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Widespread protests against Qur’an-burning
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Muslims all over the country and abroad reacted very strongly to the sacrilege of burning of the Holy Qur'an by the Parivar hooligans in the capital on 5 March, a fact which is still remains 'alleged' to our government and the so-called national press. Muslims have demanded that the culprits, who set the Holy Qur'an on fire under heavy security bandobust in the capital, be brought to book and punished.

Riots broke out in a number of places following nationwide demonstrations that brought a large number of people on to the streets against the sacrilege. A number of people have been killed in these riots so far.. On the other hand, the protests and pressures managed to force the government to arrest two of the perpetrators of the crime for one day, after which they were released on parole.

Kanpur has been worst hit by the riots that erupted when a peaceful demonstration was fired upon by the police (see pp. 10, 19). Demonstrators demanding for an inquiry into the Qur’an burning incident had assembled at Parade Chauraha on 16 March. Police opened fire on the mob killing five persons on the spot including an additional district magistrate. Around twenty people have been killed since the violence erupted. Curfew was clamped on various sensitive areas of Kanpur and day-time curfew was lifted only on 22 March. Around 100 persons have been arrested in Kanpur.

A number of processions were taken out in the width and breadth of Maharashtra including Pune and the communally-sensitive city of Aurangabad. In Pune police fought the demonstrators who started throwing stones on the police when it resorted to lathi-charge. A large number of people, including twenty-five policemen, were injured during the scuffles. A general strike was staged in J&K to protest against this sacrilege on 16 March. There was a total strike in Bahraich on 19 March. Bandhs were observed in other places as well, like Vadodra and Dewas. A big rally, attended by over 20,000 people, was organized in Mumbai Central. Large rallies were also held in Ahmedabad, Saharanpur and Mumbra, Mumbai suburb. A general strike was observed in Pakistan on 16 March but it was blacked out by Pakistan TV. Demonstrations were organized in Dhaka, Kualalumpur and Jeddah. The Makkah-based Muslim World League condemned it in strongest terms.

In Aurangabad people came to the streets to register their anger after the Friday prayers. Police fired in the air to disperse the demonstrators. A number of youths were arrested by the local police following the procession. In Nanded, Maharashtra, too people staged demonstrations.

Hyderabad also witnessed a number of demonstrations all over the city. People came out on to the streets in order to show their anger. Police arrested a large number of people including the editor of Saz-e-Deccan, Mr Baqar Husain Shaz who was released only on 20 March. It is reported that the police also arrested the editor of another Hyderabad newspaper, Daily Insaf, for publishing the photograph of the Qur'an-burning crime.

A number of people arrested following the protests are still behind bars. Following is an incomplete list of arrests made in various parts of the country: Dewas: 300; Pune: 161; Aurangabad: 115; Parbhani, Maharashtra: over 200; Jalna: 137; Nanded: 210; Mumbai: 25; Hyderabad: 7; Belapur (New Mumbai): 114 etc. The majority have since been released.

The worst case is that of Kanpur where not only around two dozen Muslim youths were killed, a large number of youths are still missing. It is being alleged that the infamous PAC is attacking Muslim areas alongwith the miscreants and killing youths and ransacking houses. A number of publications and TV channels, including a few Internet news sites, have claimed that the PAC is indiscriminately killing and terrorizing Muslims in this industrial city. Efforts are continuing in Kanpur and the national capital to defuse tension. Muslim leaders have worked overtime to save the embattled Muslims of the city. A delegation of Muslim leaders met the union home minister LK Advani in New Delhi to take stock of the prevailing condition in Kanpur. Meanwhile, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has condemned the Qur’an-burning incidents, terming them as ‘isolated and aberrant in nature,’and has asked the state governments to take stern and swift action against their perpetrators.

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