Asghar Ali Engineer
(Secular Perspective Jan. 16 yo Feb. 15, 2008)
Every year we monitor communal riots in India. Here is the account of riots, which took place in 2007, which we could monitor through various sources. The first minor riot took place in Bandi district, near Jaipur in Rajasthan on 18th January. Five persons were injured and 7 shops were set to fire when riot broke out when persons belonging to Muslims entered a Gym about which there was controversy and fight broke out between persons belonging to two communities. Of the 5 persons injured one was a policeman and 7 shops burnt resulted in huge economic loss. Police brought the rioting under control and curfew was imposed.
Indore in M.P. has become another sensitive area where communal violence breaks out of and on 21st January clashes broke out between workers of BJP and minority community and this trouble began after some people belonging to minority community showed swords to a BJP office bearer. Several people were injured in Mukripura where rioting broke out and a motorcycle was set afire. Police officer Anshuman Yadav said that situation was brought under control and police had to use teargas shells to disperse mob. There was tension in the whole city.
Bangalore saw outbreak of communal violence on 21st January two days after Muslims had demonstrated on Friday against hanging of Saddam Husain in Iraq. Police fired and in Shivajinagar area one person died and 3 were injured. In fact before this rally there was communal tension and there was incident of stoning in which 50 persons were injured. Then the Hindu Virat Mahasabha took out Shobha Yatra on the occasion of 100th birth centenary of Guru Golwalkar and the yatris set several places on fire. The police fired in which one man was killed and a police constable was stabbed. Other 4 police officials were also injured. About 20 civilians were also injured. The violent mob set five buses and several cars to fire. Many shops belonging to Muslims were also set ablaze.
Next it was turn of Gorakhpur, U.P. where on the occasion of Muharram on 27th January (on 7th Muharram procession) there was stoning from some houses in Khotipura area. About a dozen persons were injured in stoning from both sides. The violent mob set fire to one Mazar (shrine) and one car. Curfew was imposed in three areas. Communal tension erupted after one person Agarhari was killed in firing by some unknown person.
However, Gorakhpur continued to burn for couple of days more. Violence again broke out on 29th January when the BJP M.P. Yogi Adityanath was arrested for provoking violence. The demonstrators set ablaze three jeeps and several commercial establishments. The Government of U.P. suspended District Magistrate and S.P. for failing to control communal violence. One person had died and several injured in communal violence and so curfew was imposed in three areas. In fact violence continued as Adityanath is known for provoking communal violence. The Central Government had to think of sending central forces to control violence. Sriprakash Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home in the Centre said this after touring riot affected areas of Gorakhpur.
Next communal incident broke out in Beawar town of Rajgarh district, M.P. On 1st February fight broke out between two communities when some posters about a programme were torn and this became cause of violence. There was intense fighting between members of two communities. Several shops and cars were set to fire. Then curfew was imposed and orders were issued to fire on any one violating curfew. The administration also imposed ban on all politicians from entering the area. About 40 persons were arrested for indulging in violence.
Indore again witnessed communal violence on 12th February. The violence broke out when it was rumoured that a Muslim youth beat a Hindu girl. Soon crowds gathered and violent incidents began. Several vehicles were burnt and 10 persons were injured. Violence was so intense that police had to fire in the air and curfew was imposed in three police station areas.
There were minor clashes in Jaipur on 16th February in Lodon ki Gali in Jaipur city of Rajasthan when a Muslim threw chicken waste in a gutter and the Hindus raised hue and cry and stoning started in which 10 persons were injured. Police arrested 10 persons. Police also arranged a meeting of the elders of the two communities for peace, which had salutary effect.
Another incident of communal violence occurred in Aliganj area of Sultanpur when some boys of majority community indulged in eve teasing and used unbecoming language against some girls going to a photo studio. When this news spread in no time people from both the communities gathered and began stoning each other. Many persons were injured of which two persons, one Hindu and one Muslim were critical and several vehicles were set ablaze. Some firing also took place from both sides.
Darbhanga in Bihar witnessed communal violence due to desecration of one grave belonging to Muslim community. 12 persons were injured. Similarly communal violence broke out in Chittorgarh District at Begin Tehsil on 18th March because some processionists threw gulal on a mosque. Police arrested 70 persons. Thus violence was controlled.
Poonch in Jammu part of J&K witnessed communal violence when 1000 strong group of Muslims occupied a plot of land belonging to a BJP leader and constructed a mosque. The incident occurred on 24th March. The police intervened and stopped construction of mosque. Next day people again began to construct mosque and then riots broke out injuring 20 people when police stopped them and demolished the incomplete structure. Over 25 people many of them policemen were injured in pitched battles between police and rioters. As tension mounted police imposed curfew and sealed off all approach roads and shut down the local telephone exchange. As violence continued army was called in and construction of mosque was stopped.
On 28th March there was trouble in Lalgaon, 40 kms from Jamnagar, in Gujarat when a girl participant in a Ramnaumi procession was teased. The processionists were provoked and stoning started. The mob set fire to the house and shop of the teaser. The police had to lathicharge the mob. The police then arrested the youth who had teased the girl and police bandobast was made in the town.
Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) has become highly communal violence prone since BJP has come to power there. On April 1 again there was communal violence in Narsinghgadh town of Rajgarh district when two processions Hanuman Jayanti and Miladun Nabi procession were being taken out. The processionists of Hanuman Jayanti stopped near a mosque and began shouting anti-Muslim slogans, a police official said. It was also reported that one person died but it could not be ascertained whether it was riot related death. To control the situation five additional companies of SAF, RAF and STF were rushed to Narshinghgadh. Police also had to fire and use teargas shells to disperse unruly mobs of the two communities.
Later three bodies were discovered killed in communal violence. More than 100 persons were arrested and illegal weapons seized in raids. Two bodies were discovered in a pond and one person died as a teargas shell hit him. The analysts said that these riots are clear sign of BJP’s poll preparations. The party, it is said, is out to repeat Gujarat experiment.
On 12th April Umarkhed, in Nander district, Maharashtra witnessed communal violence. A Muslim youth Zamir was murdered by some unknown persons and when his funeral procession was being taken out some people in the procession burnt a travel bus. Then a Shiv Sena leader summoned Shiv Sainiks and Bajrang Dal activists and began looting and burning hundreds of shops. Police arrested many miscreants looting and burning shops. Some Muslim youth also then retaliated and both sides suffered losses worth lakhs of rupees. To control the situation additional police forces were summoned.
Shahjahanpur, M.P. witnessed communal violence on 13th May in which 6 persons were injured including 3 women. It was told by police authorities that violence broke out when two buses carrying marriage parties belonging to two communities clashed on the question of giving way to the bus. Police reached on the spot and separated two fighting groups.
Ahmedabad the communally most sensitive city saw minor clashes between Hindus and Muslims on 14th June when a truck carrying mutton was stoned by miscreants. Soon members of both the communities began stoning each other in which 18 persons were injured. However, police intervened and controlled situation.
On August 14 Tenkasi town known for fireworks manufacturing witnessed communal violence in which 6 persons were killed. The violence broke out on the question of constructing mosque opposite a temple. There was old enmity between two groups. A year before Hindu Munnani leader Kumar Pandian was stabbed to death allegedly by members of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam. Munnani activists retaliated by stabbing TMMK leader Sait Khan who survived. Thus situation was simmering and clashes occurred in the market place and six persons were killed.
Next communal violence took place on 31st August when two groups belonging to two communities clashed after a college girl complained that she was teased. It was again a case of girl teasing which led to eruption on August 31. A college student of Shahera village complained to her community members that she was being harassed. A couple of boys belonging to the other community. Members of both communities gathered and indulged in stone throwing at each other. A local police fired a round in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. The crowd had turned violent and burnt four vehicles and shouted slogans against each other. The police, fearing worst, even called additional forces. However, situation came under control.
Next on 1st September Allahabad witnessed communal flare up when Qur’an was desecrated in Kareli area. Some pages of Qur’an were found burnt in an old cemetery of Kareli area. The news spread like wild fire and thousands of people gathered and began shouting slogans and began stoning. Police vehicles were damaged due to stoning. In Kareli area 80% are Muslims. Since people gathered were shouting slogan in support of Samajwadi M.P. Atiq Ahmed, BJP believed it was done by followers of Atiq Ahmed. The police fired in the air and lobbed teargas shells to disperse the mob. Fourteen persons were arrested. Curfew was imposed in five police station areas.
Then it was turn in Jalgaon in Maharashtra to go through communal bout on 17th September when some Muslim youth tried to stop a Ganesh procession which was passing through an unauthorized route and hell was let loose. The police rushed to the spot and faced shower of stones. Several police people were injured and had to be hospitalized. It must be said that the police showed great deal of patience and did not react to the mob violence otherwise whole Jalgaon would have burnt. The mob could be mollified only after police announced that 20 persons who allegedly obstructed Ganesh procession have been arrested. The situation was saved.
On September 19 Surat experienced communal violence when a VHP leader of Gauraksha samiti (Cow protection committee) was murdered allegedly by a Muslim. The family of VHP leader alleged that police has given shelter to the murderer and refused to perform his last rites. One person was stabbed and four shops burnt as fresh violence erupted by an irate mob in Kosadi village in Surat district. Jashubhai Darbar, VHP leader was maintaining vigil against illegal slaughter of cows and he was attacked by a mob with swords and iron rods and died on spot. As news of murder spread, Hindus from nearby villages gathered and targeted Muslim establishments and houses. One person was stabbed in Kim village. Police arrested 30 persons in connection with rioting in Kosadi village. There is 5000 Muslim population in Kosadi and it is alleged cow slaughter is rampant in the area.
Panigate area of Baroda city is highly sensitive area and it witnessed frequent riots. On 22nd September it erupted in communal violence on the occasion of Ganapati procession. Tension built up as on Friday the Ganapati processionists halted before a mosque and began dancing and singing in a obscene manner. Then stoning started on the procession and riots broke out. The police commissioner P.C.Thaker himself was injured in stoning. Many others were also injured in rioting. Even 30 policemen including a deputy police commissioner were injured. A rumour was spread that a Bajrang Dal activist was killed and rioting spread in other areas of Baroda. Police commissioner said that he would take action against those who spread this rumor.
Baroda again witnessed communal violence on 27th September again on the occasion of Ganapati Visarjan (immersion) in which 10 persons were injured However, police controlled the situation in time.
On 28 September Khamgaon, in Maharashtra came under the spell of communal violence on the occasion of Ganesh procession. Three processions passed off peacefully through Aman Chowk. But the fourth procession accompanied by local MLA stopped before a mosque and indulged in provocative acts. Some Muslims requested the procession to go ahead as it was Iftar time (breaking fast). Then stoning on procession started though some maintain miscreants themselves organized stoning. Then riots broke out and police played a partisan role. Next day also in some areas Hindus attacked Muslim houses and there was police firing in which one Muslim youth was injured. Police role was quite pro-rioters of Hindu community. It is alleged that thousands of Hindus attacked Barde plot and Yasinkhan plot (Muslim mohallas) right in presence of police. The mob openly used obscene words against Muslim women. Curfew had to be imposed in Khamgaon. Shiv Sena members even threatened Muslims publicly that ‘you observe Ramzan, we will celebrate Eid’. And despite all this innocent Muslims were arrested. A high level inquiry was demanded by Muslims of Khamgaon in the role of police and those responsible for riots.
On 7th October Communal violence broke out in Jaisalmer, border town in Rajasthan. The Hindutva forces have penetrated even in border areas now. The violence took place on the issue of cow slaughter. Sangh Parivar gave call for bandh and it resulted in violence in which mob set ablaze 8 houses and two vehicles belonging to minority community.
We witnessed communal violence next in Amravati, another communally sensitive town in Maharashtra. On 22nd October Hindus and Muslims clashed in which 26 people were injured. The clash occurred during Durga immersion procession. The clashes took place in Achalpur of Amravati district. The mob set fire to several jewellery shops and police had to resort to firing. It all began with some youngsters dancing and throwing gulal which fell on religious place and two groups clashed and stoning and incidents of arson started. Achalpur had not witnessed communal violence on this scale. Violence spread to several areas and jewellery market was looted and burnt. Police fired at least 50 rounds to disperse the rioting mob. An indefinite curfew was imposed. Achalpur is a historical town once ruled by Bahmani rulers. It was a devastating scene after rioting. Here too police played partisan role and a Muslim delegation met R.R.Patil, Home Minister of Maharashtra in this connection and told him that one policeman was involved in raping a Muslim woman. Many Muslims fled from Achalpur for fear of their lives. Kadre, a police inspector was subsequently suspended.
Savner town in Indore district came under spell of communal violence on 3rd November where a bye-election for assembly seat was due. Violence broke out after some altercation on a teashop. One person was killed according to official sources but media reported three dead and several injured. Curfew had to be imposed. Some analysts maintained that this riot was part of a conspiracy since assembly election was due on 12th December. According to a Milli Gazette report Police and SRP men were among the rioters in looting and burning 137 shops burnt, property worth crores of rupees were destroyed and more than 200 persons arrested.
On Christmas Day i.e. on 25th December riots broke out against Christians in Kandhamal district. This was first time that Christians faced systematic riots in which VHP was deeply involved. Several churches were burnt and according to official account 4 persons died but unofficially 12 persons died. Orrisa has been the centre of anti-Christian violence. It was in this state that an Australian priest working among the lepers Graham Stains was burnt alive along with his two sons. BJP and VHP have become very bold since BJP is part of ruling coalition. Though Christians face charge of conversion everywhere by Sangh Parivar but Orissa has large tribal population and VHP has made it centre of its anti-Christian activities. So far churches were burnt, priests attacked and nuns molested in several parts of India, specially in tribal areas but Orissa witnessed full fledged communal riots for the first time. This naturally came as a great shock for the Christian community.
We have given above account of communal riots throughout 2007 which we could monitor. May be some riots may have been left out which were very minor in character. It is our efforts to monitor almost all riots which take place in India. Most of the riots listed here are small in character. The causes, it will be seen, are very petty. In no other countries such petty causes will result in communal violence. Personal disputes soon acquire communal character.
This is of course result of widespread communal propaganda and law taking no serious notice of communal organizations. No action is ever taken against provocative newspaper articles or speeches by political leaders. Everyone thinks of nothing but votes and no one cares for the country and woes of the people. Even no concerted efforts are made to secularise police. Several RSS trained persons join police force and they show sympathy with majority community rioters.
Communal forces are aggressively exploiting religion for political ends and it appears there is silent consensus among all political parties (except of course left parties) including secular parties like Congress, Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s BSP, Janta Dal (U) as well as Janta Dal (secular) to use communal sentiments for political purposes. Some symbolic noises are made against communalism but except left all want to benefit from religious and caste sentiments. It is dangerous game and very harmful to unity of the country in the long run. But who cares if you can capture power today?
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism