Sunday, April 25, 2010

Riots after Riots- It happens only in India

Riots after Riots- It happens only in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Communal riots have become part and parcel of Indian social life. The birth pang of the country was on the throes of communal riots. The history of last sixty years or so to a section of the Indian society, who has been on the receiving end of communal riots, is nothing but a history of wanton destruction of their lives and properties.

The irony is, the psyche of the countrymen has become immune to such development that there is little effort either from the government of the day or the civil groups to stop such well planned and well orchestrated communal mayhem in the nation that swears by the word peace, unity in diversity, peaceful coexistence and such blah, blah….

The year 2010 so far has witnessed two communal riots, one in Bareilly a small city in Uttar Pradesh, the other in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. While the incidence of communal violence in Bareilly is rare, Hyderabad remains on the seismic zone of communal flare-ups.

Genesis Barielly riots

The genesis Barielly riot was the Bara-wafaat procession taken out by the Muslims on the occasion of birthday of Prophet Mohammad. This was on March 2, 2010 when a small group of Muslim boys not more than 30, were coming to join in the main procession and they passed through a Hindu locality. They were challenged and hot words were exchanged and this followed a volley of brickbats on these boys making them bleed profusely. The fact that the brickbats in such huge quantity were kept on roof tops suggests some planning must have been done before the flash point

However, the group of boys somehow made it to the main procession, which characteristically was not a procession where some 30-40 thousand individuals gathered, but of much smaller in number who after seeing their co religionist bleeding retaliated by burning the shops that was indiscriminate.

Unlike the popular belief that it was only Hindu shops were torched, the fact remains that there were many Muslim shops which were completely burned down.

This resulted in the clamping down of the curfew, and after six days when every one thought the curfew would be finally be lifted, the administration on March 8, arrested the powerful Sunni Muslim cleric Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan, the National president of powerful Ittehad e Millat (IMC) on the charges of inciting the trouble.

Bareilly is great seat of Barellvi sect of Sunni Muslim School and the Maulana is no baby sheep. The arrest made the supporters of Maulana to sit on dharna, demanding his unconditional release. Their number was around 30, 000 and their number kept increasing with each passing moment. In spite of such large numbers the supporters displayed remarkable discipline and none reported to have done anything negative, except peacefully sitting in Satyagrah for over 30 hours.

In was after three days Maulana Tauqeer was released from jail on March 11, 2010. His supporters after hearing the news of the release of their leader started dispersing peacefully to their homes.

At this moment the goons of the Bajrang Dal and the BJP started attacking the unarmed returning Muslims in which two of them sustained severe cut injuries by sword. At the same time the belligerent mob got busy vandalizing, looting and burning Muslim owned shops and property.

This continued unabated on March 11 and 12, 2010 and the police and paramilitary forces had tough time containing them. It was only by March 15, when the curfew was lifted after two weeks that the city limped back to normalcy.

Genesis of Hyderabad riots

The communal riot in Hyderabad city is a basket case of communal incident. It’s once again the same old story where the state apparatus has failed to preempt the situation and only bolted the doors when the horses had fled!

The riot in Hyderabad had its origin in rabble rousing speeches at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad conference on March 24th, 2010. This led to filing of the cases against those provoking violence against minority communities. This happened three days before the breakout of actual violence that took place on Hanuman Jayanti day on March 30, 2010.

Hanuman Jayanti, a festival that was hitherto celebrated with relative simplicity in Hyderabad city saw an unprecedented mobilization by Hindu extremist organizations that blanketed the entire city with Saffron flags.

The belligerence of the Saffron brigade was at height when they provocatively planted Saffron flags and other Hindu religious symbols on Mosques, Churches and other sites of such religions.

This provocation was enough for retaliation from the fearful community and according to reports it was free for all where three lives were lost, ninety people were left injured.

Police arrested two hundred and seventy two suspects, most of them Muslims, imposing curfew within the jurisdiction of twenty five police stations of the city. It took several days for the situation to come back to normal and peace to be restored.

In both the cases, Bareilly and Hyderbad, the role of state administration is dubious. It is unfortunate that both the state governments allowed the riots to unsettle the state of communal harmony and did little to preempt the situation.

In both the cases the Hindutva groups were the main culprits and agent provocateurs in destabilizing communal harmony and provoking religious violence.

The general public had begun to sense the communal tension but not the administration that has the intelligence gathering apparatus. It seems the police intelligence agency were either oblivious to the fact or deliberately remained silent.

These copy book cases of communal riots in the country has been recurring in pauses each year in the country from last sixty years or so. Not a single year passes when there are no communal riots in India.

On a rough estimate there could be an average three to five riots each year. Still no one in this country gives a damn about it. Every one forgets about it when thing gets normal after some fire fighting exercises, till it recurs again. This sounds bizarre but it’s true fact about the history of communal riots in the country.

Ask those who has been reeling under violence, terror and curfew. Imagine living under the looming shadow of uncertainty, danger and the threat of violence and state imposed restrictions under curfew. What kind of wound it may inflict on the minds of the sufferers.

I some time wonder how long this madness will be allowed to perpetrate by the collusion of the state and the central government. Are they not responsible for producing Jhadis in this country? It’s a murky game that going in this country from last 60 years or so, where first you produce the Jhadis, and then go after them.

The irony of my country is each one us get carried away by the symptoms and none care of thinking of the ways and means to control the disease. The biggest, stakeholder in this, the state, seems to be wavering in its commitment to uphold the secular credentials that’s guaranteed in the constitution of India.

At the end, would be a regular investigation is ordered to probe these riots and what it would lead to. A step further may be a judicial probe of these incidents. But will that be sufficient to get to the real story behind these riots? Even if we are able to get one, will that avoid further loss of life in yet another riot on yet another pretext? Your guess is as good as mine!

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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