CPI(ML) Fact-finding Report

(On 2 March, communal riots broke out in Bareilly, centre of Rohilkhand and known for communal harmony. A 5-member CPI(ML) team comprising CC Member Krishna Adhikari, State Standing Committee member Afroz Alam, State Committee member Rohitas Rajput, People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR) member and advocate Kishan Lal, and the party in-charge for Bareilly Atri Kumar Rishi visited Bareilly on 16 March where they spent two days visiting the riot-affected areas, speaking to local people and seeking out the facts in the midst of the political and media propaganda. Below is their report. – Ed/-)

Our fact-finding team had informed the local administration of our intended visit and sought cooperation. In spite of this, the administration did all it could to prevent the visit. Entry points to Bareilly were blocked and attempts were made at the Party State office as well as at Pilibhit and Puranpur to arrest members of the fact-finding team. In spite of these attempts by the Mayawati Government, the team conducted its investigation and released the findings at a press conference in a tourism department hotel in Bareilly on 17 March.

Curfew had been imposed in Bareilly since 2 March. When the team arrived in Bareilly in the morning of 16 March, curfew had been lifted till 2 pm daily; in spite of this, the bus-stand which would usually be crowded, was almost deserted. There was clearly an atmosphere of fear.

Our team visited the riot-affected areas of Chahvai, Guddadbag, Koharapeer, Dariyavalan, Subhash Nagar, Badayun Road and Sanjay Nagar. A large number of shops were set on fire in these areas. On 2 March a mosque and a police station were set on fire.

In the media versions, the two main reasons for the riots were 1) the change in route of the Juloos-e-Mohammadi (the procession to mark Barawafat – the birth of Prophet Mohammad) on 2 March as a result of which the Muslim procession marched through communally sensitive Hindu localities and 2) the release of Maulana Tauqeer Raza on 11 March (he had been arrested on 8 March) which caused Hindus to be outraged, causing riots again in Subhash Nagar and Sanjay Nagar. This version is the basis for the communal anti-Muslim statements in the media by BJP leaders - Aonla MP Maneka Gandhi and Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi as well as Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath.

Tracing back the events that led to the riots revealed that the Juloos-e-Mohammadi was initially planned according to tradition on 27 February (the Barawafat day) – but the Muslim religious leaders responded to an appeal by the local administration and postponed the date of the procession to 2 March at 5 in the evening, keeping in mind the impending Holi celebrations. The very next day however, RSS elements threw dirty clothes into the mosque in the Kila area. When the two people responsible for this incident were arrested, BJP held a road blockade and they were released by the police as a result. Communal forces also tore down banners and posters of the Juloos-e-Mohammadi and trampled them underfoot in front of the Kotwali. These provocative incidents were ignored by the Muslim community in the hope that they could to hold the procession without disturbance.

On 2 March, according to the previously announced programme, groups of Muslims from various parts of the town began to go towards Koharapeer from where the procession was to start in the evening at 5. Old people, women and children were present in these groups. In spite of the apprehension of communal tension there was no police security offered to these groups. At around 1.30 in the afternoon, former Councillor Sanjay Rai of the BJP stopped one such group at Gulabnagar and made it change its route. When the group them began moving on the new route, they were stoned at from rooftops. It is apparent from this incident that the same communal forces which failed to provoke communal tension around Holi were determined to succeed on the day of the procession. The way in which BJP leader Sanjay Rai made one group of Muslims divert their route and then stones were thrown from rooftops indicates prior planning. Also significant is the fact that the riots began in the afternoon – well before the appointed time for the procession to begin. Therefore the question of a diversion in the appointed route of the procession as a cause for the communal riots is out of the question.

People of both communities then gathered at the spot and clashes continued for an hour and a half as the police station close by remained a mute spectator. Meanwhile, the BJP and RSS spread rumours of a temple having been broken by Muslim mobs in Chahvai.

We also visited the temple in Chahvai and found a crack on its walls that appeared to be quite old. We asked people around who confirmed that the crack was indeed an old one and the rumour of the temple being broken was false. This rumour became the pretext for rioters to set a mosque on fire in Chahvai in supposed 'retaliation.'

Meanwhile around 3000-4000 people had gathered for the procession at Koharapeer and the organisers repeatedly appealed to the police and administration for intervention, in vain. It was then their anger at police inaction in the face of riots erupted and the police station was set on fire. A section of Muslim fundamentalists who sought to cash in on the situation also added fodder to the BJP-RSS communal fire by indulging in arson on Hindu homes and shops in the Koharapeer and Guddadbag areas.

The PAC, notoriously communal and anti-minority in character, also joined in the rioting – looting and destroying around two dozen Muslim homes and shops in Bhahabad, Chamelibag, Guddadbag, and other localities. Secular forces in Bareilly had then demanded that the PAC be withdrawn since it was adding to the communal tension.

The Bareilly MLA is from the BJP – Rajesh Agarwal, and the facts show that the BJP and Sangh Parivar played a calculated role in fomenting communal tension. The Mayor and MP of Bareilly are from the Congress: both of whom maintained a mysterious silence throughout the riots.

The Mayawati government contributed to the communal situation in many ways. In the first place no action was taken against PAC and police officials colluding with the rioters. Rather, curfew was imposed on common people, leading to much suffering. At least one little girl reportedly died for lack of medical care during the curfew; many other patients also suffered because it was not possible to go out to seek medical care during the curfew. But the local black-marketeers prospered during the curfew – selling potatoes worth Rs 3-5 a kilo at Rs. 20 a kilo.

Further the Mayawati Government's move of arresting Maulana Tauqeer Raza (a prominent religious figure of the Barelvi sect, and a descendant of Ahmad Riza Khan, revered by Barelvis all over the subcontinent) on 8 March on charges of provocative speech-making led to outrage among the minorities. The bias was clear: BJP and Sangh leaders who had indulged in proven provocative acts were untouched while a revered Muslim leader is calculatedly arrested. In defiance of the curfew, thousands sat on a dharna demanding the cleric's release. He was released on 11 March (an action that implicitly conceded that it was in fact the RSS and BJP that were responsible for the riots) and Mayawati had to announce the transfer of the District Magistrate and DIG Police.

The release of Maulana Tauqeer was made the pretext for more communal propaganda and violence by the BJP and Sangh Parivar. Santosh Gangwar, who had been BJP MP from Bareilly many times in the past, led mobs to set fire on Muslim-owned shops in Sanjay Nagar, Subhash Nagar and Badayun Road. A BJP 'fact-finding team' was formed comprising Maneka, Varun and Adityanath – a team calculated to spread the maximum communal venom.

The CPI(ML) team demanded a judicial probe into the riots, compensation for the riot-affected families and punishment for the politicians, PAC and police personnel responsible for the riots.


Communal Hate-mongering in BJP-ruled Uttarakhand

In Uttarakhand under the BJP Chief Minister Nishank, the RSS is calculatedly working on its communal agenda. Some months back, a cattle-sale fair traditionally and historically held every year in Mohana Ramnagar, Almora district, became the occasion for communal propaganda. The RSS spread the rumour that the fair (in which farmers with the permission of the government buy and sell their cattle) was being used by Muslims to smuggle cows for slaughter. Under pressure from the communal elements, the Government withdrew permission for the fair.

Next came an incident in Haldwani. The Ramlila grounds here are administered by the tehsildar on behalf of the district administration. The tehsildar allowed a Muslim person to book the grounds for a wedding, after which the Bajrang Dal launched a vicious and violent campaign all over the town. Shamefully the tehsildar was suspended and made to apologise by the higher authorities!

On 16 November, the BJP-Bajrang Dal activists attacked and forcibly disrupted a mass meeting of the Christian community being held at the Lepers' Ashram in Bhood (Khatima).

On the same lines as the Bareilly incident, the Sangh Parivar forces tried to provoke riots on the day of Barawafat in Rudrapur, when objections were raised to Muslim youths raising slogans in a procession in the market and a welcome arch erected with administration's permission was broken and attempts were made to set it on fire. The police lathicharged the trouble-makers – but the Thana in-charge was suspended the next day. When this attempt to provoke riots did not succeed, it was followed by another 3 days later. At 11 in the night in the Bhadaipura area of Rudrapur some people threw a dead pig into a mosque, fired in the air and ran away. When the police took a few people into custody the next day for questioning, local BJP and Congress leaders together surrounded the thana and had them freed!

The BJP Government is playing the communal card to hide its many failures – while the Congress, far from resisting it, is actually colluding in it.

Girija Pathak

Liberation Archive