THE Muslim appeasement politics on the part of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress again demonstrated its ugly face-now in Bareilly town of Uttar Pradesh. The city remained under curfew for more than two weeks and lost the property worth crores of rupees. More than 60 houses of innocent Hindus were burnt and 10 seriously-injured people are struggling for life in different hospitals. Apart from the appeasement politics by political parties, the wrong decisions taken by the local administration too contributed in worsening the situation.
Instead of taking strict and timely action against the rioters, the State BSP government crossed all limits of appeasement by releasing the mastermind of the riots, Maulana Tauqir Raza Khan who is also president of Ittehad-e-Millat Council (IMC). A number of criminal cases have been registered against Raza under section 147, 148, 149, 458, 307, 332, 336, 427, 152, 153 K, 295, etc. of IPC during the last two decades. The followers of this Muslim cleric vandalised the city for many days and the administration remained mute spectator.
Tauqir Raza was arrested on March 8 following his involvement in the riots. Keeping in view the seriousness of the sections imposed on him by the police the court denied him bail the same day. The court had to hear this case again on March 11. But before Raza was produced in the court on March 11, the State government first shunted the District Magistrate Ashish Goel who had arrested Raza and then withdrew all critical Sections imposed on him. Finally, the court had to grant him bail.
The process and means adopted by the local administration to release Raza were even condemned by the laywers of the city. The Bareilly Bar Assocation passed a resolution in a meeting condemning the release. The resolution said the judicial system was made a mockery in the whole process. Some lawers of the city also demanded ban on the IMC, the politcal outfit of Raza. Some members of the Bar Association have written to Chief Minister Mayawati making such demands.
According to an eyewitness, the riots began on March 2 when the followers of Barelavi sect of Muslims were taking out second Barahvafat procession. Normally, they take out only one procession every year to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, which they had already taken out on February 27. But this year they announced another procession on March 2. Here the intention of the local administration becomes doubtful why it granted permission for the second procession when one procession had already been allowed? Secondly, despite knowing the fact that the policemen will remain busy in celebrating Holi on March 2 the local administration granted permission for the procession without making adequate alternate security arrangements.
On March 2, apart from the main procession, some small processions were also taken out in the city. Thousands of people from Moradabad, Sambhal and Rampur had also been invited for the second procession. At around 2.30 pm a group of Muslim youth suddenly decided to change the route of the procession, which was not allowed by the administration. It was opposed by the local people also. But the Muslim youth became adamant and they insisted to take out the procession only from the new route. The situation turned tense. Meanwhile, some of the youths passed this information to Tauqir Raza who was then leading the main big procession with more than 50,000 people at Kuhadapeer. Immediately after getting this information, he warned the local administration to clear the route of the procession otherwise the situation would turn out of control. Then he gave a highly inflammatory speech which instigated the crowed to turn violent. Soon after the speech, the Muslim goons allegedly started torching the houses of Hindus in four different localities-Kuhadapeer, Duddalbagh, Banhana and Charvarti. The swords and other country made weapons which they were displaying during the procession were then used to terrorise the Hindus. “It appeared the rioters had made full planning in advance. They searched LPG cylinders in almost all the houses and put them to fire, which blasted like bombs. The rioters even torched the Kohadapeer Police post. Finally, the situation became out of control and the administration clamped curfew in four of the six police stations-Qila, Prem Nagar, Baradari, Kotwali, at around 6,15 pm,” told an eyewitness to Organiser.
“It was a deliberate attempt of the communal elements to provoke the sentiments of the Hindus. The sequence of incidents – changing the route of the procession despite specific directions from the local administration and the public display of arms and raising communally sensitive slogans throughout the route of procession – fomented the communal clash,” told Mahesh Sharma, a resident of Kotwali area, one of the worst-riot hit areas in Bareilly, to media persons.
The police was aware of the role of Tauqir Raza in the riots but it took six days to arrest him. With his arrest the Muslims took to the streets and staged dharnas in different parts of the city. These dharnas were managed from the local mosques with regular instructions issued to the agitators from there. Despite imposition of curfew and Section 144 in the city thousands of Muslims assembled at Islamia Inter College, Azad Inter College and at many other places on March 9. Not only this they offered namaz in open but no action was taken by the administration.
The dramatic release of Tauqir Raza from jail at night of March 11 agitated the Hindus and they protested against the decision of the administration. The police, which did not take any action against the Muslims offering namaz on the road, used force against these agitating Hindus. It even fired rubber bullets on them, which seriously injured 70 year Hiralal, seven year old Ajay and many other innocent people. After this incident, curfew was clamped in the fifth police station (Subhash Nagar) also. Sources claimed that former DM Ashish Goel was shunted out because he refused to give a clean chit to the riot accused cleric Raza and release him as he believed that the administration had sufficient grounds for his arrest.
The police have arrested about 400 people in connection with riots and about 80 per cent of them are Hindus. The police arrested even the sixty years old priest of Janakibai temple Shri Ram Kishore. “The police arrested the innocent people. Not only the temple priest Shri Ram Kishore, a BHMS student Shanu Saxena who had come to the city to celebrate Holi was put behind the bars,” said local MLA Shri Rajesh Agrawal. The mastermind of the riots has been released but none of these innocent people have yet been released. The police support to the rioters was clear as the business establishments which were put to fire by the Muslim rioters were termed as ‘fire by short circuit’.
The local administration granted permission for taking out second Brahvafat procession to Muslims, which became the root cause of riots, but it denied permission for taking out the Ram Barat procession which is being taken out for more than two hundred years. Not only this the Congress MP Pravin Aron along with leaders of some other political parties freely moved in the curfew bound areas but the local administration did not allow the three-member team of BJP leaders-MP from Aaonla Maneka Gandhi (some parts of the curfew bound Bareilly come under her constituency), Gorakhpur MP Adityanath and Meerut MP Rajendra Agrawal, to visit the city on March 13. Smt Maneka Gandhi was restricted at Ghaziabad while Yogi Aditynath was asked to get down from Gorakhpur-Bareilly Express train in Barabanki, near Lucknow.
The BJP MPs then raised the issue in the Lok Sabha on March 15. Smt Maneka Gandhi sought a judicial inquiry into the episode by a Supreme Court judge and urged the Centre to be more proactive on the issue. Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for preventing political leaders from visiting the town. Interestingly, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav attacked Mayawati in the Parliament for the riots, but he defended the mastermind of the riots, Tauqir Raza.
There is a blind race among BSP, SP and Congress leaders to draw political mileage from the riots. According to reports the leaders of all these parties reportedly approached the influential Subbani family of the city as it has high influence among Muslims in the region. Tauqir Raza is also the cousin of Subbani Miyan. This family has been the follower of Congress. It is said some Congress ministers in UPA government also pressurised the administration to release Tauqir Raza.
(With inputs from VSK Agra)