Kasganj Violence: Unveiling the Anatomy of a Riot

BJP wants to benefit electorally by projecting Kasganj riot as minorities opposing the tricolour. Our society needs to protect itself against such abuse by BJP of our tricolour for inciting violence

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Ram Puniyani

There is a perception that communal violence—the bane of our country—is a spontaneous clash between two communities. Over time, it is becoming clear that it is neither spontaneous, nor between two communities. It is planned violence. Analysis of the pattern of riots in post-riot inquiry commission reports show that violence is generally a planned event to polarise communities for electoral benefits. Apart from communal parties, other parties also have to share the blame for various slips of omission and, sometimes, active commission of violence. The main cause of this curse of our society is communal politics, which aims to rule in the name of religious identity. If there was any doubt about it, it was cleared by the communal violence that broke out in Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh on Republic Day, 2018.

The story so far is that a program was organised by the minority community to celebrate the day at Kasganj’s Shahid Abdul Hamid Chowk. Then along came nearly 90 youths belonging to RSS-affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad on motorbikes, carrying the tricolour and saffron flags. They also had clubs and other weapons, as per some reports and videos. They insisted that the chairs at the Chowk be removed to let them pass. The local Muslims asked them to join the program, rather than disturb it. The clash ensued. The tricolour-saffron flag wielding youth shouted slogans such as ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ (Death to Pakistan), ‘Hindi Hindu Hindustan,Katve Bhago Pakistan’ (Muslims go to Pakistan), ‘Is desh mein rahna hai to Vande Mataram kahna hoga’ (If you want to live in this country, you will have to recite Vande Mataram). In the clash and firing that followed, two men received bullet injuries. Of these two, Chandan Gupta, who was also a participant in the bike rally died, and the other, a Muslim labourer Naushad, was severely injured and is being treated in hospital.

A section of the media presented the situation in Kasganj as if Muslims were resisting the tricolour hoisting, so they opposed the bikers and forced them to shout pro-Pakistan slogans, which subsequently turned out to be exceedingly far from the truth. The role a section of the media plays during in communal violence is dangerously negative. Police, as usual, did not stop or control the inciting mob. On the following day BJP MP Rajveer Singh, attending the cremation of Chandan Gupta, further added to the fury with inflammatory comments, after which the mobs resorted to selectively burning vehicles and shops in the Muslim locality. The Yogi Adityanath government has by now announced a compensation of ₹20 lakh for Chandan Gupta’s family. Hopefully, compensation for the inured and damage to properties will also be forthcoming.

An interesting sidelight took place this time around. Raghvendra Vikram Singh, the District Magistrate of Bareilly in a Facebook post criticised the event, saying that “by now it has become a trend to take out procession in Muslim localities and shout anti-Pakistan slogans. Are these people Pakistanis?” The post was taken down after intimidating trolling and the state administration expressing displeasure over the post. Singh had to apologise. He wrote, "I apologise if some sentiments were hurt by what I said, but there is no denying that our secular ethos is at stake; there are things which need to be protected at all cost." Another officer, Rashmi Varun (Deputy Director, Statistics, Saharanpur) in another post said that Chandan has been killed by saffron politics.

What strikes one in Kasganj is that the anatomy of violence is very clear. It seems to be preparation for the general elections which are in the offing next year, or earlier. Reports are that as a follow-up to what has happened in Kasganj, RSS is now organising rallies in different cities and towns across the state

The tragic violence has led to loss of one innocent life, injuries to a few and loss of property. The compensation so far has been selective. The whole incident and the Facebook post of the DM reveals the deeper dynamics of how violence gets orchestrated. The mechanisms keep changing, but what is constant is an evil innovation of techniques to target vulnerable minorities. Earlier the mechanisms were taking processions with loud music in front of mosques and placing beef in temples. One saw that in the Mumbai riots of 1992-93, that maha artis (public prayers) were devised to mobilise Hindus; the dispersing mass after the prayer would indulge in anti-minority violence. One has also seen the issue of ‘Love Jihad’ being used in the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. The girl who supposedly was a victim of Love Jihad, denied being harassed by the Muslim boy, but the mobilisation of Hindus continued nevertheless. One can see the changing pattern of issues which are used to incite the violence.

What strikes one in Kasganj is that the anatomy of violence is very clear. It seems to be preparation for the general elections which are in the offing next year, or earlier. Reports are that as a follow-up to what has happened in Kasganj, RSS is now organising rallies in different cities and towns across the state. The rallies at this juncture look to be a “show of strength” in which uniformed cadres of the RSS and its affiliates in the Sangh Parivar will be marching with sticks. The tiranga (tricolour) issue is quite paradoxical for Muslims. Whether they raise it or not, they are damned either way. What is more ironic is that the tricolour, which was opposed by RSS at the time of independence on the ground that number three is evil as per Hindu ethos and that the real flag of Hindus is saffron alone, today tries to use the same tricolour to browbeat minorities and use it as a vehicle for polarisation, through its affiliates like ABVP and VHP.

The BJP leadership wants to project the Kasganj situation as minorities opposing the tricolour and shouting pro-Pakistan slogans. It is now well known that BJP’s electoral strength has been rising courtesy of communal violence and consequent polarisation.

Our society needs to protect itself against such aggressive abuse of our tricolour for inciting violence, and be careful not to fall in the trap of provocation on any ground whatsoever.

Read the full coverage of the Kasganj Riots on National Herald

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