In 2011, the National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, pushed a draft of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill. The Manmohan Singh government initiated the process of passing it. After the recent communal violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj city, it is easier to understand why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies had referred to the Bill as a ‘black law’ back then – meant to destroy the saffron fabric of the country; and why it was claimed that the Bill protected only minorities and if passed, would be a weapon in the hands of minorities against the majority community.
After what happened in Kasganj, it seems the Bill was opposed so that the certain elements could continue to attack minorities, using the national flag as an alibi. Even on the matter of unfurling the tricolour, Muslims, it seems, have no rights except what the Hindutva organisations allow, and if they do not comply, they must suffer the consequences.
Had the Bill been passed during Manmohan Singh’s tenure, it certainly would not be so easy for the forces backing the BJP to carry out violence, arson and bloodshed in the presence of police forces in a city like Kasganj today. Nor would it be so easy for the Adityanath government, that boasts of how riots have stopped in the state, to shirk responsibility by calling the episode a mere lapse on the part of local administrative officials, despite governor Ram Naik referring to it as a ‘blot’ on Uttar Pradesh.
The fact is that despite UP chief minister Adityanath soft-pedalling the incident as an administrative blunder and suspending the local superintendent of police, the ultimate responsibility lies with his government, because the policies adopted by the administration, the decisions made and the steps taken are governed by the state.
Had the state government as well as the administration been alert, innocent Kasganj locals would not have had to bear the irrational violence. A reputed daily has correctly pointed out that Kasganj riots erupted for no reason. It was neither a clash during Eid or Diwali festivals, nor a run-in over a Muharram taziya or Durga procession. This time, those who wanted to spread communal tension did so on pretext of the tiranga. And even after the killing of a young man and the setting aflame of many houses, shops and vehicles, the appetite for violence has not been satiated.
When the rioters found no other excuse, they beat up an innocent man merely for his beard and he has lost hsi vision in one eye. Naturally, despite the administrative measures of ‘controlling the situation’, the city’s atmosphere remains what the newspapers call ‘tense’. The panic and insecurity in people who witnessed bloodshed and suffered arson will take time to heal.
The whole drama in Kasganj unfolded exactly at a time when the government was engaged in pompously showing off to the world the glory of the Indian Republic in a grand parade on Rajpath. Keeping alive a long-standing tradition of celebrating national festivals in harmony, the minority residents of Baddu Nagar colony in Kasganj were busy celebrating Republic Day, contrary to propaganda spread by communal forces about their lack of enthusiasm about national occasions. Little did they realise that placing chairs on the road – named after an iconic Indian soldier, Abdul Hameed, killed in a war with Pakistan – for their flag-hoisting function would become an excuse for a communal riot.
As the tricolour was about to be unfurled during the function, a tiranga rally taken out by members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad reached the venue. They ordered the chairs be removed to let the rally pass.
When the organisers of the function requested them to wait till the flag hoisting was done, they refused to comply. The fracas began with sloganeering which quickly turned so violent that a young man was shot and killed.
What happened was done deliberately so it would be easy to ‘prove’ that things turned violent not because they were asked to wait for the tricolour to be hoisted, but because the other party allegedly protested against Vande Mataram, resorted to stone-pelting and raised pro-Pakistan slogans.
Why did this fiction need to be established? Because the myth of Muslims being ‘unIndian’ has to be perpetuated at any cost. Loyalty tests usually involving Vande Mataram and denunciations of Pakistan have become the fashion, as the district magistrate of Bareily lamented recently in a Facebook post. This then becomes a license to engage in violence.
What is more worrying is the fact that while the rioters pillaged the city, the police swung into action only when it was no longer possible to further extend the covert licence they had given. Earlier, despite an alert security arrangement during the Republic Day celebrations, the police had no time to check that the VHP and ABVP were taking out their rally without permission. The administration ought to have been especially alert given that the parent organisation of those carrying out the rally had a long-standing aversion to the tricolour, even calling it inauspicious when it was first adopted by independent India. By refusing to wait for the flag to be hoisted at Abdul Hameed Chowk, the organisations once again proved that there is a malicious intent behind their false claims of loyalty to the national flag.
Despite rising tensions, the Adityanath government let the police wait and watch while violence unfolded in the city. The state government, with its attitude, had sent a clear message to the police. As a result, the police as well as the administration were careful in controlling the rioters and delayed the curfew. Further, the communally charged speech of Etah’s BJP MP Rajveer Singh was also ignored. The minister failed to notice that being an elected MP, he does not represent any particular community and that he had a responsibility towards the minority population of his constituency.
In his tweet, another BJP MP, Giriraj Singh, made communal remarks regarding the incident. Other Hindu Mahasabha and Hindu Jagran Manch leaders also saw this as a golden opportunity and waded in.
Surprisingly, amidst all this, the question that demands an answer is when Adityanath will end the saffron tint in his approach and take on his constitutional responsibility and duties.
In other words, will he follow rajdharma, his duty as a ruler towards his people? Will he ask his followers why a group of Muslims who had gathered to celebrate Republic Day would suddenly raise pro-Pakistan slogans? In 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was prime minister at the time, reminded the then chief minister of Gujarat about the need to follow his rajdharma. Today, it is clear that we don’t have a prime minister like that any more.
Krishna Pratap Singh is a senior journalist based in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh.
Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman. You can read the Hindi version here.