Riots in Gorakhpur: A preliminary report
30 January 2007
This is a summary based on talking with the relatives, friends and local people in those areas as well from the media and
their eye witness accounts.
Gorakhpur MP, Mahant Yogi Adityanath was arrested when he tried to break the prohibitory orders imposed under curfew in Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh). In response his local group Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) started indulging in violence to protest the arrest. Some government buses were burnt as well as a passenger train was attempted to be put on fire. The violence which started in the city has spread to the Gorakhnath area (where the Gorakhnath temple is located which is the residence of Yogi Adityanath as well as of which he is the heir).
The mob of HYV is coming out of the temple and going straight to predetermined targets in looting and/or burning them. Later they are returning back inside the safe haven of the temple. The Gorakhnath police station is exactly in front of the temple gate. Gorakhpur derives its name from this temple and has an important significance in the eastern UP area. In spite of the police station being right in front of the temple the mob has amazingly burnt and looted shops and houses right in front of the police station.
One showroom of footwear belonging to a Muslim is adjacent to the gate of the police station. On 29th morning it was broken in and looted to the last pair of shoes. Another shop of ready made garments near the same compound was also looted up to the last piece. A few kabaad (junk) shops belonging to the Muslims, which are not more than 200 metres away from the police station - and are on the street at the dead end of which is the police station - were completely burnt. The smoke from this was so much that the whole area went dark in the noontime. The area Muslims came out on the streets to thwart the mob from coming further forward and there were lot of slogans from both sides. The smoke was felt a few kilometers away and the concerned people in those areas started making frantic calls about what was happening. A nearby Madarsa was damaged a little bit. A marriage house belonging to a Muslim was also damaged.
Some more Muslim shops were looted on the Gorakhnath Road and stones were pelted on others. An eye witness said that he was in his closed shop on the upper floor and could see a few policemen along with the mob. The policemen appeared to be at least mere by-standers if not actually participating. But soon the Rapid Action force came and dispersed the mob. This eye witness was taken to his home in safety.
On another road going adjacent to the Gorakhnath police station, Humayunpur Road, another mob continued to damage and loot some shops. They started to turn towards the houses bordering the Muslim area when the Muslims in that area came running at that point from inside the locality and started throwing stones at the mob. They were able to successfully repel them from further continuing forward. They used some presence of mind and burnt a gumti (small shop) and placed it in the middle of the road so that the large HYV mob could see it from far and may not feel necessary to come further forward. This worked and the mob did not return. In response the Muslim boys damaged a few shops in that area belonging to Hindus.
Curfew was relaxed for some time in the day in the main city area so that Muharram processions could be continued. During this a Muslim youth was killed and the curfew was clamped again. By night the city administration was changed. The DM and the SSP were suspended and new appointees were sent by a special plane.
On 30th noon, the curfew was relaxed in the Gorakhnath area but immediately a Muslim house which can be seen straight from the Gorakhnath police station gate has been burnt (just a stone's throw away). Further Muharram processions have been cancelled. The curfew has been put back immediately. There is no report yet of any administration change at the Gorakhnath police station in the close vicinity of which most violence is happening. There are some more small acts of violence that have been reported in the city upto now but nothing major.
In the meanwhile the violence has moved to the adjoining areas of Gorakhpur. The HYV activists have torched down at least one mosque as of yesterday and various shops belonging to the Muslims. The main Mahant of the temple Mahant Avaidyanath (Former MP) has said that this will continue until Yogi is released without any pre-conditions. The violence has spread to Maharajganj, Deoria, Basti, Kushinagar, etc.
The BJP is blaming the SP of conspiring to create the violence to polarize the Muslim vote. The BJP UP Chief were arrested while travelling to Gorakhpur today. There is no voice yet from the Congress top brass condemning the ongoing violence. The only one was by UP Congress committee spokesman, Dwijendra Tripathi who said that the communal tension in Gorakhpur could have been nipped in the bud, but for the dubious intentions of the Samajwadi Party, which was bent on engineering communal riots to polarise Muslim votes. Congress is yet to condemn the violence and the people who are actively doing it right now. The political parties are busy in already trying to take mileage out of the situation instead of ensuring that the situation is first brought under complete control and the real culprits are strictly dealt for the continuing violence.
The operational mode of the mob evokes memories of Gujarat riots though in this case due to the administration not completely with the mob they are not succeeding that much. Also the local population seems not to be so much involved as are the HYV activists who come from various adjoining places of Gorakhpur. In some instances there are reports that even the local youth were seen in the mob. One other reality is that the temple is surrounded by Muslim dominated areas. Due to that the mob is unable to penetrate and do much damage other than looting, burning and destroying shops on the main road (in the vicinity of the police station!)
It all started with a very trivial incident. In a Hindu marriage party the Orchestra was performing. Some inebriated youths started teasing the dancer and tried to misbehave. It caused a scuffle between two parties. When one of the parties felt weak they ran out of the marriage hall and were followed by the other party. A Muharram procession was going by and they mixed in the crowd. The other party shot at them and a few people in the procession got hurt. The other people in the procession got agitated and they were able to catch one of the persons who were firing from home made guns. This person, Raj Kumar Agrahari, was handed over to the Tiwaripur police that was accompanying the procession. The participants in the procession demanded the police to catch the rest otherwise they will not move from there. The police, not taking due care, left the caught person in the jeep and started looking for others. Some youth in the procession who were agitated got the chance and pulled out Agrahari from the jeep and started beating him. He was seriously injured and was admitted to the hospital. The next morning he died.
Later in the night some angry Muslim youths damaged a few personal vehicles in the Ismailpur area. The next morning Yogi Adityanath, BJP MLA Dr. RMD Agrawal along with some others sat on a Dharna in Khoonipur to protest the killing. Later their supporters broke open the lock of a mosque and burnt a prayer mat and tried to pick up a religious book. The police in time evacuated them. Curfew was imposed in some areas subsequently and the body of the killed youth was taken to Rajghat by the police where the cremation was done.
Received from Mirza Faisal Beg through firstname.lastname@example.org on 30 January 2007