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Kanpur riots and secular India
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Incidents of violence should be condemned by one and all and more so when it has been done by none other than the law enforcing agencies. What happened in Kanpur a fortnight ago was not new. Even the government's cold shouldered response to all observations of a number of non-partisan agencies who gave damning verdicts against the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) was not new. All these things have been experienced in the past by the nation. Be it in Hashimpura, Meerut, Maliana or Aligarh or the latest incidents of violence in Kanpur.

What happened in Kanpur on that Black Friday should be seen as an eye opener for all the people who want the country to follow the secular credentials enshrined by the makers of the law. The Friday protests by a group of Muslim youths could have easily been calmed down as happened in all other places. What they were doing can in no case be called as an act of terrorism or breaking of law. The Constitution gives its citizens right to protest and agitate. And no one can stop its people from organizing a march when people angered over the burning of their religious book want to show their anger in a lawful manner. They were certainly not taking the law in their hands. Burning effigies and tying black bandages on hands can not be described as taking the law in hands or violation of the law. These things would have passed off peacefully had the PAC not tried to terrorize the demonstrators. Police firing on the unarmed protestors was beginning of all the trouble in a communally high voltage city.

It was the time when the saffron outfits allegedly entered the scene. The PAC allegedly teamed up with the BJP and RSS workers and then started the horror story. The PAC allegedly entered the houses and beat up the residents, fired upon the innocent people and ransacked the houses and set shops ablaze. Even Muslim journalists were not spared. A city based journalist Sajid who came in a five star hotel to meet a journalist from Delhi was arrested with no fault of his own. Leading Muslim personalities were implicated in false cases and there was none who could stop this unleashing of terror.

Despite repeated appeals of Muslim leaders and the leaders of a number of political parties including Congress the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha and Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party to pack the PAC and send it back to barracks no step was taken by the state government in this regard. To rub salt on the wounds the state government all along accused Muslims for all what went wrong in the city, formerly called as Manchester of Asia. Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was particularly singled out for accusations. A number of SIMI activists were arrested for doing nothing and breaking no laws. On the other hand breach of law by the activists of several saffron parties and their participation in the violence was never ever acknowledge.

On the other hand several Muslim leaders were implicated in false cases and put into jails for no apparent reason. Principal of Faiz-e-Aam Inter College, Sulaiman who is also the president of the city unit of the Muslim League was arrested before the correspondent of a leading national daily. The journalist was even threatened against reporting the incident. Sulaiman is still languishing in the jail like many other innocent people arrested during the riots.

The riots in Kanpur should not even be called a communal incident as it was a one sided terror unleashed on the innocent Muslims of the city. More or less three dozen people were killed during these riots all of them Muslims except ADM, AB Pathak. Contrary to the reports he was not killed by any stray bullet coming from a mosque as was being claimed by the PAC. The bullet found in his body was found to be one used by only the police.

If there was any iota of doubt that the PAC was behind the incidents of violence in the city, it ended when the tension immediately receded with the deployment of the Rapid Action Force and the withdrawal of the PAC. Still the government is not ready to accept that the PAC was behind the violence in Kanpur and not ready to punish its personnel who set the whole city on fire.

A number of organizations have demanded the government to disband the PAC that has become a communal force in itself. It is the right time that the government takes stern actions against the PAC and disband a terrorizing force that has become synonymous with terror, brutality, partiality and has no inkling to restore the law. Its personnel responsible for unleashing terror and killing innocent people should also be brought to book and punished severely. PAC personnel responsible for planned genocide of a number of people in Meerut and Maliana more than a decade ago are still roaming scot free. This immunity of criminals can cause severe erosion of trust on law enforcing agencies and the law itself.

Secular forces of the country should come forward and act immediately to save the country from these sorts of terrorizing forces. If, forces working from inside the government start taking the law of land in their own hands thinking of the immunity the law provides, it will definitely mean creation of mistrust among the sections who are affected by such forces. It is Muslims today in Kanpur, next time it may be any other community or any particular group.

We have to give our media too a lesson or two in presenting the news in true prospect. Our media failed completely to cover an important incident that took place in the heart of the Capital. Instead of covering the incident and condemning its perpetrators the media tried to black out the whole incident and still poses as if nothing happened in New Delhi on 5 March.

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