The Truth About the Mau Riots

The Events:

October 7:

This year, bamboo poles for the Durga Puja Pandal at Sadar Chowk extended into the Faiz-e-Aam Building (a madarsa). This violated an agreement of 1947. Some tensions and stone-pelting resulted, but the Administration and both sides sorted out the issue by deciding, through a written agreement, to cut off the extra length of the poles that was intruding into the complex. This agreement was signed by several people, including former BJP MP candidate Bharat Lal Rahi and RSS activist Shyamkaran Rai.

A Fact Finding team under the leadership of Comrade
Yashwant Singh, member, State Standing Committee,
CPI(ML) UP, visited Mau on 25, 26 and 27 October in the wake of the riots. Other
members of the team included Sunil Yadav, General Secretary,
AISA, Pranay Krishna, Editor, ‘Samkaleen Janmat’, Om Prakash Singh, General Secretary, RYA, K.K. Pandey, Managing Editor ‘Samkaleen Janmat’, Raj
Narayan Mishra, (Peoples’ Union for Human Rights) and
some members of the local unit of PUHR. This team met more than a 1000 common people from both the communities as well as intellectuals,
journalists, social activists and administrative officers including D.M. and S.P. of Mau district. We carry some excerpts from their report, which has been published as a booklet in Hindi.

October 13:

This was the day for the ‘Bharat Milap’ – and its dais was set up in the maidan opposite the Shahi Katra Masjid. After the renovation of the Masjid a few years back, a dispute had ensued over the allegation that the Masjid door had been extended by a foot. The matter reached the Court but both parties reached a settlement that the gate would remain, but when the Bharat Milap Rath (chariot) would turn, it would go back and touch the gate three times. This piece of obscurantism has become a part of local life in Mau, along with the another one, whereby (following a dispute over the Sanskrit Pathshala steps overstepping their designated space), the Taziya procession would climb three steps of the Pathshala. Despite the tensions during such practices, the fact remains that these obscurantist practices have never yet resulted in communal clashes, and this time too, the communal violence was not sparked off by these practices, though they were sensationalized by the media. A scene of devastation in Mau

This time, the dispute began when the Bharat Milap loudspeakers began playing loudly during the half-hour Taravi at 7.30 pm, whereas the usual time for Bharat Milap is 2.30 in the night. Apparently this was in violation of an old agreement: but this is denied by Ramlila Committee representative and RSS activist Madan Singh. In any case, the refusal to turn off the mikes of the all-night Bharat Milap programme for a half hour during Taravi seems as though an excuse for a quarrel was being sought.

Some Muslim youths had a heated argument with BJP leader Nandlal Sahni who was in charge of the mikes (Sahni is the same person, who a month and a half back had tried to provoke riots over the common nazul land, used by Muslims for marriages, near a brahmasthan in the Rajarampur locality). Some say that the Muslim boys tore away the wiring of the mikes. Under pressure from BJP leaders, police thrashed the boys and arrested them, but later released them under pressure from the public, after they submitted and apology. Note that police force was very small on this occasion.

The crowd dispersed, and after long talks between the BJP-RSS leaders and Ramlila Committee members and police officials, the decision was taken to postpone the Bharat Milap celebrations to 29 October.

On the face of it, this postponement was to allow tensions to diffuse – but subsequent events show that the motive may not have been so innocent after all.

October 14: How The Riots Began

At 7.30 am, Ajit Singh Chandel (leader of the Hindu Yuva Vahini and Hindu Mahasabha), Punit Singh Chandel, Sujit Kumar Singh and others led a mob to jam the crossroads at the Sanskrit Pathshala (near the Shahi Katra Masjid) and Mata Pokhra. They demanded the rearrest of the Muslim youths who had been released the previous evening. They were soon joined by BJP leaders. The Police and PAC force present was very thin. The Chandel brothers’ house as well as the Police Chowki are at this narrow crossroads. A crowd from nearby Muslim localities also gathered.

An armed mob of the Hindu Yuva Vahini advanced towards the Kasai Tola (a Muslim locality) shouting provocative slogans, and a crowd from the Kasai Tola came forward, following by clashes and stone-pelting. At around 9 am, the Hindu Yuva Vahini mob reached the Sanskrit Pathshala Police Booth, and clashes between youths of both communities continued. At this point, police began firing in the air to disperse the crowds. At exactly the same time, Ajit Singh Chandel entered his house and fired several rounds from there, due to which 5 Muslim youths were injured and a stampede followed. The injured included Rizwan (18), Anjar (18, Sonu (17) Danish (20). Our team met Sonu and Anjar at their homes. Anjar said they was taken to the Police station at Firoze Sabhasad, from where, much later, MLA Mukhtar Ansari took all the injured to the hospital. At 10.30, curfew was announced in the city, despite which the violence, arson and loot continued unchecked for 48 hours.

Our team asked the Ramlila Committee President, RSS activist Alakshendra Vikram Singh (alias Madan Singh) about the above incidents. He claimed that on 14 October, some boys came to his door, protesting against him for the postponement of the Bharat Milap function. Stones were pelted at them from the Kasai Tola, after which both sides were aggravated. Asked by us as to who was responsible for the firing at the crossroads, he said, “there was firing, but I don’t know who did it.”

Role of the Media

It is clear from the above events that the riots in Mau were sparked off by the firing by Ajit Singh Chandel, representative of Yogi Adityanath and Hindu Mahasabha’s District President. But the next day’s papers carried no mention of this incident, nor of Ajit Singh Chandel’s role in the riots. On the same pattern, the national magazines like India Today and Outlook, in their coverage of the Mau riots, did not mention Ajit Chandel’s central role in sparking off the riots. The India Today, (November 2, 2005), showed considerable imaginativeness in saying that during the Bharat Milap, the Hindus, in a Pushpak Viman, climb three steps of the Jama Masjid (a ridiculous distortion of the practices mentioned above), whereas the Shahi Katra Masjid has not steps! The reporter also imagines a fourth step – on which thousands of Muslims armed with sharp weapons stand menacingly, waiting for the least excuse to attack! The Outlook (31 October 2005) claims that the riots began with a grenade being thrown at Salahabad Mod. The electronic media too was not unbiased in its coverage. On 3-4 November, Mukhtar Ansari circulated the CD of the footage in which he is seen moving in the riot-affected areas in an open jeep. Some channels had used this footage without the soundtrack. In his defence, Mukhtar released the CD which he claimed was unedited and complete with soundtrack. Whether the CD exonerates Mukhtar of a role in the riots or not, the biased and mischievous role of the media does emerge.

Some of the Major Events of the Riots

Following the firing by Chandel, the entire Mau township, as well adjoining areas were consumed by violence, arson and looting. The following account is not exhaustive, but only outlines the general trend.

October 14 -

• Several shops in Sadar Chaowk, Rauja, Kaudi Building and Sindhi Colony were victims of arson and looting. Most of the shops in these areas belonged to people identified with the RSS and BJP. In a nearby locality, Mir Zaheedpur, where the landlords are Muslim and the shops are tenanted by Hindus, or in Aurangabad Chowk and parts of Sindhi Colony where most shops belong to Hindus, shops remained safe. In the outer areas of the town, several shops, schools, and other institutions belonging mostly to Muslims were victims of arson and looting.

The Incident of Salahabad Mod: Here, the saree factory belonging to Haji Vakil and Mukhtar Ahmad Shimla – 10,000 sarees were looted and both the saree plants were burnt. At the Salahabad Mod, around 30-35 small streetside shops belonging to Hindus were burnt; 5 houses were also burnt and looted. Obviously, the mobs that perpetrated these incidents must have consisted of hundreds. At this time, Rampratap Yadav was shot dead at Salahabad Mod Railway Crossing. Haji Vakil Shimla and Mukhtar Ansari (MLA) were booked for this murder. (Later, Rampratap’s brother met the CM and declared that Mukhtar Ansari had no role in the murder). Rajaram Yadav and Ramkaran Yadav (whose homes were burnt) told us that Mukhtar reached Salahabad Mod for the first time around 10 am. In the midst of the fracas and shouting, Mukhtar could be seen saying something to both sides, but they could not hear what he was saying. According to them, Mukhtar came once again at noon along with a police force, and took an old woman who had been pushed into fire by the rioters away for treatment.

• In the evening of October 14, following some rumours, a mob indulged in arson and looting at the railway station. One Lallan Tiwari was stabbed and later died on the 16 th. One youth Imtiaz was shot in police firing, and died the next day. A worker named Lavkush told a member of our team that while he was working in a building in Pathan Tola, he was stabbed, and was taken to hospital by Mukhtar Ansari.

October 15

• Gopal Dube was shot dead in the Brahmin Tola in front of the Darul uloom madarsa. When our team reached his house, no one was at home. A neighbouring youth told us that a mob armed with four rifles, a Mauser and an air gun had attacked, entered the madarsa and continued firing – killing Gopal, and injuring Rakesh Jaiswal, Rajkumari Devi and Surendra Verma. Vishal Gupta and Ramesh Rawat were seriously injured and rushed to BHU for treatment.

• Mobs launched an organised attack on the weaver colonies near the Hatti Madari Bandh, as well as on relatively well-off houses. Notable about these attacks was the fact that the PAC was seen aiding the mobs. Local people told us that the mobs had come prepared with gallons of kerosene. One Abuzar was killed in firing, but his poor weaver family, intimidated by fear and the curfew, did not file a report and just buried their son. People in the weavers’ colony told us that the leaders of the rioting mob included an armed Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha leader Amarnath Yadav. Scrap dealer Nasrulla (whose home was gutted) told us that if the PAC had not backed the mobs, they would not have dared to do arson. Khula Ahrari, a teacher of Sonidhapa Girls College and her brother, whose home suffered damage to the tune of lakhs in the looting and arson, said that the 7-8 PAC men had instigated a mob of 250-300 from Bhinti to loot their home, forcing the family to flee for their lives. The khadi silk shop belonging to Shahid Mukhtar of Hatti Madari, himself a local office bearer of BJP’s trader organisation, was burnt down. He said that the mob consisted of Dalits and Yadavs, led by Rajputs. Mansingh Chauhan of the same locality said that his home, despite being the only Hindu home in a Muslim colony, remained safe.

• The worst attack of the day was on the weaver colonies of Alinagar (near Rahjania) on the boundaries of the town, by huge mobs mobilised from nearby villages. The mob, led by the RSS, shouted slogans of ‘Har har Mahadev’ and burnt 127 houses belonging to weavers. As in Gujarat, Muslim homes in these colonies were identified and targeted for attack. Heavy looms and handpumps were uprooted and carried away in tractors by the mobs. The windows and doorframes of houses were ripped out, sarees and other weaving materials kept in the houses were also looted. Those powerlooms which could not be taken away were set on fire. Abdul Qasim, a resident of Rahjania said that things have changed here since the Gujarat genocide. At the slightest sign of any dispute between Hindus and Muslims, the RSS starts threatening to turn Mau into Gujarat. The home of Taimualnissa, widow whose two daughters were to be married after Id, was attacked and clothes and ornaments looted. The police caught 22 people (including children and old people) who were fleeing to escape the riots. Those who could not flee fell victims to the mobs. Anwari, wife of Amir Hamza and 70 year-old Rashid Ahmad were burnt alive. A social worker Owais Tarafdar told us that the DM and senior police officials came to the colony after 3 days had passed.

October 16

• In the morning, the dead body of Ramkisun Ram (35), a resident of Kasim Pokhri Muhalla was found under the Munshipura Overbridge.

• Birla Rao (35) was found dead, shot in the head at Salempur Chakia near the Azamgarh Road. The Convent School belonging to Nagarpalika President Arshad Jamal was also attacked.

• In the weavers’ colony near the Court, the PAC picked up 9 people in the day. Later at around 1 in the night, the PAC returned, called people by name to make them open their doors, and mercilessly beat up people including women, children and the elderly. Houses were looted in the name of searching for weapons, and 23-24 people were arrested.

The Role of the Administration

The Administration was absolutely unable to put a stop to the violence that engulfed Mau between 14 and 16 October. The Administration’s excuse is that it had insufficient forces due to the panchayat elections. The fact, however, is that there were no elections in Mau during that period.

On 14 October itself, DIG Prabhat Kumar had taken over the operations, and issued shoot at sight orders. On 15 October itself, a flag march was held in the presence of the DGP and Chief Home Secretary, yet people bear witness to the fact that rioting mobs ran amok brazenly in the presence of these officials, because the police force was not deployed against them. So, clearly, it is not just the local Administration that is to be blamed. On 16 October, local police officials including the DM and SP were suspended.

The Mau riots put the UP State Government in the dock beyond doubt. What were the compulsions due to which the mobs ran amok in the very presence of police forces? On 16 October, the DM Hiramani Yadav declared that he was not empowered to order the search for weapons; only the ADG could do so: if this is true, it shows that the inaction of local officials was dictated from above.

Local PUHR activist Basant Kumar said that when a mob began looting Noorkamal Garments behind his locality, he phoned the office of the SP, but the policemen who answered the phone abused him and banged it down.

We found many families who are homeless and lost everything in the riots – yet, despite promises, there has been no proper provision of relief. In the Alinagar madarsa, people are dependent on collections by relief committees to scrape together two meals a day.

Rather than a CBI enquiry or at least a timebound high-level judicial enquiry, the State Government has ordered a probe by Neera Yadav (Chairperson, Revenue Council), who was removed from her post as Chief Secretary following allegations of corruption by the High Court. This move reeks of a cover up.

Local Politics and the Mau Riots

Our team was told that while the riots were started by the Hindu Yuva Vahini, local leaders of SP and BSP participated in the riots at several places. Apart from Amarnath Yadav, BSP leader Manoj Rai, (Block Pramukh of Kopaganj), BSP leader Vijay Pratap Singh and SP leader Arshad Jamal were also named as having led the rioting.

The Politics of Riots: Product of SP-BJP’s Needs

For its political revival in UP, the BJP has been trying to fan up communal frenzy in various parts of the State for a while now. Communal polarisation – to a limited extent - and BJP’s limited growth are viewed by Mulayam as necessary to hold on to power now as well as to return to power in the next elections. Thus, Mulayam is playing a helpful role in BJP’s revival in this phase.

Silence of Various Parties on HYV’s Key Role in Riots

Ajit Singh Chandel is yet to be arrested for his role in the firing that sparked off the riots, while Mukhtar Ansari and BJP MLC Ramji Singh have been arrested. Mulayam’s softness towards the HYV is obvious; but it must be noted that Congress, BSP as well SP have stopped short of naming Chandel and the HYV as the main culprit in the riots or from demanding his resignation. This points to a dangerous shift in UP politics: now, not only Congress, but even SP and BSP are competing to attract the upper caste feudal forces towards themselves.

The Politics of the Mukhtar-Centred Discourse on the Riots

SP, BJP, Congress, BSP – all have focussed on Mukhtar Ansari in their position on the riots. BJP has also launched a campaign establishing Mukhtar as a symbol of Muslim aggression. It is also clear that Mulayam has helped this campaign to gain ground. Without Mulayam’s wishes and permission from above, it would have been impossible for Mukhtar to move around in an open jeep with the police in violation of curfew orders, impossible for him to give interviews from his home despite orders for his arrest.

Actually, through Mukhtar, Mulayam is trying to kill two birds with one stone. One the one hand, by delaying Mukhtar’s arrest by several days despite the FIR against him, Mulayam has made him controversial and given BJP the opportunity and the issue for communal polaraisation. On the other, Mulayam is also eyeing the possibilities of using Mukhtar to mobilise Muslim votes in the forthcoming polls. This strategy explains why Mulayam allows a case of murder of rampratap Yadav to be booked against Mukhtar; and then meets Yadav’s brother who gives a statement that Mukhtar is innocent.

BJP MLC Ramji Singh too has been given plenty of opportunity to project himself as a martyr, give statements and move around various districts of eastern UP in the name of security.

Mulayam’s and BJP’s political interests coincide in their common need to portray Mafia Mukhtar as the representative of Muslims; whereas the fact is that the HYV and the RSS can never represent Hindus, and Mukhtar can never be the representative of Muslims either. While the RSS is fed by feudal-upper caste forces, Mukhtar’s mafia network too stands in support of these same forces.