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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 9 New Delhi February 17, 2018

Kasganj Violence: Unveiling the Anatomy of a Riot

Saturday 17 February 2018


by Ram Puniyani

Communal violence has been the bane of our society. There had been a perception that this violence is a spontaneous clash between two communities. Over a period of time, it is becoming clear that it is not a spontaneous phenomenon, nor is it a clash between two communities, it is a planned violence. Scholars, basing themselves on analysis of the inquiry commission reports and the pattern of riots, show that violence is generally a planned event to polarise the communities for electoral benefits. Surely apart from communal parties other parties also have to be blamed for various slips of mainly omission and partly occasionally for active commission of the violence. The main source 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, that got cleared in the Kasganj violence in UP on Republic Day 2018.

The story so far is that in Kasganj in Shahid Abdul Hamid Chowk a programme was organised by the minority community to celebrate the day, chairs were laid etc. Motor-bike-rider youths, nearly 90 or so, belonging to the RSS affiliate ABVP, came, carrying tricolour and saffron flags. They also had clubs and other armaments as per some reports, videos. They insisted at the Chowk to remove the chairs as they had to pass from there. The local Muslims asked them to join the programme rather than disturb it. The clash ensued. The tricolour-saffron flag wielding youth shouted the slogans, ‘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 say Vande Mataram). In the clash and bullet firing that followed two men received bullet injuries of which Chandan Gupta, who was also a participant of the bike rally, died and the other, a Muslim labourer Naushad, is being treated in hospital, having been severely injured.

A section of TV and other media presented it as if Muslims were resisting the tricolour- hoisting; so they opposed the bikers and forced them to shout pro-Pakistan slogans, something which is far from the truth. The role of a section of the media is very negative in communal violence. Police as usual did not stop or control the inciting mob. On the following day Rajveer Singh, a BJP MP, at the cremation of Chandan Gupta further added to the fury 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 Rs 20 lakhs for Chandan Gupta; hopefully compensation for other injuries and damages will be forthcoming.

An interesting sidelight took place this time around. Raghvendra Vikram Singh, the DM of Bareilly, in his Hindi facebook post criticised the event saying that “by now it has become a trend to take out processions in Muslim localities and shout anti Pakistan slogans. Are these people Pakistanis?” The post was taken down after intimidating trolling and the State adminis-tration expressing displeasure over the post. 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. (

The tragic violence has led to loss of one innocent life; injuries to few and loss of social property. The compensation so far has been selective. The whole incident and the facebook post of the DM reveals the deeper dynamics of how the violence gets orchestrated, The mechanisms of these do keep changing over a period of time, but what is constant is an evil innovation of techniques to target the vulnerable minorities. Earlier it had been taking out procession with loud music in front of the mosque and putting beef in temple. With time one saw that in the Mumbai violence of 1992-93 Maha Artis (Invocation Prayer) 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 violence. The girl who is supposed to be the victim, denied being harassed by the Muslim boy, but the mobilisation of Jats-Hindus continued never-theless. 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 the violence is very clear. It seems this may be a preparation for the elections which are in the offing a year later. The tiranga (tricolour) issue is quite paradoxical for Muslims. They hurl it or abstain from it, both ways they are damned. What is more interesting is that tricolour, which was opposed by the 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 stands to use the same tricolour to browbeat and make it a vehicle for polarisation, through its affiliates like the ABVP and VHP. It seems as a backup to what has happened in Kasganj now the RSS is 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.

To cover the whole thing, the BJP leadership wants to project that minorities opposed the tricolour and shouted pro-Pakistan slogans! One knows that all through the BJP’s electoral strength has been going up, courtesy violence and consequent polarisation. The society needs to protect itself against such aggressive abuse of the tricolour for inciting violence, and be careful not to fall into the traps of provocation on any ground whatsoever.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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