(In the past couple of months, there have been several systematic instances of communal violence being stoked in various parts of India. Especially in the climate of war-mongering, even resisting communal propaganda is being branded ‘anti-national.’ Liberation takes a closer look at these recent instances of communal violence in Bihar, UP and Bengal.)
CPI(ML) Bihar MLA Attacked in All-Party Meeting For Opposing Communal Propaganda Against Minorities
It is an old trick of the BJP and RSS to spread communal frenzy through rumour-mongering under the cover of festivals. During Durga Puja and Moharram this year, communal tension was visible in several districts of Bihar, in which attacks were made on the minority community and their shops and property were either burnt or looted. Communal riots were consciously incited in many places including Piro and Gopalganj (Bhojpur district), Bihariganj (Madhepura), Kanhauli (Sitamarhi), Buniyadganj and Purnea (Gaya), Parsagaon (Supoul), Barun (Aurangabad), Warsaleeganj (Nawada), and Turkauliya Boring Chowk (Eastern Champaran). The attitude of the Bihar government – that won elections in the name of an alternative to the communal BJP – in these cases has been indifferent, at best. And in Saran and Piro, some elements having connections with the RJD were directly involved in incidents of incitement and loot.
The Tarari region of Bhojpur district has been the heart of the revolutionary peasants’ struggle. Some years ago the Ranveer Sena perpetrated the Bathani Tola carnage which was both casteist and communal in character, and in 2014 the communal forces tried to divide the CPI(ML) base by inciting dalit youth against Muslims. On 25 October 2014, during the immersion after Laxmi Puja in Sahar the BJP spread false rumours which resulted in communal tension for days. The CPI(ML) had then taken many initiatives against BJP’s poisonous campaign by organizing meetings in many villages.
This time Piro town in Bhojpur was the target of the rioters. Durga idols had been installed at 9 places in Piro bazaar. The route for the idol immersion went past Badi Masjid in the Muslim-populated Piro village and the Yadav-populated basti along the banks of the canal, up to the Gatariya bridge. As they had done in previous years, this year also the minority community cooperated in every way with the procession as the idols were being brought for immersion. The immersion took place peacefully. But on the evening of 12 October when the Moharram procession started, everything started going wrong. The procession started from Milki village and reached Yadav-dominated Dusadhi bazaar when bricks and stones began to be hurled from the roof of the Yamaha showroom, inflicting head injuries on about a dozen people. Bullets were also fired from the terrace of teacher Meena Devi injuring Nanhe Miyan in the thigh. A stampede-like situation ensued. Rumours were spread all around that the Muslims had shouted slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad”. Rioting crowds started collecting near Muslim mohallas. At Milki village the wife of Jalaluddin Ansari wept and called for help but the administration remained a mute spectator.
On 13 October a CPI(ML) team visited the fear-ridden Muslim mohallas and spoke to the injured. The team comprised of MLA Sudama Prasad, former MLA Chandradeep Singh, State committee member Sanjay Kumar, Ajit Kushwaha, Mahesh Singh, Qayamuddin Ansari, and Khairati Khan. The victims told the CPI(ML) team that the slogan “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long Live Pakistan) was not raised anywhere; this was purely a false rumour. Yes, the slogan “Islam Zindabad” (Long Live Islam) was being raised.
As the team members were meeting the victims, news came of a Tata 407 vehicle belonging to a Muslim and a tempo being set afire at Piro bus stand and Khairi Tiwaridih respectively. Rioters had blockaded the roads coming to Piro town from Nonadih and Charpokhri and were hunting down and beating up persons from the minority community. Apart from attacking vehicles belonging to the minority community, the rioters also attacked trains and bust the administration’s internet services.
On 14 October the administration held a hasty meeting in Piro thana. MLA Sudama Prasad represented the Party at the meeting, but the minority community boycotted the meeting saying that it would serve no purpose until the perpetrators and rioters are arrested. Even after efforts by the administration no one from the Muslim community (except RJD leader Adib Rizvi) participated in the meeting which was conducted in the presence of the IG, DIG, DM, and SP. The BJP, RJD and Congress representatives, strangely, seemed to be speaking in one voice at the meeting, proving the extent to which the BJP-RSS campaign of communal poison has spread. They both said that these incidents had occurred because the Muslims had raised slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad.”
CPI(ML) MLA Sudama Prasad said in the meeting that it was very shameful that the administration was taking no action against the rioters. Every year peace committees are formed during the Puja and yet attacks on Muslims do not cease. He said that the participants in the procession say that the slogan “Islam Zindabad” was raised not “Pakistan Zindabad”; what is wrong in that? The BJP people are deliberately spreading the false rumour that “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans were raised, to paint the minority community as pro-Pakistan and anti-India. As soon as Sudama Prasad said this, the meeting exploded. The leaders and workers of BJP, RJD, Congress and LJP all got up and started shouting that Sudama Prasad is unfit to be an MLA; he is a liar and is biased. Some of them even took up a chair to beat Sudama Prasad. The guard allotted to Comrade Sudama had to intervene to protect him from being beaten up. The members continued their misbehavior even in front of the top administrative officials present – none of whom took any action. It is a symptom of our intolerant times that an elected representative should be attacked in this manner inside a police station by representatives of ‘secular’ and ‘communal’ parties alike, for setting facts straight against communal propaganda.
Now the other Parties are busy spreading the canard that the CPI(ML) is ‘anti-Hindu’: opposition to communal propaganda and defence of minorities in a situation of communal violence is being equated with being ‘anti-Hindu.’
CPI(ML) has decided to hold a massive Jan Ekta (People’s Unity) Rally in Piro on 26 October, the death anniversary of Comrade Ram Naresh Ram who was a beacon for social change.
Conspiracy To Repeat Muzaffarnagar In Bijnore
The town of Bijnore in Western Uttar Pradesh is known for its rich and diverse composite culture. Adjacent to this town is Penda village which has a Muslim population of 653. On 13 September 2016 two Muslim girls Yasmeen and Fardeen studying in Class 9 were molested by a Jat boy Nitin on their way to school. The girls informed their families who complained to Nitin’s father Sansar Singh. An argument ensued but people intervened and calm prevailed.
But 20 minutes later, a boy from the victim girls’ family who was passing by Sansar Singh’s shop was slapped by Sansar Singh. The homes of Sansar Singh and Tikam Singh, both Jats, are in front of the Muslim basti. Sansar Singh telephoned to call people from Jat-dominated neighbouring villages Nayagaon and Kachhpura and within a short time armed people started gathering at Sansar Singh’s home. Fearing violence, the Muslim villagers phoned the Bijnore police kotwali. After 20 minutes the local daroga Anurag and some constables came to the spot but they also joined the mob gathered at Sansar Singh’s house. One armed group had come in the forest officials’ uniform. When the pradhan of Kachhpura, Dilawar Singh, arrived, they all climbed on the terrace of Sansar Singh and Tikam Singh’s houses and started firing upon the Muslim houses. This started a stampede in the Muslim basti. People were severely injured. Then the attackers entered the basti, burnt a barber’s shop and attempted to loot Iftekhar’s general shop. The rioters entered homes and beat up even women and girls.
The villagers kept telephoning the police but the police did not turn up for hours, and even those of them who did come, stood with the attackers. After a long time when news of the incident spread to the town the DM and SP came to the spot with a force. But by then 3 people had been killed and dozens injured by bullets. The attackers had done their work and comfortably left.
The families of the victims and the villagers placed the dead bodies upon the road. They were demanding the arrest of the attackers. Some people said that a local BJP leader was also among the attackers.
The enquiry team spoke to the people in Bijnore, met the injured at the District hospital and spoke to the Penda residents and family members of the victims. They could not visit Pend village because of restrictions by the administration. The team comprised of Comrade Afroz Alam, Rohitash Rajput, Harkishan Singh, Talib Choudhury, Sonu Saini, Rajo Devi, Dinesh Sharma, and Atiqurrahman.
The enquiry team arrived at the conclusion that the attack on the Muslim basti in Penda village half an hour after the incident of molestation was a well-planned conspiracy. The fact that so many armed people from neighbouring villages gathered there in such a short time, that the local daroga and police constables sided with the attackers, shows that the attackers wanted to stage a repeat of the Muzaffarnagar incident in Bijnore. At present the people of Bijnore have prevented their bid.
The victims’ families have registered a report against 29 persons. 9 people have been arrested. The daroga and constable have been suspended but instead of arresting them the police are seeking to protect them. All the 3 who have been killed are from the working class poor Muslim community—Aneesuddin was a worker who did whitewashing and painting; Ahsan, his brother, was a barber; Sarfaraz was 15 years old and Aneesuddin’s nephew.
The CPI(ML) team demanded that all the criminals in the molestation incident and murders in Penda should be arrested without delay; proper arrangements for the safety and treatment of the injured victims should be made; the police personnel who sided with the attackers should be immediately arrested, not merely suspended; the identity of the BJP leader who was with the attackers should be verified; and the attempts by the BJP to use this incident to communally polarize Bijnore and Western Uttar Pradesh should be effectively curbed.
The way in which Local BJP organizer Bharatendu Singh, the neighbouring Muzaffarnagar MP and riots-accused Sanjeev Baliyan, and the entire Sangh-BJP and Jat Mahasabha are openly opposing the arrest of the attackers and the BJP Ministers and MPs have refused to meet the victims indicate that the violence is part and parcel of BJP’s election plan for UP.
As in Muzaffarnagar, the communalization of farmers’ politics is on display in Bijnore. In Muzaffarnagar the Bharatiya Kisan Union had taken on a communal role; in Bijnore self-styled kisan leader and former President of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Party BM Singh has taken on this communal role. He has threatened violence if the riot-accused leader from his organization Omvesh is arrested, and demanded that investigations disregard the FIR and ‘start from scratch.’ If those named in the FIR are arrested, he said, his organization would organize a Jai-Jawan Jai-Kisan Bharat Mata Jai Kisan Sammelan and oppose the arrests.
Growing Communalisation in Bengal
Communal violence took place in several districts of Bengal around the Moharram taziya processions and Durga idol immersion processions, including Hazinagar (Naihati) in North 24 Paraganas, Chanchal in Malda, Chandannagar in Hooghly and Kharagpur in Paschim Medinipur, also smaller incidents in Birbhum, Howrah, Asansol and Burdwan.
The Hindutva outfits like Hindu Samhati, as well as several TMC leaders – often in collusion with the police and administration under the TMC regime – have instigated these acts of violence, resulting in ransacking of homes and shops.
A recent Calcutta High Court order striking down the Government’s restrictions on timing of Durga idol immersion processions to prevent clashes with tazia processions is highly unfortunate. The vocabulary adopted by the order had a distinct communal bias, suggesting that Muslims should avoid the tazia procession and observe Muharram mourning at home, and deeming any attempts to regulate Durga idol immersion processions as ‘minority appeasement.’ This order was circulated widely by the Hindutva organizations in the run-up to Moharram, and was used to instigate violence and embolden communal forces.
Mamata Banerjee’s TMC Government is in a state of denial. The Chief Secretary denied that the incidents constituted communal violence, claiming that these were merely instances of ‘personal rivalry.’ The Chief Minister confined herself to a belated statement condemning ‘terrorism and communal terrorism,’ without specifying which organizations were responsible.
A report by Suvojit Bagchi in The Hindu noted, “The violence was triggered when people in a procession heading for the immersion of Durga idols allegedly hurled stones at the local Manik Peer’s mazar (shrine). That night, a Moharram procession was scheduled. Before it took off, a bomb was hurled near the residence of Md. Jiaul Haque, a Trinamool Congress leader and municipality chairman.” Later, “bombs were hurled at the (Moharram) procession and some youngsters from the Muslim community “went out of control,” damaging a temple railing and some properties belonging to Hindus. Within hours, in the three-kilometre stretch between Garur Phari (north of Naihati station) and Marwarical — which lies further north — houses were ransacked, residents beaten up, and bombs hurled randomly, forcing thousands to flee.”
Bagchi’s report notes several instances of Hindus stepping up to protect their Muslim neighbours – showing that while attempts at communal polarization are gaining some ground in Bengal, the state’s long-standing tradition of communal harmony has not given way yet entirely.
This time, Hindutva outfits insisted on violating a decades-old agreement and taking out the Durga immersion processions along Nelson Road near the Muslim shrine. Bagchi’s report says, “Videos accessed by The Hindu show a group of men with saffron headbands and flags of various Hindu outfits hurling stones even as the police watch on as mute spectators. Many who led the mob allegedly belong to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) while some are associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Local TMC leader Pradeep Pashi, according to every account, led the mob.” Pashi who according to The Hindu “now officially works for the ruling party and maintains ties with Hindu outfits,” was arrested but managed bail, due to his closeness to the ruling TMC. The report in The Hindu notes that “the list of rioters features as many names of TMC activists as those from the BJP and the VHP.”
CPI(ML) held a march against communalism on 21 October from Gouripur post office to Natunbazar in Naihati. On 22 October, an AIPF team including Dr Binayak Sen and Bolan Ganguly visited Hajinagar and spoke to victims of the violence.