(In March-April, incidents of communal violence or attempts to foment such violence have taken place at several places – in Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, W Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Here are brief reports on these incidents. Ed/-)
Communal Violence in Vadavali, Gujarat
With Assembly elections due in Gujarat, the BJP has begun the stirring the communal pot in the state with a view to cooking up anti-Muslim votes. A minor quarrel between two school kids was the pretext for communal violence at Vadavali village in Patan district of Gujarat on 25 March. Several homes of Muslims were burnt down and many Muslims injured, but the police has filed cases not only against some of the assailants but also against the Muslim victims. Members of BJP and Shiv Sena mobilized a communal mob from outside the village, to attack the Muslims of the village. After the incident many Dalits and Koli Patels of Vadavali village arranged food for Muslim families who were returning to the village after having fled it, and helping the injured in the hospital.
Communal Violence at Bhadrak, Odisha
A week before a BJP National Executive meet was to be held in Bhubaneshwar, communal violence was fomented in Bhadrak town of Odisha. The pretext was an alleged offensive comment on Ram and Sita on Facebook. The lax and careless approach of the Government, police and administration allowed the arson and rioting to spread outside Bhadrak also. The BJP is hoping to make inroads in Odisha by orchestrating such violence against the state’s minorities.
BJP Leaders Organise Attacks On Police in UP
In Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, local Dalit and Muslim groups took out a procession for Amebdkar Jayanti on April 14. The BJP, seeking to communalise the Dalits, organized an Ambedkar Shobha Yatra on April 20. Led by the BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal the Shobha Yatra marched through Muslim areas. Claiming that Muslims pelted stones at the Yatra the BJP members indulged in communal violence. The MP even led the mob to attack and vandalise the house of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Luv Kumar. An FIR has been filed against the MP – but it is clear that with Adityanath as CM, BJP and RSS men are feeling that they can get away with any crimes and even lord it over the police.
On April 22, VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Yogi’s own Hindu Yuva Vahini attacked the Fatehpur Sikri police station in Agra, pelted stones at police personnel and slapped the Deputy Superintendent of Police who had filed an FIR against their men for assaulting and robbing a Muslim vegetable vendor.
Communal Clash Averted By Bhagat Singh Youth Brigade In Sahar
Buoyed by the electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh the BJP started putting up RSS flags in the entire bazaar as well as all Hindu-majority neighbourhoods in Sahar (Bhojpur, Bihar) from 24 March 2017 onwards. They wanted to foment communal tensions during the Centre-sponsored ‘Ram Janmotsav’ procession on the occasion of Ram Navami. They had also made plans to take out floats in neighbouring villages and then assemble all together in Sahar bazaar. RSS functionaries led this campaign under the guise of the ‘Shobha Yatra Committee.’ The RSS and BJP here, representing feudal interests, wish to divide and defeat the movements of the poor.
The Bhagat Singh Youth Brigade distributed leaflets warning against the communal conspiracy to divide struggles on issues of land and wages; and held a peace march and meeting on 1 April in Sahar bazaar appealing to the people to maintain peace and harmony. This campaign was held in neighbouring villages also.
The communal forces ran false propaganda that CPI(ML) was opposing the Shobha Yatra and “siding with the Muslims.” The Party countered this propaganda by holding meetings in Sahar and neighbouring villages. Due to these efforts the administration was forced to change the route of the procession so that it took the main NH route from the thana rather than through the Muslim areas. Frustrated, the communal forces removed their own flags from the bazaar and spread rumours that it was the Block pramukh (who is from the CPI (ML)) who had put a stay on the procession.
The local units of the CPI (ML) decided that people must be mobilized to avert any communal violence by these goons in collusion with the police. Special ‘Naujawan Youth Brigades’ of the RYA were deployed to stand alert at various points in the bazaar all along the procession route.
The Shobha Yatra passed through the fixed route. On the main road it joined a float (from Peur in Vanshidihri) and the proceeded to the Block HQ from where it was about to enter Avgeela, a Muslim majority area but was stopped by the police. Here, local feudal forces put pressure on some Muslim women in a tempo to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, clashed with our activists and registered some false cases against some people from the minority community.
The riot-inciters forced shops (including medical shops) in the bazaar to close from 6 AM t 7 PM on 4 April to “protest” against the route change. On 5 April they also indulged in destruction and vandalism in some shops near the bus-stand.
In local Sahar, only about 250 people, more than half of them children, joined the procession. Clearly, the hate-mongers had not succeeded in their objective.
On 25 October 2014 about 35 shops belonging to minorities had been looted and burnt in Sahar after a dispute regarding Laxmi Puja idol immersion. After that experience, local CPI (ML) units felt that their activists should be prepared and alert to avert any communal trouble and hate-mongering during festivals.
The Bhagat Singh Youth Brigade was started then. In 2016 the festivals of Dussehra and Moharram occurred on the same day. ‘Bajrang Sewa Dal’ of the RSS put up its festoons one week in advance. Sensing the RSS-BJP aim to spread social discord, Bhagat Singh Youth Brigade activists put up festoons appealing to the residents of Sahar and Avgeela (both areas where there are good numbers of minorities) to maintain peace. Meetings were held in several villages to alert youth to avert any attempts at communalizing the idol immersion and Tazia processions.
On the day of the Dussehra idol immersion the administration had fixed the timings for the Tazia procession in the morning and evening while the time for the idol immersion was fixed between 12 PM and 4 PM; separate routes were also fixed for both processions. The Party Block Committee along with local youths wearing ‘Youth Brigade’ badges and carrying lathis were present at various spots during the morning Tazia procession. Party leaders remained at the front and back of the procession. The same procedure was employed during the Durga idol immersion as well as the evening Tazia procession. As soon as the Tazia reached Sahar bazaar feudal-minded youth from neighbouring villages tried to create tension. The administration remained a silent spectator but the Youth Brigade activists remained on guard and the riot-inciters had to retreat. Their attempts were frustrated and peace was maintained.
Protest Against Attack on Mosque in Jharkhand
This year on 5 April on the occasion of Ram Navami the BJP-RSS conspired seriously to foment communal polarization and attack minorities in various districts of Jharkhand. In Kolgama village, Koderma district, communal criminal elements entered a mosque during the daytime namaz and attacked the namazis and the Imam injuring five people, two of whom (the Imam and a youth) were seriously injured and admitted to RIMS Ranchi. It is to be noted that 2 days earlier, some Hindutva goons associated with the RSS had put pressure on the Muslim community not to use the mike while reading the namaz; the attack on the mosque was carried out when the people refused to bow to the threat of the goons. As soon as news of the incident reached CPI (ML) local activists they reached the spot, met the victims and arranged hospital treatment. A CPI (ML) team enquired into the incident and on the basis of their enquiry filed an FIR against the accused, naming them in the FIR. A memo was submitted to the DC/SP demanding arrest without delay of the culprits but so far no arrest has been made.
Members of the BJP-RSS attempted to take out processions without permission on Ram Navami day through disputed routes in Bokaro, Dhanbad, Badkagaon, Hazaribagh and other districts in order to foment communal hatred and polarization. Former Union Minister from BJP Yashwant Sinha led an attempt in Badkagaon to divide farmers along communal lines. In Ranchi RSS goons took out an aggressive procession on 11 April, raised objectionable and provocative slogans near the Ekra mosque, and tried to inflame communal riots by attacking Muslim shop-owners on the Main Road Bazaar; however, they were not successful.