This is a guest post by MAHTAB ALAM
In Hazaribagh, one of the oldest cities of the newly formed state of Jharkhand, one is more likely to come across the word Kashmir than the name of the city itself these days. Kashmir, a place that most of the residents of Hazaribagh would have only heard of. At almost every nook and corner, teashop, wall of the city one would find an invitation to the ‘raashtriya ekta yatra’ from Kolkata to Kashmir to hoist the revered Indian flag at Lal Chowk. And this public invitation comes from none other than the youth wing of BJP, namely the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha.
“26 janwari ko kashmir chalen” (Let us march to Kashmir on 26th January), reads a wall writing in a tea shop at the city’s busiest place, Inderpuri Chowk. At some distance away, another wall writing reads, rather screams, “Kashmir bachao, Desh Bachao” (Save Kashmir, Save the Country). Apart from the invitation, the ‘patriotic’ youth group of India seems determined to march to Kashmir as a poster reads,“ Lal Chowk Jayenge, Tiranga Fahrayege,” (We shall march to Lal Chowk, We will Hoist the Tri-colour). Another wall writing near the District Collectorate again invites you giving the reason—“Kashmir ho ya Guwahati, Apna Desh apni maati (Be it Kashmir or Guwahati, it’s our Country, it’s our land). The wall writings, posters, gates, banners and so on are so ubiquitous that for a moment you would have thought that the capital of Jharkhand or Bharat had been shifted to Kashmir.
What about other places in Jharkhand? Are such invitations seen there as well? Though this writer could not spot even one at public places both in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi and its nearby district Ramgarh, both of which he had visited recently, he was told that similar wall writings were sighted in different localities of these two districts, but only at few places. Later, this writer came to know that instead of the state capital Ranchi, Hazaribagh had been preferred for the campaign in the state. And the president of the youth wing, Anurag Thakur, in the presence of former Foreign Minister and MP of the city, Yashwant Sinha, attended a huge rally and claimed on 14th of this month (a day after this writer visited the city) that; “PoK will soon be (a) part of (the) Indian Territory”.
The obvious question that arises is, why has so much importance been given to Hazaribagh? Looking into the history of the city, one would find the clue — it has been the most communally sensitive places in the state. “The district has got a history of communal riots and important festivals like Ramnavmi and Muharam are celebrated carrying strong communal sentiments,” reads the official website of Hazaribagh Police. Research also confirms this. A book titled Politics of Communalism: Historical Survey of Some Major Communal Riots, tells us that the first communal riot that had occurred in the city was in the year of 1935.
The crime profile of the city between 2003 and 2007 gives more clues as to why the Sangh Parivar and its allies chose Hazaribagh. According to data available on the Hazariabagh Police website, during the above mentioned period a total number of 1,542 cases under the category of ‘riot’ had been registered which are much more than cases of dacoity, loot and burglary. And every year, the numbers have been increasing.
Crime Profile of the District
Given the communal sensitiveness and history of Hazaribagh and cities similar to it, the Yatra passing through them leaves one fearing the consequences of the Yatra undertaken by BJP’s youth wing’s Godfather, Lal Krishna Advani. At the same time, while it
is yet to be seen whether the yaatris will be able to unfurl the flag at Lal Chowk, what seems sure is that different parts of the country might witness communal clashes and violence. But why should the ever great ‘patriotic’ party of India bother about the consequences and that too at the cost of ‘raashtriya ekta’ (national unity). And after all, it is the right time and the right way to ‘prove’ that ‘Kashmir ho ya Guwahati, Apna Desh-apni maati’.
At least, that’s what the history of BJP tells us.
(Mahtab Alam is a civil rights’ activist and journalist currently based at Ranchi. He can be reached at activist dot journalist at gmail dot com.)