NEW DELHI: A new fact-finding team that visited the Kasganj town of Uttar Pradesh and met victim families from both communities has made some startling revelations about the Republic Day violence and the police action thereafter.
Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, the team members that included activists John Dayal and Kavita Krishnan revealed that a Muslim vendor, who was brutally assaulted by a rioting mob on the outskirts of Kasganj on January 28, has been battling death in the ICU of the JN Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh.
The clashes had erupted on January 26 when over 100 youths carrying Tiranga and saffron flags on bikes insisted on passing through a Muslim-dominated locality where residents were about to hoist the national flag and had put up chairs on the road, had flag post, rangoli and tricolor balloons hanging from overhead wires. They were just to hoist the flag when the bike rally reached there. In videos, members of the bike rally were seen shouting provocative slogans against Muslims. In the firing during the clashes, Chandan Gupta, 21, was killed and a laborer Naushad was wounded. Later that night, one Akram Ali was brutally assaulted while he was passing through Kasganj in his car. In the violence that continued at least for next three days, dozens of shops and vehicles of a particular community were torched by rioting mobs. The state government has given a check of Rs 20 lakh to the family of the college student Chandan and several people have been arrested for the murder.
However, since the day one of the violence, Muslim victims have been largely under-reported in the media. Until today when the fact-finding team of All India People’s Forum (AIPF) revealed about the condition of the Muslim vendor, there was little information about him.
In the six-page report, AIPF team has given detailed accounts about the Muslim vendor named Chhotan.
“Chhotan, aged 45, left his home in Ganj Dundwara near Kasganj on the afternoon of Jan 28 on his cycle to earn a living by setting up a stall selling chicken. He had not been able to do so for the past two days because of the disturbance, and he urgently needed to earn to feed his family. He is the sole earning member in a household that includes his wife Shehnaz, his own small son and daughter, as well as the three children of his deceased brother. When he failed to return by nightfall, his wife alerted neighbours who set out in a jeep to search for him. They found him lying in bushes on the road side in Chittera – his assailants apparently fled thinking the jeep was the police,” says the report.
“Chhotan has a grievous head injury and has been unconscious since then. He is in the ICU of the JN Medical College Hospital, Aligarh. He has had to have head surgery, and was on a ventilator. He is now off the ventilator but is still in critical condition and unconscious.”
The team noted that an FIR has been filed in the case of Chhotan but no one knows if any of his assaulters has been arrested. The government has not announced any compensation for him or any other Muslim victim either.
“What efforts and progress have the police made to find the perpetrators of this murderous attack on Chhotan – a defenceless labourer who was not part of any procession or riot, and whose only fault that he is a poor Muslim who needed to earn a living? What has the district administration and the government of Uttar Pradesh done to compensate Chhotan and his family, for whom survival as well as medical care has been dependent on charity since the sole earning member lies unconscious and even if he survives, is unlikely to be fit for work for several months?,” asked the team whose other members were activists Kiran Shaheen and Leena Dabiru, Kisan Mahasabha Vice-President Prem Singh Gehlawat and student activists from AISA, JNU – Vijay Kumar and Tabrez Ahmad.
Innocents from both communities were arrested
The AIPF team has made another revelation about the arrests. It said that many innocents from both Hindu and Muslim communities have been arrested and are in jail while the main perpetrators are free.
The team visited the Kasganj District Jail, where the jailer and district administration refused either to let the team meet prisoners or even to speak to the team themselves. But the team met family members who were waiting outside to meet relatives who had been booked for rioting and jailed.
“We met several Hindu and Muslim families whose relatives appear to have been jailed in spite of being completely innocent and uninvolved in the violence,” says the report and lists several such cases. Below are some of them:
Anuj Tomar had gone out of home to buy medicine on Jan 27 and picked by police.
Raj, son of one Rajvir Singh, is a compounder at Dr Naveen Gaur’s clinic. On Jan 27, he and another compounder there were closing the shutter of the clinic when the police came and arrested them. His colleague was released on bail but he is in jail.
Imran Khan, who runs a meat shop and hotel at Bilram Gate, was picked by police on the street.
65-year-old Nasiruddin ‘Chawal Wale’ was at his rice shop, his two young daughters Mahiru and Mehak told the team, when he was picked up by the police on Jan 28.
Nasiruddin’s 16-year-old son, who had been having a bath, was made to dress and was also taken away on the pretext of questioning. Both have been booked under Sections 302 and 307 among others, and jailed.
Rickshaw puller Shamshad has also been falsely accused – eyewitnesses told the team that if the CCTV cameras outside St Joseph’s School for Jan 26 are checked, he can be seen dropping kids off at the school for the Republic Day celebrations.
FIRs, Arrests for Kasganj Violence
As per the latest update (Feb 3) posted on the official Twitter handle of the Uttar Pradesh police, 13 FIRs have been lodged till date and a total 126 people have been arrested (45 named accused, 81 arrests in preventive).
For the murder of Chandan Gupta, 18 Muslims have been made named accused. Three of them have been arrested so far. On January 31, the police arrested Saleem, the ‘prime accused’ in the case. On February 3, one more accused, Rahat, was arrested. On February 6, another accused Mohammad Salman was arrested.
Meanwhile, some of the accused who are absconding have alleged that they have been falsely implicated as they were not in Kasganj on the day of murder.
A delegation of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students has provided CCTV footage to the police claiming that two of the 18 persons named in the FIR for murder of Chandan Gupta were in Aligarh. One of them is enrolled at an educational institution here while another was attending his father at a hospital.
The delegation, led by AMU Students Union’s honorary secretary Mohammad Fahad, met Inspector General of Police, Aligarh Range, Sanjeev Gupta, and gave him the CCTV footage about the presence of Saqib Azeez and Aseem Qureshi of Kasganj in Aligarh on the Republic Day. The SIT is looking into the footage.
The AIPF fact-finding team has made five demands including a judicial probe into the Kasganj violence:
— A judicial enquiry is urgently needed, along with judicial monitoring of the investigation. If not, it is clear that the main perpetrators are going to be let off, since most of the FIRs involving violence against minorities are unnamed.
— Arrests of people the police know well to be innocent is a hindrance to justice. Such people against whom there is no credible evidence must be released and cases against them withdrawn.
— The families of those injured must be compensated immediately, and perpetrators of the violence identified and arrested
— The owners of the bikes abandoned at Abdul Hamid Chowk on 26 Jan, as well as those ABVP-Sankalp men visible brandishing weapons in video footage of the tehsil must be arrested without delay. Leaders of these organizations must be arrested and booked for masterminding the violence. BJP leaders including the MP of Kasganj who made inflammatory speeches must also be arrested and booked without delay.
— A team of juvenile justice board members as well as social activists and lawyers must be allowed to meet all those jailed without delay, so that it can be verified whether any juvenile is in the adult jail; and whether any prisoner has been attacked by any other prisoner.