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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 33, August 12, 2023

On 1980 Moradabad Riots | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 12 August 2023, by Arup Kumar Sen


Very recently (August 8, 2023), “nearly 40 years after Justice M P Saxena submitted findings on the communal riots that rocked Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh in August 1980, the report was tabled in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly…The violence that began on August 13, 1980, at the Eidgah in Moradabad town, continued in Sambhal, Aligarh, Bareilly, Allahabad (now Prayagraj), and the rural areas of Moradabad until early 1981.” (The Indian Express, August 9, 2023). What are the findings of the one-member Commission? “The Commission has come to a conclusion that for the trouble at Eidgah and other places (in 1980), no government official, employee or Hindu are responsible. In these riots, the role of the RSS or BJP has not come out anywhere…” The report concludes: “It was the result of acts of the Muslim League led by Dr Shamim Ahmed and those close to and supporters of Dr Hamid Hussain alias Dr Azzi and some hired persons.” (Quoted in ibid.)

A reading of the Moradabad riots by two eminent scholars, Satish Saberwal and Mushirul Hasan, based on their field visits in January 1981, gives a completely different picture: “Between mid-August and early November 1980, Muslims in Moradabad experienced the most bloody orgy of violence. Officially verified deaths, for which the Government is paying ‘compensation’ run to about 400; a careful, responsible Muslim group estimates deaths at 2,500; other observers put the number between 1,500 and 2,000. This sustained, frenzied aggression was unmistakably engineered by city policemen in uniform. The events are no less shattering for anyone who cares about the state of society in present and future India.” The scholars further observed: “During at least the first two bouts beginning 13 August and 10 September, the curfew was enforced for Muslims alone. The police are reported to have made deals with Hindu goondas over sharing the spoils from the looting of Muslim shops.” (See ‘Moradabad Riots, 1980: Causes and Meanings’ in Asghar Ali Engineer (ed.), Communal Riots in Post-Independence India, Sangam Books, 1984)

India has undergone massive transformations in politics and governance since the 1980s. Anti- Muslim Moradabad riots may be read as an important chapter in the history of violent Hindutva politics in contemporary India.

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