NEW DELHI: What happened in Kasganj on the Republic Day and in the next few days was not spontaneous clash between two communities, but a carefully planned attack, says the first civil fact-finding report on the violence in the Uttar Pradesh town that claimed one life and left at least two wounded and more than two dozen shops looted and torched. The fact-finding team that included a former Inspector General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, some journalists and social activists also accused the local police of partisan role. The 13-page report was released at the Press Club of India here on Monday.
In the very beginning, the report has made four observations based on the team’s extensive interaction with people from both communities.
“In our visit, after talking extensively to local people of both the communities, it became clear that:
— The situation in Kasganj was not any spontaneous clash between two communities, but was a carefully planned attack.
— None of the political parties have played any decisive role in either diffusing the situation, restoring peace and normalcy, or in seeking justice for the people who have been directly affected by the violence which started on the morning of January 26, 2018, Republic Day, and continued thereafter.
— The police and administration, as testified by locals and ground evidence, played a partisan role, and allowed the mob led by Sankalp Foundation and ABVP to run amok and indulge in organized violence, specifically targeting Muslim-owned shops and property, including two mosques.
— The role played by the BJP MP Rajvir Singh has been utterly partisan and prejudiced, almost inflammatory, and this has been recorded in the media.”
In the violence that erupted after a bike rally holding Tiranga and saffron flags clashed with residents of a Muslim locality who were about to unfurl the national flag. Members of the bike rally were shouting provocative slogans and insisting to pass through the lane which was blocked with chairs and flag post for celebration of the Republic Day.
During the clashes later in the day, one youth Chandan Gupta was killed while another identified as Naushad was wounded in firing. Late in the evening on that day, a mob of rioters assaulted one Akram Ali who was passing through Kasganj in his car. He has lost his right eye.
Attack Was Planned, Police Played Partisan Role: Report
The locals told the team that members of the Sankalp Foundation and ABVP had taken out similar yatra on 15th August last year and passed through the Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods while making provocative slogans but the residents did not take it seriously.
“That was a ‘test run’ for a larger socially engineered plan of action on 26 January 2018…That they were tolerant and overlooked the 15 August ‘test run’, may have emboldened the youth to try something sinister,” reads the report.
The fact-finding team has accused the police of playing a partisan role since the beginning of the incident on the Republic Day.
“In spite of reports that the motorcycle rally of ABVP and Sankalp Foundation youth started from Prabhu Park at about 8am after firing of shots, no police questioned them or accompanied the rally. In spite of gunshots being fired and confrontation between the two communities, police force was not deployed in the market areas or in Hindu-dominated colonies, while the Muslim-dominated colonies were sealed in with residents not being able to move about.”
“On 27 January, even though police force was accompanying the funeral procession, while returning through the Bilram market, the police force did not stop the looting and arson of Muslim-owned shops. Not enough force was deployed in the market even though it was on the return route of the funeral procession,” reads the report.
In the targeted attacks that continued for some days, at least 27 shops belonging to the minority community were looted and torched and two mosques were vandalized and set afire.
The team visited the affected areas on February 2, about one week after the incident. However, several owners of the burnt shops said police had not yet come to enquire about it. When some of them approached the police to file FIR against the attackers, they were not entertained.
“Mansoor Sherwani, owner of Sherwani Shoe that was gutted, tried repeatedly to register an FIR about his burnt and looted shop. He was first asked to remove the information about the amount of loss mentioned in this complaint. Then his application was received, but no separate FIR is registered,” claims the report.
Questions over Firing That Killed Chandan Gupta
Some members of the team raised questions over the circumstances surrounding the firing that killed Hindu youth Chandan Gupta who was leading the bike rally.
Journalist Amit Sengupta, while speaking at the Press Club, said there is no clarity about the exact circumstances in which Chandan was killed. “Till today, there is no information about the exact time when he was killed and how and with which bullets.”
One Salim and many others have been made named accused for the killing of Chandan. Salim, a local cloth traders, has been arrested. It is said Salim had licensed revolvers and guns. “But why are the police not matching the bullets that killed Chandan with weapons of Salim,” asked activist and academician Banojyotsna Lahiri, who was also in the team.
Activist Nadeem Khan said: “One Mohsin was interrogated by the police and he said that Salim had opened fire that killed Chandan and wounded Naushad. But Naushad says he was not at that place. He got gunshots at some other place”.
Khan informed that 123 people have been arrested for the violence and clashes — 87 of them are from the minority community.
Attitude of Political Parties Is Very Disturbing: Journalist Urmilesh
Senior journalist and former Editor of the Hindi daily Hindustan expressed deep concern on the attitude of the political parties towards the Kasganj violence.
“Earlier, parties and leaders would take a stand for truth. This happened at the time of Independence also. But now we are witnessing a very different thing. When minorities are being attacked, parties are not coming out to support them. Fearing loss of Hindu votes, they are taking soft Hindutva approach,” he said.
“This is not a Hindu-Muslim issue. It is democracy that is at stake. The civil society should come out to take a stand,” he called.
Mohammad Salim Engineer, Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind said: “What we are witnessing for some years is not communal riot. In communal riots, both communities would attack and harm each other and caused loss to each other. Now they are one-sided, targeted violence affecting only one community.”
“In the garb of Tiranga, they want to terrorise Muslims, silent, peace-loving Hindu majority, political parties and the media. They want to create a Bhaybheet Bharat (terrified India),” he said and called upon the civil society to take a stand as “They are attacking the foundations of India that is secularism, democracy, communal harmony and brotherhood.”
Ray of Hope
Addressing the press conference on the occasion of release of the fact-finding report, social Activist Rakhi Sehgal said: “In entire Kasganj, not a single Hindu property or temple or shop or home were destroyed or even touched. In a Muslim-dominated area in Kasganj, Muslims even guarded the Hindu temple during the violence.” She was part of a civil fact-finding team that visited Kasganj on 2nd February.
Banojyotsna Lahiri said that Hindu neighbors did not take part in the arson and attack on Muslim properties. In fact, in market areas it was Hindus who came out to douse the flames first and called the fire brigade.
“Even though there is some scattered talk of an imaginary ‘border’ between Muslim and Hindus, there is also immense and widespread respect and concern for the targeted Muslims on the part of their Hindu neighbours, including shopkeepers in the market near Bilram Gate and Ghantaghar, also close to Kotwali Kasganj, the police station. Many said they have been neighbours in the market for over 50 years, even more. In some cases, for over 80 years, and there are inter-generational relations between the shopkeepers and their families. There was unanimity among the shopkeepers that Hindus and Muslims have lived in friendship, peace and harmony for several decades”, says the report.
“One Hindu shopkeeper was in tears because Sherwani Boots, opposite his small shoe shop, owned by veteran Mansoor Sherwani, was looted and burnt down. He said, “Sherwani sahib is a gentleman and a very nice man. I am really sorry for him. This should not have happened to him. I feel really disturbed by this tragedy.” Another young Muslim shopkeeper, along with two Hindu shopkeepers, who are close friends, said, “We have always been friends and good neighbours. We share our food together. When I bring mutton from my house, my friends look forward to sharing the food.” Another prominent shopkeeper near the burnt shop, two Hindu brothers, were sad at the loss suffered by Sherwani. “We are happy neighbours,” they said. A sweets shop owner, whose shop he claims is 100 years old, felt sad that such violence has occurred in Kasganj, which is unprecedented. “We have no history of bitterness,” he said. A jeweler, a Hindu, indeed, said that he had asked his Muslim neighbour on the morning of the Republic Day to go home and shut the shop, since the signs are not good. A Hindu shopkeeper clearly said that at least 27 shops were attacked, assaulted and burnt. Two mosques were damaged and set on fire.”
Members of Fact-Finding Team:
SR Darapuri (retd. IG, Uttar Pradesh Police), Adv. Asad Hayat Khan, Amit Sengupta (senior journalist), Rakhi Sehgal (social activist), Hasanul Banna (journalist), Aleemullah khan (senior journalist), Mohit Pandey (ex JNUSU President and member United Against Hate), Banojyotsna Lahiri (Lecturer and member United Against Hate), Nadeem Khan (Social activist and member United Against Hate), Khalid Saifi (Social activist and member United Against Hate), Shariq Hussain (Social activist and member United Against Hate).