On 2nd October 2015 a team of Janhastakshep comprising of academics, journalists and a student went to Basehada village in Dadri tehsil of Gautam Buddh Nagar District to investigate the incidence of communal lynching of a Muslim man Akhlaq and attack on his son Danish (who is battling for life) on the 28th of September for allegedly killing a calf and eating beef. The team comprised of academics Dr Vikas Bajpai from Jawaharlal Nehru University and Prof Ish Mishra from Hindu College, Delhi University; journalists – Anil Dubey, Rajesh Kumar and Parthiv and student activist of Hindu college, Delhi University, Sheetal.
It is noteworthy that the incident at Bishara village comes in wake of uninterrupted controversies and communal tensions that have been kept alive around the issue of cow slaughter / ban on beef in different parts of the country; as also several incidents of communal violence; intimidation and killing of intellectuals who have opposed the Sangh parivar’s communal designs and its retrogressive sociopolitical agenda. i
It is in this context that the present incident of communal lynching at Bishara village cannot but be seen as another link in the chain of above mentioned developments.
The village itself has a long existence in time that was claimed to date back to at least four to five centuries. It is a big village with as many as 9,500 votes corresponding to a population of around 15,000 and up to 2,500 families approximately. The village is part of a satta i.e. a grouping of seven villages dominated by Rajputs. Apart from the Rajputs the other Hindu castes are the Brahmins, the Lohars (blacksmiths), the Kumhars (earthen ware artisans), the Jatavs (leather workers), Dhimars (a caste of fishermen and palanquin bearers) and the Balmikis (the sweepers). Along with these there are between 35 to 40 Muslim families in the village.
The Muslims are said to have been living in the village ever since its formation. In fact quite a few Rajputs we talked to proudly proclaimed that their forefathers were the ones who settled the Muslims in the village and always provided protection to them.
The economic, social and political life of the village is however controlled by the Rajputs who are the biggest land holders in the village. Some land is also there with the Brahmins, but the lower castes are almost landless while the Muslims have no land at them except the homesteads.
Most of the lower caste Hindu households either provide services to the village or work as contract / daily wage laborers predominantly at the nearby NTPC (National Thermal Power Plant) plant and some in the nearby industrial areas of NOIDA and Greater NOIDA. The Muslims however make a living largely by providing different services to the village folk such as those of washing and ironing clothes, carpenter, mason, barber, iron smiths and casual labour etc.
The dominant Rajputs either have incomes from agriculture; some of the youth also work at NTPC or companies in the nearby areas, but a good section of their youth were told to be unemployed; they just roam around the village and are given to habits of alcoholism, substance abuse and indulge in hooliganism. ii
As is characteristic of Indian villages, the different castes and religious communities occupy separate areas of the village; the same is the settlement pattern even in Bishara with the exception that some of the lower castes live in more than one part of the village even as a large contiguous part comprises of the houses of the upper castes.
The two houses belonging to Akhlaque’s family (one of his own and that of his elder brother) are an exception to this since they are located separately from the rest of the Muslim houses in the village, right in the middle of the Rajput community. The difference between these two houses and the other Muslims of the village is that the families of the victim and those of his brothers are relatively affluent in comparison to other Muslims. The brothers themselves and their children either have been or are presently in government service and / or in technical jobs in established private sector. The elder brother of the victim is in fact constructing a bigger house in the village for his family.
The Incident and Findings
The availability of various developments and specifics of the violence inflicted in this case are already in public realm which obviates the need for us to reproduce them here in greater detail. It is nonetheless incumbent upon us to draw attention to certain salient aspects of this incidence which point to the ever evolving, increasingly deceptive, pernicious and divisive agenda of the Hindu communal forces represented by the Sangh Parivar.
The incident itself took place on the night of September 28 2015 at around 10 pm in which a mob of around 1,500 people gathered on the road outside the house. Of these around 100 to 150 people were in the narrow, brick lane right outside the house and were actually involved in the attacking the house of Muhammad Akhlaque Saifi. Some of the youth are reported to have broken their way through the gate of the house and gone straight for Akhlaque who was sitting in the roof top room along with his younger son Danish. What happened subsequently is a matter of record and can be looked up for details.
It is more of the same
Taking the economic condition of the Akhlaque’s family into account it can be safely asserted that the Bishara incidence is further extension by Hindu communal forces of their new genre of low intensity but high impact communal tension/violence in which the better off among the Muslims are targeted and fear of the brute power of the majority community is sought to be instilled among the poorer Muslim masses.
Even though the rest of the Muslims families were left untouched by the assailant mob, the fact that they are thoroughly terrorized was evident from this that besides being visually shaken, none of them were willing to talk to our team even on condition of anonymity.
Preparing the ground and precipitating the incident
From the conversations with the general village folk as also with the victim’s family, it appeared that there was no overt communal tension or abnormal developments in the village which forebode such a ghastly act. It was stated both by the aggrieved family as also others that Akhlaque’s family had very good relations with their neighbors and others in the village. Indeed some of them had joined the family in a feast thrown by it on the occasion of Id that was celebrated on the 25th of the last month. Neither has there ever been an incidence of communal tension in the past in this village during its long existence.
While this bonhomie may have been true of the villagers for all normal situations, there existed definite signs to indicate that preparations had been underway by communal forces to break the communal amity among the villagers by a precipitate action. Some of the findings which suggest likewise are as under:
A well planned conspiracy:
The responses in the village and the hydra headed structure of communal forces:
The team found a prospering of dubious ‘senas’ in the area of which some are – ‘Rashtravadi Pratap Sena’, ‘Samadhan Sena’ and ‘Ram Sena.’ iii While we could see their posters and banners, but we could actually speak with the office bearer of only the ‘Rashtravadi Pratap Sena’ – one Brihesh Sisodiya, a young man of around 26 to 27 yrs, whose photo appeared on the Sena’s banner in the village.
Brijesh claimed that his organization was a separate political outfit which had nothing to do with the BJP and one of its immediate demands was abolition of „caste based reservation‟ and implementation in its place reservations based on „economic criterion.‟ Besides the reservation issue he told his organization helps in the marriages of the daughters in the families and works to resolve the day to day problems of the people in the area. Sisodiya also denied that there was any reflection in his village of the increasing communal tensions in different parts of the country and recounted the communal harmony that has always existed in the village.
On initiating a dialogue regarding the incident in the village, he said that – “whatever has happened is absolutely wrong and we condemn it; but as to the reasons for this only those who committed this or those who were attacked would know of the facts; neither were we present on the occasion nor do we know anything about it.” However, he lost little time in saying that this happened by mistake and was a matter of chance. What the media was doing now is only aggravating the problems of the village and he questioned the gains made by publicizing such incidents. He also assured that this is a village of educated and reasonable people who know what is in their interest, and that the entire village, especially the village elders, is trying to resolve the issues and have persuaded to affected Muslim families to stay in the village. Sisodiya regretted that – “kuch log rajnaitik rotiyan seakne mein lage huae hain” (some people are using the incident for political expediency).
We felt motivated by his comments to ask that since the entire village seemed to be very reasonable in its approach, so who constituted the mob which was said to be as large as 1500 people or even more; were they from outside the village. His immediate response was that – “Yeh koi pre-planned thode hi tha ki baher se aadmi aa gaye” (this was not a pre-planned incident that so many people could have come from outside). The people were all from the village. We repeated – “since so many of the villagers were there would you know of some.” This proved futile as he again repeated that he was not present on the spot that he could give us the names. As to the number of people, well “what can you say of a crowd”; “people just got agitated on an issue.” By this time some more people had started gathering around us.
It took a long meandering discussion with him before he came to the issue of „cow slaughter‟ which according to him was the real issue. We asked him – whether a family that has been living in the village since generations and has obviously been celebrating Id every year where in even the village Hindus were invited, go out of its mind and commit an act that it has not done in all these years and that too in an atmosphere when there were communal tensions all around?
His response was – “dekho ji kuch pata chalta hai? Aadmi to ek minute mein mental ho sake hai.” That was the most categorical statement which not only showed where the man actually stood, but also that logic or rationale was in little demand from those behind the incident or their sympathizers. Thereafter the conversation went along the lines we expected.
We were told that the boys who have been named in the case had actually seen Akhlaque throw the remains of the slaughtered calf. Then Sisodiya and other people who had gathered around us claimed that – “the police was harassing the entire village; they are apprehending innocent people. There is so much fear that if you would come in the evening one would hardly find any young boys in the village; the entire families are leaving the village out of fear. They arrested a 60 year old retired army man from his house at night for being part of the mob that attacked the Muslim house. What is the rationale behind arresting a retired army man?
It may be noted here that the arrested army man – Yashpal Singh was a member of the ‘Rashtravadi Pratap Sena’. When we visited his house, we found it locked from outside. Moreover, the sena had held some ‘Sankalp Divas’ (oath taking day) on past 20th September in an adjacent village Jaitwarpur Pyavali. As told by Sisodiya the oath was on the issue of ‘reservations.’ Even though this seemed dubious, it does link up with the latest tirade against ‘reservations’ launched by the RSS. No material like a poster or pamphlet was available with the office bearer regarding this ‘Sankalp Divas.’
When we told Brijesh Sisodiya that the forensic examination of the meat taken from Aikhalq’s home had shown that it was mutton and not beef, he and others around him said that the Samajwadi party state government could not be trusted as they were known for favoring the Muslim community. Besides the state government had a vested interest in falsifying the reality to ensure that Hindus in area do not get agitated. He again asserted that while the village people wanted to restore normalcy, the media was unnecessarily highlighting the issue and giving it a political color.
It did not seem to matter to the people standing there that even the BJP MP from the area and the union minister Mahesh Sharma had acknowledged that the killing was the result of a misunderstanding meaning thereby that the mob had wrongly presumed the meat to be that of a cow.
The above mentioned conversation with Brijesh Sisodiya of ‘Rashtrawadi Pratap Sena’ is the quintessential prototype of what any person of the Rajput community of the village willing to talk on the issue of mob lynching of Akhlaque, would say of this „unfortunate incidence‟ in the prevailing circumstances. Barring minor variations, this is what we experienced through our conversation with several other villagers, most of whom were Rajputs. There was very little new information that could be elicited from them apart from what has been told above. Each of conversations with different villagers had the following common points:]
– Whatever has happened was wrong and should not have happened.
– That the entire mob was from the village itself.
– That the person we talked to had either gone to duty or to his farm, or was resting in his house after coming from duty, or was simply not present on the spot.
– That none knew who were the people involved in the attack.
– That the police is harassing innocent villagers.
– That the media is “ek tarfa” (one sided) and is not discussing the problems of villagers other than the affected family.
– The underlying assumption was that the attacked Muslim family had killed the cow; everyone seemed to believe it to be true even though they claimed that they were not there on the spot.
– They were also convinced that the boys involved in killing the Muslim man had actually seen him dispose the carcass of the slaughtered calf at a place that was commonly used by the villagers to throw their refuse. This could not but enrage the Hindus.
– None could however explain why the Muslim family in question would indulge in such irrational behavior which could not but have put their lives in danger under the prevailing circumstances in the country; and then would anyone do such a thing and then throw the carcass at a spot where every other villager could easily see it?
Apart from the Rajputs, we did talk to different dalit households of the village, they either pretended perfect normalcy in the prevalent inter-community relations, or just pretended not to know anything about the ‘why’ of the incidence. At least one Jatav household echoed the sentiments expressed by Sisodiya. iv
Regarding the various Senas named above, it was surprising indeed that on being questioned about them the local police did not seem to have much idea of the activities of these Senas. Neither did they have an idea of their leaders; at least we were not provided any such information if it existed in their records otherwise.
It is our considered opinion that these organizations have actually been consistently laying the preparatory ground for an event like the present mob lynching of the Muslim man and grievous injury sustained by his son, to take place. And it is their leading cadre which actually provided leadership in this incident. Since there was no overt involvement of the known BJP or Sangh Parivar organizations in the village, the process of communalization of the village community by these ‘hydra like tentacles’ became invisiblized and much more subtle. However, as our further submissions to follow shall bear out, this game plan was never without the over arching blessing of the Parivar.
On a cautionary note – these observations are obviously based on preliminary impressions gathered by us from a day’s visit to the affected village and can be most suitably established through a thorough going investigation by appropriate agencies of the government.
The role of the priest of the Shiv temple in the village:
It is established that the priest was actually the person who made the announcement over the public address system of the temple exhorting the people to gather over the slaughtering of a cow by Akhlaque. Even though he has stated that he was forced to say so by the boys, this seemed circumspect to us. The priest, since let off by the police, was however not available at the temple or indeed even in the village during our visit. He was reported to have gone to see a doctor on the evening of 1st October and had not come back since.
The priest had evidently come to the temple barely two to three months back, but none of the persons whom we talked to, including the prominent ones like the village pradhan and the ex-pradhan, seemed to know either his exact name, the place he had come from, his native place and who had kept him in the temple.
The present pradhan of the village, Sanjay Rana told that even though he did not know exact name of the priest, but believed that he is from some village in district Saharanpur of UP and told that he had been kept in the temple by the ex-pradhan. Bhag Singh who had earlier been pradhan of the village for around fifteen years, however denied any role in appointing the priest. Bhag Singh however told that it is not necessary that the temple should have a regular priest and that the village had managed without one for last three years after the last priest Nandu, lost his mind and later died. In fact the Indian Express reported on the 2nd October that the priest had come from a place in Gujarat and was originally a resident of Saharanpur in UP.
The manner in which this priest was brought to the village; then came to be involved in making the devastating announcement, and then his disappearance without any noise is highly suspicious to say the least. Our suspicions in this regard are further strengthened from the findings of Janhastakshep‟s earlier investigation exactly a year back in October 2014 into communal disturbances in village Naya Gaon Akbarpur in Kanth tehsil of Muradabad district.
In Kanth also the issue had centered around the use of loud speaker in a dalit Raidas temple. The public address system was found to be deliberately being used precisely at a time that coincided with time of Namaaz leading to communal tension. It is noteworthy that in Naya Gaon Akbarpur as well the priest had only recently come to the village. Even though he claimed to have been in village for a long time but neither he knew the villagers well enough nor did the villagers know anything of his background or even his name. He could not even recall the name of the person whom he claimed was his shishya (student). Yet during his short stay he had converted the dalit Raidas temple to a Shiv temple; and effected changes in the pattern of of prayer at the temple – from the ‘nirgun bhakti’ of the dalit saints to the ‘suguna bhakti’ of the caste Hindus.
These important similarities do compel us to ask the question – that in order to use the faith of religious people in temples and priests, for deepening communal passions, has the Sangh Parivar, as part of a new strategy, started ensuring that they first place a priest of their choice in the temples in the targeted places? This could indeed prove expedient in manipulating the religious feelings of the people with the priest himself precipitating the action. Whether under coercion or otherwise, the announcement made by the priest of the Shiv temple in Bishara village was the final instrument used to mobilize people for attacking Akhlaque’s house.
Given their frequent tackling of such situations the UP police should have been wiser by their experience, but the investigating officer of the case Subodh Kumar told us on phone that the police had let off the priest as he appeared to be innocent. The police had his address and if need be, they would summon him again. But the police may only prove to be smart by the half in summoning him by having first allowed him to bolt.
What led the people to respond to the clarion call issued from the temple
That the tactics used at Bishara have a remarkable imprint of the Sangh Parivar and is a refinement over the earlier tactics is borne out by the fact that a little while before the people were called upon to gather over the issue of cow slaughter, a la Muzaffarnagar, some photos of the alleged cow slaughter were circulated on mobiles in the village.
It may be recalled that before the riots broke out in Muzaffarnagar in Western UP in Sept-Oct 2014 a video allegedly showing the beating of a Hindu youth by Muslims in a village of the district was circulated on the social media by the BJP legislator Sangeet Som. It later turned out that the video was actually a clip of some incident in Pakistan.
Anyhow, at Bishara the police is said to have taken custody of many mobiles having the pictures and these were supposed to have gone out of circulation. But we managed to get these photos from a person.
From a close scrutiny of the photos there is nothing to indicate where were the photos clicked; who is the person unpacking the packet containing meat and animal carcass; whether the packet was opened before or after killing Akhlaque? The place where the packet is being opened seems to be out on a road. Indeed, if the packet was thrown by Akhlaque or any of his family members then why would they throw the meat along with the carcass because the second photo, taken before the packet was opened, clearly shows the aluminum utensil was empty to begin with, whereas in the third and fourth photos it is shown to contain meat and a part of the limb.
There are many versions of the discovery of a bovine carcass – one, that the people had seen either Akhlaque or his son throw the carcass outside the house; second, they threw this packet outside the house, which was then opened it to find the carcass in it; third, that the meat was found in kept in the said utensil kept in the fridge in Akhlaque’s house, which then people brought out. It was not cleared whether the meat kept in the utensil was in the packet or without packet. Some people said that the carcass was discovered from the house; if so, then the shape in which it is visible in the photos is generally not the one in which in which people have it.
Anyways, there appeared to be as many versions as the mouths saying it and that none of the persons seemed to have seen it for real themselves. They had only seen the photos. Indeed so many holes can be made into each version that none would stand even a cursory scrutiny. But truth and simple common sense as they say is the first casualty in such situations. For the laity in the village, they had seen the photos which resembled a bovine carcass, and that was enough to indict the guilty.
Generations of living together, the bonds of friendship and the joys of participating in each other’s festivities, all was forgotten and rendered meaningless in no time.
Given the situation, the clarion call issued from the temple seems to have had an electrifying effect. The circulation of the photos on mobiles and the call from the temple seemed to have taken place in a quick succession, and they surely were to a deadly effect.
Political patronage of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)
The overall picture gives a general sense of the involvement of the Sangh Parivar in the entire episode, but as stated earlier they have sought to craft the entire situation so as to be able to avoid any direct culpability for the developments. However, a look at the conduct of the village pradhan and the less than cultured role of the Union Minister for Culture and tourism, Mahesh Sharma, who is also the area MP betray the condescension of BJP in the whole affair.
Role of the present pradhan Sanjay Rana:
The village pradhan Sanjay Rana is a well built middle aged man. We met him at his house in the village itself. At the time of our meeting with him, his nephew Sandeep was already in police custody and his son Vishal was also named in the FIR lodged in the case of murder of Akhlaque and attack on his family members. Mr Rana was not just answering our questions; rather he was waxing eloquent about his large heartedness towards the Muslims of his village.
He told, and we listened to him patiently, that he had donated many acres of his land for the village mosque; how he had had the mosque constructed; how he got its repair done and how he had made arrangements for the upbringing and education of the Muslim children in his village.
Despite so much of his largesse towards the Muslims, Sanjay Rana did not consider visiting the aggrieved family in his capacity as pradhan even once. The two occasions when he has been to the victim’s house have been in the company of the union minister and the area MP Mahesh Sharma on 2nd October and the ex-BJP MLA of the area on the 1st October.
The pradhan did express his anger over the arrest of his nephew without any reason and despite his being sick. However, despite this arrest and the fact that his own son had been registered as an accused in the case, there was not in the least a sign of any tension or worry on Mr Rana’s face.
Rather in the course of the conversation he mentioned with a lot of pride that – “this is a village of BJP mentality.” This statement seemed to convey that the arrests and accusations etc. were only minor difficulties in the immediate sense and that they shall be easily overcome. The BJP mentality was made evident to us in the afternoon near the Shiv temple as well. Few villagers bearing tilaks (a spot of chandan wood paste or vermillion worn on the forehead by Hindus to indicate their religion, sect or caste) who were standing there remarked, and we over heard that – “some communist minded reporters are asking very nasty questions.”
Anyhow, Mr Rana’s confidence in the troubles getting resolved sooner than later did not seem misplaced as later in the day, while addressing the people within the compound of the Shiv temple, the union minister for culture and tourism declared all the persons arrested in this case to be innocent.
The next day, Sanjay Rana’s son Vishal was also arrested by the police on the charge leveled by the family members of Akhlaque that Vishal had been involved in inciting the mob to attack their home. He ostensibly was also one of the two persons who had supposedly coerced the temple priest to make the announcement. Little wonder then that the UP state unit of BJP distanced itself from Mr Rana.
Uncultured and criminal conduct of the Culture minister Mahesh Sharma
Unequivocal condemnation of communal killings of the minorities has never been part of the culture of the Hindutva forces. It should then be least surprising that rather than offering an unequivocal condemnation of the killing at Bishara village, the union minister of culture and tourism Mahesh Sharma passed it off as “an unfortunate accident” that resulted from a misunderstanding.
To rub insult to murder, in the presence of family members, he reiterated his “misunderstanding” thesis originating due to a missing calf in the village. At the victim’s house he said in our presence:
“These people have been living in harmony for almost 70 years. Whatever happened, happened sporadically. Some people are wrongly trying to give it a communal color. This is unacceptable.” He also completed his duty as culture minister by saying that – “this incidence is a dark spot and goes against our culture.”
Mahesh Sharma had words of caution to offer to others in attendance – “There are people doing politics on this incident by asking for my resignation.” Referring to the doubts being raised from many quarters he said – “Some people are asking repeatedly whether this incident was the result of a well planned conspiracy or just a hadsa (an accident). They need to be informed that doing politics or spreading communal passions on this won’t do. After all, these people have been living in the village peacefully and in harmony for last 70 years.” v
It is noteworthy that even as the minister conveyed his condolences to the affected family he also talked of getting justice for those arrested in this case. The father of one of the murderers, Vishal, the village pradhan Sanjay Rana was accompanying the minister to the victim’s house. One can only imagine the salubrious effect of the minister’s sympathies and assurances on the family.
After meeting the aggrieved family the minister proceeded to the village temple to address his followers there, wherein he accused the media of blowing the incidence out of proportion and giving it a communal color. The minister warned them of consequences unless they mind their conduct. He said – “the villagers will now stop those politicizing this issue outside the village itself.”
At least for once he has proved to be a man of his words. He issued the warning on 2nd October 2015; how this warning was put into effect on the 3rd October with commendable efficiency and effectiveness is now a matter of record. Following the minister’s threat, the newspapers have reported that on the night of 2nd October at least two meetings were held in the village to plan the details of this strategy.
Once again it was the Rajput women of the majority community who blocked the media persons and attacked them. We may remind here that this is how the Jat women prevented the arrests of the accused in Muzaffarnagar villages; and this is how the women of the majority Jat community played a proactive role in the communal violence at Atali in the Faridabad district of Haryana recently.
The million dollar question is – can such tactics be the endeavor of an unorganized crowd?
Role of the state government
In the instant case as well, the subdued but true colors of the local administration were revealed by the SDM, Rajesh Kumar Singh in our presence at the victim’s house. He threatened Akhlaque’s younger brother that – “you control the members of your family. They are issuing all kinds of statements to the media and the consequences shall be borne by none else than the family itself (parivar ko bhugatna padega).” On being asked what specifically had anyone said, he brought a member of the family and started shouting at him – “You told the media persons that this incident has been committed by the BJP. Are you a member of any political party?” When told that he wasn’t, the SDM roared – “then why are you talking like this and that you shall suffer because of this.”
It was at this moment that a member of our team in front of whom this happened shouted the SDM down and told him to refrain from issuing threats to the family. At this, the media that was in attendance charged at the SDM to account for his statements. He ran for cover and in the process fell on the road twice before making it to the safety of his vehicle. The vehicle was prevented from leaving the spot initially by some local people who lay down before his car. However, the SDM‟s driver backed off and sped away.
It has been reported in the newspapers (Times of India being one among them) on the 5th of October, 2015 that on the 4th October, while the SDM prevented others from reaching the village, he allowed around twenty vehicles of the ‘Hindu Raksha Dal’ fully loaded with its hooligans into the village. As per the Sangh Parivar, all of this may still be considered not as a part of planned interventions, but spontaneous expression of anger by the people.
The Akhilesh Yadav government of UP has reduced the management of communal incidents to simply a law and order problem, which also it is increasingly unable to control. As to the human and societal consequences of these are concerned, they are deemed fit to be addressed by just throwing some rupees at the victims by way of compensation. These tactics only play in tandem with the designs of the Sangh Parivar. vi
Needless to say that we can expect more of such incidents in the times to come unless well thought out administrative and political strategy is put in place to effectively counter the designs of the Sangh Parivar without a lurking but unstated desire on part of the Samajwadi Party, as also other mainstream parties of the opposition, to subtly pander to the communal sentiments within the majority community to suite their electoral calculations.
One is indeed compelled to wonder as to how the people who knew each other so well and seemingly had trusted each other in the thick and the thin of life could blow it all in no time and for no tangible gain; at least not for the ordinary folks. From our analysis presented above at least it is clear to us that whatever happened was not the result of a day’s doing. What happened within the span of those fateful hours had actually been primed over a much longer period of time during which a critical mass of persons had been built in the village to support and act in favor of Hindu communal forces at their beck and call. And this was an organized mass.
Simultaneously, the overall and expanding communal atmosphere in the country and the opportunism of the so called secular parliamentary opposition with respect to this onslaught has surreptitiously habituated the people to more than a minimal level of communal sentiment in the society and to accept it as a new social and political norm. Such and acceptance leads to a lowering of guard against such nefarious conspiracies; it also weakens the resolve to fight back against them.
The opposition to this phenomenon by the parliamentary parties of the opposition has remained limited to sloganeering and issuing statements keeping in mind the electoral constituencies, rather than mobilizing people in large numbers for actual struggles around their bread and butter issues which alone can act as a deterrent against the onward march of the communal campaign of Hindutva forces. However doing this is beyond the capability of these parties, united as they are on the broad anti-people slant of the economic policies; minor differences over tactics to suit political expedience notwithstanding.
The dominance of such politics nationally has dispirited the people and rendered them defenseless against all manner of anti-people attacks of the ruling classes. Hence, even if majority of people in Bishara village disapproved of what happened there and the politics propagated by the few politically organized Hindu right wing elements, they were either incapable of opposing them or simply felt too disinterested to do so. They certainly deserve to be criticized for this, but we ought to remember that writing them off would only mean pushing them further into the embrace of the communal forces. The need is for the progressive forces to take lead in organizing the ordinary laboring masses of this country to defeat the nefarious designs of the various sections of the ruling classes.
The BJP legislator Sangeet Som, infamous for his role in the Muzaffarnagar carnage, visited the Bishara village on the 4th of October, 2015 and reportedly invoked Hindu reaction as given in Muzaffarnagar while addressing a charged crowd. Indeed, it seems that the moves on the communal chess board are only going to get messier. The time to act is now.
Based on our findings during this brief visit there is only one conclusion for us to make – that the lynching of innocent Akhlaque and the near fatal attack on his son Danish is a result of a very well thought out, even if a subtle, strategy of Hindu communal elements of the area with full support of BJP and other patron organizations of Sangh Pariwar to foster communal conflagration between the people of the area in furtherance of their political objective of reigning in power in UP in the next assembly elections.
Janhastakshep is only too well aware that this report is too small an intervention to make much difference to the material conditions of the affected family or to be able to have a restraining effect on those bent upon destroying our social fabric. However, we do hope that the people will read it; will draw appropriate lessons from it and be motivated by our effort to lend their voice and active support in the fight against communalism, especially the majority communalism in our country.
- Janhastakshep fully supports the demand of the family that the culprits behind this heinous crime, who have been identified by the family in their complaint to the police, should be brought to justice without further ado or any laxity.
- Janhastakshep also demands that the union minister, Mahesh Sharma be immediately dismissed from the cabinet for insulting the victims by describing the whole incident as a result of a misunderstanding and for protecting the perpetrators on the ground.
An FIR should be filed against him for threatening the media persons present in the village to cover the incident.
- The UP government also deserves its share of condemnation for allowing a free play to the communal forces in the state and repeatedly failing to control communal violence directed against Muslims in the state.
Janhastakshep demands that an adequately powered enquiry be instituted to unravel the entire conspiracy behind this incident such that appropriate lessons can be drawn to prevent the occurrence of communal flare ups elsewhere in this politically crucial and hence communally sensitive state.
- We also demand that action be taken against the local police for its utter failure to restrain the local communal elements and for failing to keep track the activities of the numerous ‘senas’ that have been active in vitiating the atmosphere in the area.
(i) The unbroken series of communal incidents that leads up to the present mob killing in Bishara village can in fact be traced to even before the coming of the Modi government in power, to the riots that shook Muzaffarnagar about two years back and the ‘pink revolution’ (increasing export of beef from India) that Modi had talked of in his election rallies across the cow belt of the northern Indian states. It was then a part of the Sangh Pariwar’s exertions to capture power at the centre.
However, since Modi’s assenting to power, there seems to have been an even greater spurt of one communal controversy after another. Apart from their eagerness to expand their power base across India, the pace of their campaign also reflects their mounting trepidation in face of the ever elusive ‘acche din’ (good days promised to the people) and the nose diving economy. Swachh India, Make in India, Smart cities or Digital India – nothing seems to be stemming the rot. While Mr Modi himself ostensibly finds greater solace in the far off lands, the domestic management seems quite literally to have been abandoned to his chums of the Parivar. Nonetheless, as always, the tragedy remains that it is India’s laboring masses and the downtrodden that have to pay the maximum price of this charade.
(ii) Though it could not be ascertained specifically in case of this village, but these problems have been aggravated in the area by the easy money acquired as compensation for acquisition of their lands for urban expansion and industrialization. However, there has been little by way of a positive social, political and intellectual development in the area that would enable them to channelize the new found resources towards more constructive uses or self development. Therefore, rather than a panacea the new found wealth has paradoxically proved to be a cure worse than the disease. Similar phenomenon is easily observable in most of the semi-urbanized rural areas in the vicinity of Delhi i.e. villages adjoining Gurgaon, Faridabad and Gaziabad and those to the north of Delhi in Haryana.
The government obviously has no jobs to provide to this unemployed youth, so enamored with the lure of money, of which there is no deficit with the ruling class parties, and a sense of pseudo-respectability associated with pseudo-cause of Hindutva, these youth have become the cannon fodder of the hydra headed communal machinery.
(iii) The RSS and its cohorts are apparently not content to achieve complete polarization of the society along religious lines by gradually deepening the communal divisions. Rather their attempt is to reap the political dividend of this generic process as fast as possible by quickening its pace through well planned intermittent targeted incidents of communal tension/violence. The implementation of this strategy and its tactics is being effected through a maze of front organizations other than those whose association with the Sangh Parivar is self-avowedly established.
It would be a matter of more systematic investigation to find out the linkages between the various ‘senas’ and the parent organizations of the Sangh parivar, but this does fit into the well acknowledged practice of the Parivar to float fictitious front organizations to avoid direct culpability in communal incidents. Such organizations can be created and dissolved at will to suite political expedience. Started in the name of taking up the umpteen causes that the Sangh Parivar espouses, these front organizations provide the structure on the ground to carry forward the divisive agenda of the Hindu communal forces, that too without any direct liability of what follows being attributable to the known organizations of RSS. While the recognized affiliates of RSS and the BJP provide the ideological and the political leadership and manage the governance structures to advance their nationwide communal campaign, the kind of amorphous frontal organizations talked of above help in leveraging the larger communal thrust in the society to consolidate communal base of the Parivar locally through targeted interventions.
Disowning these organizations or their leaders by the Parivar is just a matter of political convenience rather than reflective any organizational setback. The same functionaries or leaders can be repackaged into another ‘avatar’ or ‘sena’ to carry forward “the cause” of dividing people.
For example, after the prominent coverage in the news papers on Sunday the 4th of October 2015, of the developments at Bishara on the 3rd of October, 2015, among which were the arrests of the sons of the local BJP leader and the pradhan (head man) of the village, Sanjay Rana, for inciting the mob to attack the Muslim household; the BJP has distanced itself from Sanjaya Rana. Rana himself told us that he is the functionary of the BJP and is even otherwise known to be very close to Mahesh Sharma the local BJP MP and a union minister. He was very much in attendance when Mahesh Sharma came visiting the aggrieved Muslim family while we were also present in the village.
(iv) One must however exercise caution in interpreting these conversations; and as a part of that we need bear in mind that we were talking to the villagers under circumstances in which they were least likely to behave in their normal self and in all likelihood would put up pretences being apprehensive of any outsider. Even a non-communal Rajput of the village (of the kind who lived in the immediate neighborhood of Akhlaque, and who most likely enjoyed the Id feast with his family) may feel the community pressure to try and explain away the incident lightly if not out rightly condone it. The dalits as such are always dominated by the upper castes and are mindful of how their conduct would be taken by the powerful.
This however does not mean that the truth cannot be known through the conversations one may have under such circumstances; only that one has to intelligently pose the questions that would succeed in penetrating the pretences, as we could in the case of the leader of the ‘Rashtravadi Pratap Sena.’ Secondly, while interpreting the responses we need to be read them along with the body language, emotions, general atmosphere and above all be mindful of the context of the larger realities of the society – the caste and the power relations between the communities, to avoid the pit falls.
Minus this caution, any person visiting Bishara village for fact finding could easily be led in to believing that the Hindu communal forces have succeeded in achieving total communal polarization of the society between the Hindus and the Muslims. It is noteworthy that even the Jatavs in Bishara now fear for their lives after this incident (The Hindustan Times dated 4th October 2015 has reported this in its lead story on the front page). Even otherwise, by the very character of the caste system, Hindu society can hardly be considered to be a homogenous social entity; the desperate attempts to impose one of this kind by the Sangh Parivar, within the given social format of Hinduism, notwithstanding.
(v) In an interview posted at https://youtu.be/HnMoV3Vt0dE as of 2nd October, 2015 the minister gives reasons – why this incident should not be considered as a communal incident. He states that it was only the house of Akhlaque that was attacked; neither the adjacent house of his elder brother nor any of the other Muslim houses in the village was targeted by the people.
A question arises from the minister’s averments – Does he perceive any difference whatsoever between misunderstanding and crime?
What the minister has actually sought to do is to reduce a horrendous crime to a simple misunderstanding such that the disgusting crime committed by his chums is reduced to just a demeanor borne out of such a ‘misunderstanding’ and then those involved in the crime need only be let off with a simple rebuke and that too for public consumption.
We also need to deconstruct his definition of a communal incident. The implication of his statement in this regard, mentioned above, is – That the people who attacked Akhlaque and his son actually never intended to kill them. Neither were they motivated by any communal passions because the wrongly believed an act that grievously hurt their sentiments to be true. It is this ‘grievous hurt’ which led them to attack the said Muslim family. Since no other Muslim in the village was even touched, including those in the adjacent house of Akhlaque’s elder brother, hence it was not a communal attack.
It naturally follows from this that – ‘if a similar mob feels (rightly or wrongly because of a misunderstanding) that their religious sentiments have been grievously hurt by not just one person or one family, but by say a 100 persons and it proceeds to vent their anger at them, leaving untouched another 1000 persons of their community. Without being so intended, the mob succeeds in killing a few dozens of these unfortunate 100 persons of same community.’ As per Sharma’s statement even this incident would not qualify to be called a communal incident.
Indeed, then even the worst of communal violence – the rioting that followed in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition or the Gujarat pogrom, none can be called communal because such incidents are invariably claimed not to be pre-planned but only a spontaneous outburst of people’s anger and indeed there still remain many people of the targeted minority community, after such violence ends, who managed to or were actually left untouched.
We feel that people like Mahesh Sharma should be recognized for what they are – criminal politicians of the worst kind, rather than being taken in by their shenanigans.
(vi) The secular credentials of the Samajwadi Party government in UP were thoroughly exposed in the wake of its complete failure to prevent riots in Muzaffarnagar and the manner of its treatment of the riot displaced Muslims subsequently. These were highlighted by us in an independent report on Muzaffarnagar in which some of us were involved. In this report we had also brought out the deep communalization of the state machinery which actually prohibited not only effective preemptive measures to prevent communal incidents, but also a meaningful relief to be provided to the victims after the riot. The Hashimpura judgment that came subsequently further attests to this contention of ours.
Ish Mishra (Convener), Vikas Bajpai, Rajesh Kumar, Parthiv, Anil Dubey, Sheetal.