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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Echoes of fascism in Rajasthan

The Milli Gazette Online 

Bhanwar Meghvanshi is a native of Bhilwara (Rajasthan). He feels sad to see that this place where Hindus and Muslims had been living peacefully for centuries has now become a hotbed of communal politics which gives rise to hate, communal tension and conflicts have become the order of the day mainly because of the activities and instigations of RSS and its organs like BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal (BD), Kamal Congress (KC) (which is nearer to the BJP than to the Congress). Wherever there have been communal clashes, these elements were mainly behind such incidents. 

Through a 32 page booklet Meghvanshi has tried to warn the country about the impending storm which the activities of these organisations will lead to.

As many as 16 minor and major cases of rioting, stone pelting, looting, burning of shops and houses took place during March and April this year in different towns of Bhilwara district like Mandal, Bagor, Krera, Sujat etc, instigated mainly on mere doubts and suspicion by these groups. Victims in almost all cases were Muslims. 

For example, a major incident took place on 17 March this year when green flags were found planted in 5 different temples in Krera. Some animal bones were also found there. In some temples “786” was also daubed. Muslims were the obvious suspects. Hindus became furious. They observed a three-day ‘bandh’. A sufi, Mohammad Hanif Shah Sailani Sarkar, and his disciples were held responsible for this ‘provocation’. Hindu communal leaders demanded a search of the sufi’s Dargah, otherwise they threatened to repeat “Gujarat”. The sufi had a farmhouse where illegal activities were alleged to take place like smuggling, manufacture of arms. It was claimed that the place is a den of anti socials, anti nationals and criminal elements, Pak and ISI agents etc. No one was allowed to go there. All this was however mere concoction. Police already knew the truth but on persistent demands made a formal search and, as expected, all accusations turned out to be a bundle of lies. The real culprit was a Shiv Sena leader called Ram Ratan Jhanwar alias Sintial who confessed that he had done all this to provoke a communal riot. The damage had been done.

Riots broke out and as expected, Muslims were the victims and sufferers. Not only this, their social and economic boycott was enforced. Nobody was allowed to purchase anything from their shops and no commodities were sold to them. No one was allowed to talk to them. All this made the lives of Muslims very difficult. Many of them left that place as a result.

In Mandal Police Station, there were six Muslim policemen in addition to others. Because of their objection to frequent visits of VHP, BD and BJP activists to the police station without any reason, these communal elements did not like them and wanted the Muslim policemen to be removed. Accordingly under a secret plan, all of them were transferred to other places as far back as September 2004. After their transfer, visits of these people to the police station became more frequent and hassle-free.

Clashes on minor scales were taking place frequently in the area. On one occasion in Bagor, a Muslim passenger was compelled to get down from a bus, stripped naked, taken to a temple and compelled to utter "Jai Shri Ram." As if this was not enough, he was beaten so mercilessly that he became unconscious. Colours were thrown into mosques on many occasions.

Another major incident took place on 8 April in Mandal. On that morning when people went to offer dawn prayers in Moharram ki Masjid they found saffron flags and “Jai Shri Ram” written at the mosque gate. They lodged a complaint and registered an FIR with the police but noting happened. That was Friday. When no action was taken, they took out a silent march after the Friday prayers and the matter ended there. But the main trouble was yet to come.

In the evening same day a minor incident led to some stone pelting which soon took a communal turn. Almost at the same time Bewar (a procession of Char Bhuja Nath, a deity supposedly to have four hands) was to be taken out. The procession was far away from the scene of stone pelting but the “devotees” came to know about it and fearing that the situation may deteriorate, they left the statue of Char Bhuja Nath mounted on a vehicle at a safe place in a big house but spread the rumour that Muslims attacked the procession with lathis, stones, swords, knives etc with the result that many devotees were seriously injured. This typical rumour-mongering, which is often used to ignite communal riots, enraged Hindus and a riot broke out. Large crowds attacked Muslims. Local police not being sufficient, police headquarters at Bhilwara was informed and they took about half an hour to reach the troubled spot. During this half an hour the mob had a free hand. Kerosene obtained from fair prices shops was used to ignite objects. Police helped the crowd in getting kerosene from such shops and owners themselves participated alongwith the crowds in torching houses and shops of Muslims. Finding the situation going out of control, police resorted to firing in which at least one person died and many injured. Curfew was declared at night and police made house to house search of Muslims only for recovery of arms. 

Though curfew was declared, a Hindu mob of 100-150 was roaming with curfew passes in Muslim areas and pinpointing Muslims to the police. Without any search warrant and without the presence of lady police as required, police forced their way into houses of Muslims, misbehaved, abused, taunted and molested ladies and dragged out all male members, including children and old people, from their houses, beat them up mercilessly and took them to the police station. They also looted and took away cash worth lakhs of rupees, ornaments, jewellery and other valuables from different houses. Zakir Husain Mansoori had kept Rs 45000 for his daughter Khadija’s marriage and that too was taken away. In all, 26 persons, all Muslim, were arrested, including two minor children and three septuagenarians. Inside the jail, 75-year-old Nooruddin Mansoori’s beard was pulled out. ASP Shiv Lal Joshi was heard saying ‘You katuas [circumcised ones - derisively used for Muslims), we will treat you in this manner.’ Other septuagenarians like Ahmad Noor and others were mercilessly beaten. Hands and feet of some were badly fractured. Some lost consciousness. Abdul Hamid Adnsari’s right hand was broken and eyes were injured. Blood started oozing which has seriously affected his eyesight. When they asked for water, they were given it in latrine pots. When one of them refused to drink in this pot, ASI Shiv Lal Joshi asked another policeman to piss in his mouth if he refuses to drink in that pot. ASI, Ramesh Joshi told the arrested persons: ‘You katuas have made Mandal a Pakistan’. As long as they were in jail they were kept only in the underwears. They were constantly abused and addressed as katuas, Pakistani dogs and ISI agents. After mercilessly beating them, policemen said ‘Our anger has now cooled down but Hindus have yet to cool down their anger.’

SHO of Mandal police station, Bhajju Ram Gurjar, ASP Shiv Lal Joshi and ASI Ramesh Joshi, were expected to be protectors of law but they behaved as breakers of law as far as Muslims were concerned. 

At dead of night ladies were forced to get up and their houses were searched. Dirty language was used for them. Innocent, small children were picked up from the bed and thrown out like luggage. Lights were switched off and they ran after ladies. Their men were beaten like animals and dragged in front of their women. Choicest of abuses of mother, sister and daughter were hurled at them. The husband of a paralysed woman, Ruqaiyya, was not spared and taken to jail. She could not move but there was no one to even give her water . For four or five days all men were in jails. In many homes no food was cooked while male members were in jails.

On 13 April, Hindu Dharam Rakchhak Parishad (HDRP) in a memo to SDM said that shops of Muslims that were burnt were insured on 29 March, i.e., nine or ten days before the riot. This proves, the organisation claimed, that this riot was preplanned by them and they had themselves burnt their shops firstly to defame Hindus and secondly to derive the benefit of insurance!

This was only partially true. About nine-ten days before the riot, seven shops (six of Muslims and one of a Hindu) were insured. Out of these only two were damaged and five were completely unharmed. Insuring shops only a week or ten days back was explained by Muslims that they were afraid of riots after 40 Muslim shops in Sujat were burnt and also because of frequent clashes and imminent danger of riots they had got their shops insured as a precautionary measure. 

In this riot, Muslims lost 11 shops, two houses, one motorcycle which were burnt and destroyed, while two mosques and two mazars were damaged. The total loss was estimated at about Rs 3.6 million and if looting of cash, jewellery, ornaments and other valuables is taken into account, Muslim loss will exceed Rs 10 million. Despite this, Muslims were given a total compensation of Rs 36,400 only. Here too political interference and communal bias was obvious.

Three important dailies of Bhilwara district, i.e., Rajasthan Patrika, Bhaskar and Navjyoti published highly exaggerated and one-sided stories of the incidents to project a bad image of Muslims. This added fuel to the fire in spreading ill-will and hatred against Muslims.

After riots, Rajasthan’s home minister Gulab Chand Kataria toured the riot-affected areas. Muslims wanted to meet him in Bhilwara’s circuit house where he was staying to tell their woes but he refused to meet them. He visited houses of Hindus where someone had died or injured and announced compensation also but did not have the courtesy of visiting Muslim houses which were destroyed, whose male members were jailed, women abused, molested and their money and goods looted by his men in uniform. Meghvanshi (author of this booklet) describes him as Narendra Modi of Rajasthan.

A few days after the Mandal riots, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) sent a fact-finding team to tour the affected areas and to prepare a report. Bhanwar Meghvanshi was a member of this team. He says that this book is based on the findings of this team and its objective is to familiarise the people with the truth about communal riots. 

Book: Faasiwad ki Aahatein (Echoes of Fascism- in Hindi) 
Author: Bhanwar Meghvanshi. Pages :32. Price: Rs 25 (India). Publishers: Diamond India, Vill. Sirdiyas, Via Mod ka Nimbaheda, Distt. Bhilwara, Rajasthan 311026.

For an earlier report on harassment faced by Bhanwar Meghvanshi, see MG 129 (1-5 June 2005) p. 13

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