Riots, lawlessness and caste conflict rule the roost
Dr SK Pandey from Lucknow
The state government kept showering sops on the Muslim community during its short term under the present regime, and Akhilesh Yadav kept telling them, every now and again, that his party was grateful to them for their support which led them to power, etc etc. Tension still continues in riot-hit Bareilly and all the political parties have held the Samajvadi Party (SP) accountable for its failure to curb communal clashes.
In Bareilly, curfew was imposed in the city on July 22 following clashes between two groups which claimed four lives. The DM and SSP were removed on July 30. The curfew was lifted on August 7. However, riots broke again on August 11, when route of Janmashtami processions were changed in Baradari and Kalbari area leading to brick batting and firing by the Muslim community, which left 18 persons injured. More than 200 persons have been arrested so far, the majority of them being Hindus.
The state witnessed five communal clashes in first five months of the SP government. Like Bareilly, four people were killed at Kosi Kalan, Mathura, on June 1 after violence broke out following arson and loot by Muslims of the area. The conflict began outside a place of worship over the sharing of a water tanker. On June 4, the DM and SSP of the district were replaced, but situation continues to be tense in Kosi Kalan.
Pratapgarh has also witnessed two communal clashes since June. The first clash took place at Ashtan village on June 23 after kidnap, rape and murder of a minor Hindu dalit girl. The police tried to shield the guilty i.e. four Muslim youth involved in the crime. In retaliation, the angry villagers burnt the mud huts of the perpetrators of violence. On June 26, the DM and SSP were suspended by the government. However, on August 7, violence broke out again in the district, this time at Sonahi village, following a petty dispute between members of two communities over fare charged by a tempo driver. A person was killed in the clash. What is putting the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) government in poor light is that communal clashes were negligible during Mayawati regime in UP.
Furthermore, the moral of the police force is said to be down because of Akhilesh Yadav government's decision to withdraw cases lodged against criminals and rioters. The government has started process to withdraw cases against 40 accused who were booked for attacking police in Moradabad on July 6, 2011 following an alleged incident of disrespect to Quran. The then Moradabad SSP was also injured in the attack. In such a scenario, no officer will put his/her life to risk and act against perpetrators.
The opposition parties describe transfers of DM and SSP as cosmetic exercise which has failed to act as a deterrent for the real culprits. After Mathura and Bareilly riots, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the SP government of favouring Muslims as a part of its appeasement policy.
Trouble started in Baradari area of Bareilly when members of Muslim community attacked a Janmashtami procession. The procession had deviated from its fixed route and was stopped by some persons in Jagatpur Panwaria locality, leading to heavy brick batting and firing in which three persons, including a mother-son duo were injured. Over two dozen persons including policemen were also injured in brick-batting and the violent Muslims also torched several vehicles. In Kalibari area people protested when route of Dadhikandho procession was changed. While police resorted to lathicharge and fired tear gas shells the Muslims indulged into brick batting and firing. A youth was injured in firing. In the wake of clashes, curfew was clamped in Baradari, Prem Nagar, Qila and Kotwali areas of the city and all schools and colleges were closed till further orders. Senior Superintendent of Police of Bareilly Satyendraveer Singh suspended two sub-inspectors Asharam and Babu Ram along with station house officer of Baradari police station. This is the second time when curfew has been clamped in the city. Earlier curfew was clamped on July 22 following the attack on kanwarias, which claimed four lives and the curfew could be lifted completely just on August 7 last.
Tension also gripped Allahabad when a procession, being taken out by members of a Muslim community in protest against incidents of attack on Muslims in Burma, turned violent and went on rampage damaging property including four-wheelers and roadside shops. Streets wore a deserted look as people remained indoors while a large crowd comprising members of both the communities gathered at the road between Johnstongunj crossing and Clock Tower. Police vehicles including Vajra remained on guard while vigilant PAC personnel surrounded the whole area. Senior officials including the district magistrate(DM) and SSP alongwith other officials were holding parleys with Muslim leaders to defuse the tension which was threatening to take an alarming proportion. Broken glass panes and stones lay strewn all over the place pointing towards the large scale arson which broke out in the afternoon forcing the shopkeepers to down their shutters and move to safety. The Chowk area which otherwise on other ocassions is seen buzzing with activity wore an uneasy calm as residents remained huddled in groups discussing the sequence of events and nature of loss incurred by the business community in the wake of arson.
Similarly, hundreds of Muslim youth went on the rampage, ransacking two parks and canteens, uprooting trees planted outside the parks and demolishing its boundary wall besides damaging public property and setting a motorcycle on fire. These unruly Muslims also manhandled over two dozen newsmen and brutally assaulted five photographers with iron rods and sharp-edged weapons and broke their camera to prevent them from shooting the incident. The mob also smashed the window panes of an SUV and three buses and misbehaved with the passengers. They also misbehaved with commuters forcing them to take shelter inside shops in Hazratganj. This unruly mob created ruckus on the stretch of road between Tile Wali Masjid to Dharna Sthal in front of Vidhan Bhawan and later escaped unchallenged.
The mob bashed up photo journalists, accusing them of favouring Hindus and ignoring the concerns of Muslims of Assam and Myanmar by not giving proper space to them in newspapers. They did not spare the statues of Mahavir and Buddha in the parks. Protesting the manhandling of reporters and lensemen, the journalists staged a dharna at Hazratganj crossing for over two hours. They demanded that an FIR be registered against the troublemakers and those who manhandled journalists, besides compensation. The angry newsmen calmed down only when Principal Secretary (Home) reached the scene and assured them that an FIR would be registered and compensation would be given to the scribes by the state government.
Terming the violence in the state capital which witnessed the assault on mediapersons also, as a well hatched conspiracy to disturb the communal harmony, the state BJP has demanded the arrest of all the miscreants immediately. The senior party leader and local MP Lalji Tandon while addressing a press conference at the state party headquarter said that he was in national capital to attend the Lok Sabha session where he came to know about the violence in the state capital. “I was told that after the alvida namaj, large number of people having iron rods, swords, sticks and others weapons, have come out on roads and started targeting the innocent and passerby” he said. “The method of the attack shows that it was well thought of plan and basic aim of this evil design was to put Hindus and Muslims against each other” Tandon said. Condemning the attack on media perons, the senior BJP leader said that those who have tried to create communal tension must be booked immediately.
Holding the Samajwadi Party government's Muslim appeasement policy responsible for the recent violence in some cities, including the state capital, the Bharatiya Janata Party has demanded that those who damaged the statues of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahaveer be booked on the charge of sedition. Addressing a press conference at the party's state headquarters, BJP state president Lakshmikant Bajpai said that a section of Muslims was showing aggressive behaviour due to the patronage of the SP government, which was shamelessly pursuing minority appeasement policy. Referring to the violence which took place in Lucknow, the BJP state president said that the violent mob covered five kilometres from Teele Wali Masjid to Hazratganj but instead of stopping the protesters, the police only escorted them. Bajpai asked when those who damaged the statue of former Chief Minister Mayawati were booked on the charge of sedition, why should those who desecrated the statues of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahaveer not be treated in the same manner. “Besides, the statues of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahaveer should be replaced as damaged statues are not worshipped in Hindu culture,” he added
Bajpai asked the state government to clarify whether permission was obtained to take out the procession, and if it was, whether carrying lethal weapons was also allowed. “Now the government has entrusted the probe into the incident to the same additional district magistrate (ADM) who was accompanying the protesters from Teele Wali Masjid to Hazratganj,” he added.
A Bharatiya Janata Party delegation comprising party's national vice-president Kalraj Mishra, local MP Lalji Tandon and Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma met the Chief Minister and demanded stern action against those who instigated violence in the state capital. Talking to media persons, Mishra said that ever since the Samajwadi Party had come to power in the state, members of a particular community were targeting the majority community. “The silence of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress on this serious issue indicates their concern for vote bank politics,” he said, adding that these parties were shying away from even condemning such incidents.
“It is a matter of concern that communal clashes are taking place since the coming to power of the present government,” the BJP vice-president said, adding that had the government acted sternly during the first such incident, the anti-social elements would have become scared to indulge in violence again.