New Delhi: Bulandshahr, set amidst one of the biggest but dying sugarcane-belts of India, is in the spotlight over clashes between the police and Hindu right-wing activists.
What started as a small skirmish over an alleged incident of cow slaughter soon escalated into a riot-like situation on the morning of December 3.
An inspector-rank officer, Subodh Kumar Singh, and a 21-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party activist, Sumit, were killed. Singh, incidentally, was the investigating officer in the Mohammad Akhlaq lynching case.
Singh’s sister has said that his killing was a conspiracy on the police’s part. “My brother was investigating the Akhlaq case and that is why he was killed. It’s a conspiracy by the police. He should be declared a martyr and a memorial should be built. We do not want money,” she said.
She also said that UP chief minister Adityanath only talks about “cow, cow, cow”, while the law and order situation deteriorates,
In the aftermath of 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, many landless Muslims were forced to move out of this small town in Uttar Pradesh. The clash over a polarising issue like cow slaughter, political observers say, could dent the six years of effort that has gone into healing the wounds between the two communities.
Interestingly, the incident has occurred at a time when lakhs of Muslims are travelling to Bulandshahr for a Tablighi Jamaat’s ijtema (religious gathering) since December 1. Several newspapers have even reported about how temples have thrown open their doors to the pilgrims.
According to regional newspapers, a group of people allegedly found remains of a dead cow strewn across farms in Bulandshahr’s Mahav village. Soon after, a group, led by activists from fringe Hindutva groups, blocked the highway that passed through the village.
The group then proceeded to the nearest police chowki (sub-station) in Chingravathi village to report the alleged incident of cow slaughter, which is illegal in Uttar Pradesh. The group refused to leave the premises until the police lodged an FIR on the issue.
When a bigger crowd started to gather at around 11 am, police personnel from the main police station in nearby Shyana village arrived at the chowki to control the volatile situation.
In the clash that ensued, the police opened fire and the crowd pelted stones. Although unconfirmed, a few in the mob also fired at the police.
By the time the crowd dispersed by afternoon, the police had lost one of its officers and the BJP one of its activists. The mob also set on fire the chowki and a police van. At least four policemen are said to be injured while many in the mob have also been reported to be severely hurt.
Since then, journalists of the area said, tension has prevailed. Unverified messages intended to mobilise people against “police atrocity” are circulating on social media.
Two FIRs have now been filed by the UP police, one related to the alleged cow slaughter, and the other against a number of people from three villages who participated in the mob violence against police.
“No violent incident has been reported since afternoon. We have deployed forces to track any kind of inflammatory activity. Also, I would urge people to not believe messages circulating on social media. Most of them are rumours, intended to fan the tension,” Ram Kumar, inspector-general of Meerut told The Wire. Kumar will be camping in Bulandshahr until the situation is under control.
कृपया भ्रामक खबर न फैलाएं। इस घटना का इज्तिमा कार्यक्रम से कोई संबंध नही है। इज्तिमा सकुशल सम्पन्न समाप्त हुआ है। उपरोक्त घटना इज्तिमा स्थल से 45-50 किमी थाना स्याना क्षेत्र मे घटित हुई है जिसमे कुछ उपद्रवियो द्वारा घटना कारित की गयी है।इस संबंध मे वैधानिक कार्यवाही की जा रही है https://t.co/TwouiJoqhu
— Bulandshahr Police (@bulandshahrpol) December 3, 2018
On Tuesday, the police arrested four people in connection with the violence. “A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed to investigate why the violence happened and why the police personnel left Inspector Subodh Kumar alone,” ANI quoted Prashant Kumar, ADG Meerut Zone, as saying.
An FIR has been filed under 17 sections including murder, rioting and assault. According to the Indian Express, there are 27 named accused and 50-60 unnamed accused in the FIR.
It may be noted that clashes over allegations of cow slaughter has become a frequent tool in western UP to polarise Hindus and Muslims. In many cases, like in Dadri where Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched, the meat over which the Hindutva activists went on a rampage turned out to be goat meat in the first forensic report before it was overturned.
This is a developing story. We’ll update it as and when more information comes.