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Riots outside Gujarat:
India under Saffron fury
|Violence has not been restricted to Gujarat following the sangh build-up in Ayodhya. The Bandh call on 1 March given by the VHP and Bajrang Dal with active BJP support, following the mysterious Godhra incident, set the whole country on fire. After around a month, the communal fire is still raging through most of the country.
From Haryana and Rajasthan in North India and Karnataka and Kerala in extreme south of the country, the fire has not died down. It is still aflame. The strangest of case is the several bouts of rioting by Hindu mobs in Haryana where these elements are not known to be in any major strength and Muslims not known to make any major chunk of the population. But this state bordering the national capital has witnessed several bouts of violence following the Bandh call given by the VHP.
If the planned murder of Muslims and precision destruction of their businesses in the whole of Gujarat looks like an act of ethnic cleansing where Muslims in a pre-planned way have been evicted from several pockets, attempts in other parts of the country seem to be a well devised action to terrorize the second largest community in the country. Dozens of cities around the country are still under curfew and several others are sitting on a tinderbox waiting to be lit while at other places the betting industry is making life miserable for the common citizens as these people are betting on the out break of riots the every other day.
Killings of several Muslims in towns like Ayodhya and Faizabad and other surrounding cities have largely gone unreported in the media. In these cities the life of the Muslim community has been made miserable by unruly sangh mobs who kept the whole area on ransom for close to a month. It is reported that Muslim families were made to flee their houses and these fleeing people were chased by Ramsevaks all over the area. As it is reported in several regional newspapers Muslim families were forced to chant 'Ram Mandir Wahin banega, Jai Shri Ram' and similar offending slogans. And people who refused to comply were reportedly killed in cold-blooded manner. As if it was not enough, Muslim women wearing scarves were forced to remove them. At times these thugs themselves snatched scarves from their heads. Shops and businesses belonging to Muslims were selectively set ablaze in these places also and houses damaged and demolished.
Haryana was among the places where unruly mobs have created havoc. They attacked Muslim houses and shops and set them ablaze. Casualties were also reported from several towns in Haryana on the day when bandh was called by the VHP and its sister organizations. Several mosques were also demolished in Haryana as well. It was not a one time business as organized attacks on Muslims and mosques were reported several times.
On 17 March, more than three mosques were brought down in Loharu in Bhivani district by 2000-strong rampaging mobs being controlled by the Shiv Sena. They spread the rumor that a cow was slaughtered in the area. More than twenty shops and a number of houses in the Old Bazar area in the city were also set on fire. The mob also tried to obstruct the fire tenders trying to reach the buildings on fire for several hours to ensure complete destruction. Muslims were forced to vacate their houses and flee the area by the Shiv Sena thugs. The mob even did not spare the palace of the former Nawarb of Loharu. Police had to resort to firing to save the palace from being set on fire by Shiv Sena hoodlums. But all the Muslim shops and houses in the area were totally destroyed in the fire set by the rampaging Shiv Seniks. Several shrines were also set afire by the mob.
Rajasthan also suffered from many sleepless nights following the frenzy created by Sangh organization in the wake of the VHP bandh and then the 15 March deadline on Ayodhya. Curfew was imposed in several cities seeing the continued provocation from the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS activists. Udaipur, Jaipur, Tonk, Ajmer remained almost closed for several days.
Police officials in Jaipur have admitted that the VHP had prepared an elaborate plan to start rioting in the city. They were insisting on taking their processions through Muslim localities in the city in an obvious attempt to incite the community. A fully armed VHP and Bajrang Dal mob was intercepted and stopped by the police. The marauders who were planning to attack Muslim localities then confronted the police. It was only the Muslim’s decision not to get emotional over these provocations and a vigilant police that ensured that the violence does not spill out. Rajasthan was among the states where the BJP during its government in the state had initiated a plan to saffronize the state on similar lines as adopted by it in Gujarat. It was only after the Congress government came to power that the trend was tried to be reversed.
UP has been under fire since the VHP called for bandh in the state. Scores of people have been killed in the state following the bandh and then the rioting that spread almost all over the state. It was just by chance that it remained under control.
Aligarh city has remained almost closed following the bandh call and the subsequent arson and rioting in the city. Several Muslim youths were killed in the city in rioting that continued for more than a fortnight. Aligarh, among one of the more sensitive cities in the country had not witnessed any violence after the large scale killings of Muslims in the city during LK Advani’s bloody Rath Yatra and the communal hatred it created all over the country in 1992. The violence flared on Friday, 1 March when the local BJP took out a rally supporting the bandh call given by the VHP.
That same day two youths, Nasir and Nawab were killed in separate incidents. Though police claims that the two killings were not the part of the rioting, people differ on the issue. An Special Police Officer (SPO) was also killed in the city. There are reports that the administration was siding openly with the VHP and Bajrang Dal hoodlums and there was no effort to control them. It is said that whenever these people tried to come on the street and spread panic, the police remained inactive and did not take precautionary steps to deter them.
Aligarh was not the only place in the state where rioting broke out. The whole state is still tense. Reports from several other cities like Meerut, Moradabad, Rampur, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Varanasi and several other places say that there was curfew like situation in all these cities. There are also reports of large scale arrests of Muslim youths from several cities in the state calling them ‘preventive arrests’.
Meerut, one of the most communally sensitive places in the country was saved by mere miracle. The city that literally sits on tinderbox was under siege due to the processions being taken out by the sangh’s different outfits. Provocative speeches were being aired on the loudspeakers making things difficult. And to add to this there was the booming betting business on rioting. This betting ring added more to the miseries of the common man as it helped spread panic in all parts of the city.
Andhara Pradesh has also been widely affected by the VHP bandh and the subsequent demonstration in favour of the VHP and Bajrang Dal. The city remained closed following Godhra incident. Though Muslims have largely remained peaceful in the eyes of all these provocations, several Muslim youths were targeted in Hyderabad. On 15 March, the day when the VHP had announced to begin the temple construction, four Muslim youngsters were attacked by a rampaging sangh mob. Syed Zubair Ahmad of Himmatpura and Habeebuddin of Kalapatthar area were admitted in Esra Hospital with serious stab wounds in several parts of their body. The four youngsters who were attacked by the mob were returning after appearing in their Senior Secondary Examination. Rioting and stabbing has also been reported from several other parts of the state including the industrial town of Vijaywada.
Madhya Pradesh too has been under constant threat of being set afire by rallies and provocative statements made by the VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal leaders. Bhopal and Indore have been the main targets of rioters. In Indore buses belonging to Madhya Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation were set on fire on 11 March by persons belonging to the VHP and Hindu Jagran Manch. The driver of one such bus Ramnarayan Wadhera suffered injuries in the incident. On the same day fifteen police personnel were also injured when a rampaging mob belonging to the BJP, VHP, RSS and Hindu Jagran Manch indulged in stone throwing in Krishnapura area of the city.
The group while returning after submitting a memorandum at the commissioner's office raised provocative slogans against Muslims and threw stones at the police personnel in which 15 policemen including the Additional Superintendent of Police GG Pandey were injured. In the same city, a bomb was also thrown at the All India Radio office on 28 February by the VHP activists.
Harsh steps taken by the Madhya Pradesh chief minister in view of these provocations seem to have helped control the violence very fast. Chief Minister Digvijay Singh had ordered to book VHP and Bajrang Dal activists under National Security Act (ASA). A government teacher reportedly belonging to the VHP in Jhabua district, found fanning violence in this tribal district bordering Gujarat was arrested under NSA and removed from service.
Digvijay Singh has also warned state government employees to keep off RSS shakhas or face the prospect of termination from service. The chief minister has been demanding ban on RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. He has also said that the syllabi of RSS run Saraswati Shishu Mandirs would be reviewed. A review committee, chaired by the vice chairman would be formed for the purpose. In the newly carved state from Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh too violence caused by the sangh activists has also been reported.
There are also numerous cases of violence, arson and killing from several other states including West Bengal, Assam and Karnataka.
Police had to fire on a rampaging Sangh mob in Taldi in South 24 Pargana district in West Bengal on 10 March. A VHP activist was killed in the police firing.
Curfew was imposed in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, following provocation from the sangh outfits after 15 March. Dozens of people have been injured in VHP engineered violence in the state capital of Karnataka. The city was still under curfew when the last reports came. q