by Mansi Sharma*

originally posted on India Resists 

Recent violence against minorities in the districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Baghpat shows a pattern similar to Gujarat pogrom of 2002. The only difference probably is the scale of violence unleashed.

Eyewitnesses told us that a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped and killed. Some girls were stripped naked and made to dance in mosques. Several persons were put on saw-machines, which cut them into two pieces and then they were thrown into full blown pyre. Survivors said body parts of several people were chopped off, stacked in polythene bags and then thrown into a canal.

Many victims have lodged FIRs, naming perpetrators. A number of FIRs are registered in various police stations and more are waiting to lodge FIRs. People named in the FIRs are roaming free and have not been arrested despite the gravity of their crimes.

The victims are ready to identify their perpetrators. In some cases police, instead of arresting the accused politicians, allowed them to project themselves as heroes after they courted arrest.

Perpetrators have no remorse over the killings, rapes, loot and plunder. Instead they demonise the victims and accuse them of burning their houses to seek compensation.

In one of the village where killings, rape and arson took place at large scale, a local Jat villager told us not a single casualty happened in the village. He said in order to claim compensation Muslims families have themselves burnt their houses.

Communal clashes are not something new to UP in the recent years. Official reports say about 27 of communal clashes have occurred since Akhilesh Yadav Government was sworn in the State of Uttar Pradesh.

However, September 2013 clashes are distinct and cannot be described as mere communal clashes. The planning, execution, pattern of violence, sexual assaults, looting and brutalities to which dead were subjected to remind us of Gujarat of 2002 and nothing else.

It was similar in many ways: manufacturing the incident; manufacturing consent among people about the incident, spread of misinformation, mobilisation of crowd, media’s dubious role, instant availability of weapons across the region, specific information about Muslim houses, using women’s body to inflict all kinds of violence, attack on children, rape of young girls and women and subsequent killings, loot, arson, burning of houses, absent administration, and mass exodus of people from their native places.

When Amit Shah was sent to the UP as election campaign chief of BJP, it was anticipated that something would happen in the UP soon and efforts would be made to polarise the voters. And it did happen very soon. Now in 2014 if Narendra Modi comes to power in the centre, then it will be disastrous for the secular fabric of the country.

Eve teasing propaganda:

If you believe media reports then an incident of eve teasing triggered ‘communal violence’ and ‘riots’ in the districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Baghpat in early September. This is nothing but a blatant propaganda. Media suggested that a Muslim boy, Shahnawaz misbehaved with a jat girl in a village called Kawwal. And to teach him a lesson, the girl’s brothers, Gaurav and Sachin, went to Shahnawaz’s house, attacked and killed him. In retaliation, his relatives beat Gaurav and Sachin to death.

Two different FIRs filed by the two sides do not have any mention of eve teasing or any misbehavior with a girl.

An FIR lodged by the family of the two slain brothers has named Shahnawaz as one of the attacker and killer. When reminded about the reports that Shahnawaz was first to be killed, the family of the slain brothers insist that he was killed by an accidental stab of his own relatives during deadly assault on the two brothers. There are contradictory reports about killing of the three youth. The youth were killed after a quarrel over a motor cycle incident. As the narratives of the two sides about the incident are so different, police should have promptly investigated the matter. Police did not investigate into the killings of three boys quickly and failed to provide right information before the people about the killings.

The August 27, 2013 Kawwal incident has been extensively covered by the media. It was a minor accident which turned violent, which saw the murder of Shahnawaz followed by murder of Sachin and Gaurav. But the rumour churning RSS-BJP combine came into action and prepared for a large-scale violence.

Such incidents continued to be used for organising meeting where hate speeches were made, low potential violence was perpetrated and Muslims were targeted for isolated attacks. For example, beard of Mufti of Jesad was forcibly shaved and Mufti of Dhuledi was dragged out of bus and beaten in broad daylight.

On September 5 in Lisarh Inter College thousands of people had gathered. The Maha Panchayat of September 5, 2013, was organised by RSS-BJP combine. Vinod Pramukh conducted the proceedings. Baba Harkishan and Baba Seetaram of VHP and Vijendra – a Sangh worker and relative of Sachin and Gaurav were also present there.

This Panchayat gave a call to attend a Panchayat on September 7. People were openly instructed to come armed for the rally. Despite section 144 in place, they allowed people to gather at Nagla Mandaur on September 7, 2013 for the Mahapanchayat. On September 7, the leaders gave speeches accusing Muslims of resorting to love jihad and taking Hindu girls for marriage.

In subsequent anti-Muslim violence over 50 people were killed, women raped, houses looted and burnt. Media reports suggest that circulation of Kawwal incident video on social media, which later turned out to be an old video of Sialkot, Pakistan, caused anger among Jats and they went berserk attacking minority community to avenge the killings.

But the villages where violence took place are isolated and far from each other. They don’t have any access to social media sites and most people in these villages don’t use whatsapp application in their mobiles.

In spite of it several villagers have seen the video or heard about it. How? Villagers say that several people in different groups were going door to door, roaming in markets at chaurahas motivating and encouraging people to see the video. However, it is unbelievable that after watching the video, villagers all of sudden turned into beasts and started killing their neighbours with whom they were living in peace for decades together. People join violence only when it was well organised and led by an organisations and known leaders.

An incident of alleged eve-teasing was not a sudden precursor to the violence. The pattern of the violence gives an indication that preparation for this large scale carnage was going on for past eight to nine months.

Pre September 7 violence:

On March 2013, an inconsequential incident was converted into an ugly clash. A child set Holika on fire a day before it was destined to be lit. Immediately a Mosque was attacked, the Imam was beaten up, the Quran was burnt. Fearing violence the Muslims ran away leaving their homes. Subsequently, FIR was registered and 30 BJP people were arrested, out of which 3 were booked under NSA. The arrested were Hukum Singh, a local MLA of BJP.

The appointed Sangh workers in each village and town kept hunting for incidents that could be used to fuel the furnace of hate.

On June 2, 2013 a Hindu girl from Haridwar came to Shamli with a Muslim boy and stayed in a hotel. The BJP vigilante got the news and put the charge that the girl has been raped by Muslim boys. Within no time Hukum Singh and Suresh Rana collected their BJP supporters and a crowd of thousand odd hoodlums surrounded the local police stations.

The rampage started, shops of Muslims were looted. Police resorted to lathi charge. In the following month RSS campaign entered into the next phase.

The local leaders of BJP lead by Hukum Singh, Suresh Rana and Bhartendu, started attacking Muslim, men women in markets, on roads and bus stops. At many places Muslims were dragged out of buses and trains and were beaten up. Mosques were attacked. The area of operation (violence) was enlarged to Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur.

On August 21, an innocuous incident of an altercation between two children at Soram was converted into full blown communal riot. The police held Umesh Mallik responsible. He was arrested along with 14 others and 155 persons were booked by the police. The same persons, Umesh Mallik along with Sanjeev Balyan and Hukum Singh on 24 August, 2013 had engineered a riot at MiranPur.

Some media reports suggest that the crowd returning from Mahapanchayat on September 7 was attacked by Muslims and their tractors were burnt and thrown in the nearby canal and in retaliation the crowd became violent and started attacking the Muslims.

The UP administration wants us to believe that it all happened suddenly and the authorities didn’t even get time to realise or understand what was happening.

However, the violence did not start on September 7. In many villages people were attacked from September 5 onwards.

Therefore administration had all the knowledge of events and what turn they could take. In several areas our team visited we saw that houses were broken and ransacked before burning them down. In some places we saw even the ceilings of the houses were broken. It takes immense effort to break the cemented structure of a house and cannot take place in few minutes. And most shocking was the revelation that kerosene, which was used to burn people and their houses, was directly supplied by a local ration dealer.

All this is a reminder of what lies ahead. If perpetrators of this mindless and senseless but planned violence against minorities are let off, they would be encouraged to repeat the experiment somewhere else and then some other place. They are not targeting minorities; they are targeting the very idea of secular India. Time has come to expose this right wing fascism for larger national interest.

Mansi Sharma is a Indian social activist who currently works for Focus on the Global South.