not allow anybody to take the law into their hands. Additional police forces, including Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) are kept on standby as a precautionary measure.
Muzaffarnagar riots had proved to be a boon for BJP who had drawn maximum benefit of polarised communal situation to exploit it to its favour in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, paving the way to Narendra Modi campaign for achieving thumping majority.
Uttar Pradesh government is considering a proposal to withdraw cases related to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots against pioneer campaigners of BJP, and has sought opinion of the district magistrate regarding its status, and asking if withdrawing it would be the right step in public interest.
A reference through the Law Department, had sought details on 13 points in the case. These cases were registered on August 31, 2013 but there is no mention of the leader’s name in the letter as the move could attract public ire against such a move, therefore except mention of the crime number the identity of accused politicians have been purposely concealed.
The state government had sought opinion on eight such criminal cases, lodged against BJP Budhana MLA Umesh Malik in Muzaffarnagar. Besides Malik, the others names include BJP Bijnor MP Bhartendra Singh, former Union Minister and local BJP MP Sanjeev Baliyan, and Sadhvi Prachi. Baliyan, Bhartendra Singh and Umesh Malik are all facing cases related to Muzaffarnagar riots. One of the cases against them, which also names Sadhvi Prachi, is of making inflammatory speeches at a mahapanchayat on August 31, 2013, which is believed to have been one of the triggering point responsible for large scale riots. The other BJP leaders facing riots cases include BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan, Shamli, and UP Minister Suresh Rana, and BJP MLA from Sardhana, Sangeet Singh Som. Last year, police filed a closure report in one riot case against Som citing lack of evidence. The 2013 riots had led to 63 deaths, while over 40,000 people had been displaced.
“There had been criminalisation of the ruling BJP at every level. In UP, there’s no rule or Constitution, but a jungle raj-like atmosphere is prevailing. The latest example is such riots in Kasganj. Tension is still prevailing and the state government seems to be failing here,” BSP chief Mayawati alleged.
Samajwadi Party spokesperson Sunil Singh Sajan alleged that for the past three days volunteers of the RSS, the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the ABVP were threatening people and an atmosphere of fear prevailed. “The government is quiet. The police is helpless. ”
UP witnesses 60 incidents of communal clashes in 2017, highest so far. Bengal, which recently witnessed communal violence in Basirhat, has had 26 incidents and 3 deaths until May, as compared to 32 incidents (4 deaths) for entire 2016. The nation had seen 296 incidents of communal violence last year till October, with 44 deaths, according to data released by the home ministry before the Parliament. The previous two years in their entirety saw 703 deaths (2016) and 751 (2015), with 86 and 97 deaths respectively.
Uttar Pradesh has seen the highest number of incidents with 60, while Karnataka, MP, Rajasthan and Bengal too figure high on the list. In Uttar Pradesh’s 60 incidents, 16 people have been killed and over 150 injured. In 2016, UP had 162 incidents and 29 deaths. Bengal, which recently witnessed communal violence in Basirhat, has had 26 incidents and 3 deaths until May, as compared to 32 incidents (4 deaths) for entire 2016.
“The responsibilities of dealing with communal violence, investigation, prosecution of crimes, rest primarily with the respective state governments. Details like persons arrested or convicted, action taken against them and compensation paid to the victims are not maintained centrally,” MoS (Home) Kiren Rijiju said in a statement in Lok Sabha Last year.