Communal Riots 2001: Asghar Ali Engineer
COMMUNAL RIOTS - 2001
January 1-15, 2002
by Asghar Ali Engineer
The year 2001 also, like previous years witnessed several communal riots throughout India of which some were minor and some major. The riot broke out in Kolahpur on 31st December 2000, the last day of last year and continued in January 2001. A territorial Army Jawan Abhijt Suryawanshi was killed in Jammu and Kashmir in a suicide bomb explosion. He hailed from Kolahpur Maharashtra. His body was flown to Kolahpur. Shiv Sena gave a call for bandh but some people of minority did not close their shops and stoning began on their shops. The crowd was 10,000 strong pelting stones. The crowd was also protesting against the 'pro-Muslim' statement given by the Minister of State for Textiles Prakash Awde in Icchalkaranji a day ago.
The situation became tense in Kolahpur and Shiv Sena's call for bandh aggravated it. The administration, however, persuaded the Sena to withdraw its call for bandh but many Shiv Seniks did not like it and indulged in heavy stone throwing. Sudden burst of stone pelting sent a wave of panic across the main market and shops and business establishments downed their shutters. However, though there was tension and stone pelting incidents there was fortunately no loss of life.
Similarly there was communal violence in Ranchi, Bihar on 30th December which too spilled over to the month of January 2001. On 29th December which happened to be an Eid day (Ramzan Eid) police fired and three Muslim youth were killed. Though it was not clear why police had to resort to firing but it resulted in killing three Muslim youth. It led to unrest among the Muslims and Minority Front and other Muslim organisations gave call for Ranchi Bandh on 30th December. The demonstrators set fire to two police chowkies and also RAF vehicles were heavily damaged. Many Muslims came out on roads after the Friday prayers and indulged in violence. The administration then imposed curfew at 3 P.M. The army also had to do flag march to restore normalcy. Chief Minister of Jharkhand Babulal Mirandi ordered an inquiry into the police firing. The violence, however, continued on 1st January also.
The death of Deputy Superintendent of police who was injured in brick batting and subsequently had ordered firing on the incited mob in which three Muslim youth were killed, died on 1st January 2001 which again gave rise to fresh bout of violence on 1st January 2001 in Ranchi. The death of Mr. Jha was deemed ominous as the police had threatened to paralyse the state police administration. However, nothing untoward happened as the situation was controlled.
Next Kishtwar in Jammu witnessed communal violence on 2nd January after Jama Masjid was gutted apparently by short circuit. The people in the town turned violent after entire Masjid complex including the library and madrasa were reduced to ashes. The mob turned violent after police lathicharge to disperse swelling mob. The mob manhandled the SDM and AP. The office of SDM was set ablaze. The administration had to impose curfew on Kishtwar.
Ahmednagar in Mahararashtra witnessed communal incidents after two dead animals were thrown into a mosque on 5th January. The mob collected on hearing the news and stoned the passing vehicles. The authorities took no chances and deployed 300 Jawans of state reserved police to control the situation. All shops downed their shutters in several localities. The police was alerted in the region. Mr. Gopinath Munde of the BJP alleged that ISI and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba were involved in the incident.
On 6th January communal incidents occurred at a very unlikely pace - Goa where BJP Government was caught unawares. The BJP's one time electoral ally, the Shiv Sena stoked communal fire in the north Goa town of Mapusa in a dispute over a make-shift prayer hall set up for Ramazan. The Muslims accused the Sena of damaging the religious book. The Sena also lodged a Shivaji statue with saffron flags in the area. However, communal tension did not erupt in major violence.
On 29th January Nasik witnessed communal flare up after demolition of a part of the mosque. The violent mob, on hearing of demolition of part of the mosque indulged in stone throwing. Noorani Masjid's ablution house and imam's residence were not the plan approved by the Municipal Corporation and hence were demolished and this led to violet incidents. Fifty persons were injured in stone throwing incidents, which included two police constables and three fire brigade workers. The police authorities took immediate steps and increased police bandobast. Some Muslims from Nasik told a delegation of Raza Academy that we have no quarrel with our Hindu brethren but we have complaint about the police brutalities. Muslims are afraid of coming out of their houses. The police also had to impose curfew when a peace march was stoned on 1st February in Kazipura locality. The curfew had to be re-imposed in riot affected Bhadrakali. Shops, establishments and schools remained closed for the day fearing violence. The police arrested 96 persons. The number of persons injured after these incidents reached 75. The police had fired nine rounds to control the mob.
The police re-arrested many Muslims in the riot affected Bhadrakali area after they were released on bail. These Muslims were re-arrested on 8th February. They were re-arrested on rioting charges. This led to unrest among the Muslims and some lawyers appealed to the judge to direct the police to arrest on all charges at one go.
On March 5 communal violence broke out at Moradabad in U.P. which claimed two lives on the occasion of Iduz Zuha (Bakar Id). A Hindu neighbour opened fire on Muslims performing ritual of animal sacrifice on the occasion of Id in Sambhal town in Moradabad district killing two persons. In the ensuing violence many houses were set ablaze, which sent communal tension soaring up. Eighteen families were rendered home-less as houses were set afire. The police arrested five persons on charges of murder. Those who hit by firing were bystanders and onlookers. Those whose houses were looted and set afire complained that everything including jewellery was destroyed and that the PAC Jawans did not act and remained mute observers.
The burning of the Qur'an on 9th March in Delhi led to widespread communal incidents in various parts of the country. In Aurangabad the police were forced to open fire in air and lob tear gas shells after 13 persons were injured in stone pelting. The mob also tried to set fire to a police van. Similar incidents were also reported from Nander and Parbhani in Marathwada. Hyderabad also witnessed stone throwing from Mecca Masjid in Charminar area at passers by. Four persons were injured including one photo journalist. Mumbai also was tense, some stray incidents took place.
Pune city was also affected by communal violence. Incidents of arson and burning of buses occurred after a group of people that had gathered for namaz at Mecca Masjid in Gani Peth in Pune turned violent Stone throwing began and all shops in the area were closed. Gani Peth and Ghodpade Peth areas were badly affected. More than 78 people had been arrested. The mob looted a bakery and ransacked a medical shop in Gani Peth and Lohiyanagar. The rioters also burnt an autorickshaw and a moped. Number of other localities like Swami Vivekanand Society, PC Staff Colony and Ghafur Takiya were also affected. It should be remembered that Pune is comparatively a peaceful town.
'Holi' usually witnesses many communal incidents. On 10th March 8 persons were killed and 6 others injured in the Shambhu village of Nalanda district, Bihar when two groups clashed with each other. The clashes occurred between the two groups on the question of singing Holi songs. The Police Superintendent Shri Geeteshwar Pande reached the spot and brought situation under control.
Kanpur is a very communally sensitive area. It comes under communal spell repeatedly. In March after the Qur'an burning incident in Delhi SIMI (Student Islamic Movement of India) took out a protest march and put up objectionable posters in the city. The procession was fired upon by the AC killing more than 12 persons, all young Muslim boys. Several shops were set afire in Beconganj. It is reported by the eye-witnesses that the PAC was itself part of looting shops. A religious place and 12 shops were set ablaze. It is said that properties worth several lakhs were damaged. The role of PAC was so notorious that it had to be withdrawn from several Muslim areas for its involvement in violence. An additional District Magistrate (Finance) was also killed. He was killed in very suspicious circumstances. It is alleged by Muslims that the PAC killed him because he refused to order firing on the procession. The police, however, alleged that he was killed by a bullet fired from near the mosque. The issue remains contentious as no hard evidence either way is available. Only a thorough judicial inquiry will reveal the truth.
It is true that the SIMI had a hand in taking out procession in protest against burning of the Qur'an in Delhi and for putting up objectionable posters in the city, the role of PAC was highly communal. The Muslims suffered heavily. According to The Times of India report, dated 28 March, 2001 "Muslims undoubtedly suffered. Be it chemist shop owner Liyaqat Ali of Warsi Market cloth merchants like Atiq Ahmed, Mohd. Arif, Rais Ahmed, Haroon Ahmed or Farhan Ahmed, all testify that their business establishments were looted by PAC Jawans in broad day light. The PAC behaves like the Hindu chauvinist force and on one does anything about it.
The SIMI has over the years spread communal poison among the unemployed Muslim youth. Its posters were also highly provocative. There was no need for such procession and poster campaign. Innocent Muslims had to pay heavy price for the provocation by SIMI. All sensible Muslims condemned the provocative postures of SIMI. The BJP Government of U.P. did not take any action against the PAC Jawans for its indiscriminate firing on the procession and for looting Muslim shops and terrorising them. In all U.P. riots the PAC plays such ant-Muslim role. But riot after riot it is posted the moment riots break out in U.P. After Kanpur riot some prominent Muslims demanded a composite police force to tackle the riots. But it is an old demand. The rioting in Kanpur, looting and murder was so intense that the Times of India headline in its 24th March issue says, "Gutted streets in Kanpur resemble a 'Shamsan' (where dead bodies are cremated).
A joint women's delegation (All India Democratic Women's Association) also squarely blamed the police which abetted Kanpur riots (See Times of India, 24th March, 2001). The BJP's claim that under its rule no communal riots take place is completely exposed by Kanpur and several other riots, which have taken place under the BJP rule. Also, U.P. has witnessed maximum number of riots after independence. According to one report some 7464 riots and communal skirmishes take place in U.P. every year, which amounts to about 622 communal incidents per month.
Moharram is another occasion when communal violence breaks out in several places. On 6th April Ajmer which is centre of Sufi saint Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti witnessed curfew after dispute over the route of taziyah in Nasirabad in Ajmer district. Communal violence broke out and army had to be called in. There were incidents of arson, looting and stoning. When the police could not control the situation, curfew was imposed. In Ajmer on hearing that some miscreants have broken the outer boundary of a temple, a burning tyre was thrown onto taziya procession. But the police controlled the situation.
On 16th April Beawar town in Rajasthan came under spell of communal violence. The police had to impose curfew. More than two dozen people were injured during these disturbances. The disturbances broke out, according to the district collector when VHP and BJP procession was stoned and bottles of acid were thrown to it by some miscreants. The situation became explosive after stoning. The procession was taken out to demand arrest of those people who were involved in construction of a religious place in a village nearby.
On 8th April two groups of people Hindus and Muslims clashed with each other during Muharram procession in Kopargaon, Maharashtra and the police had to open fire in the air to disperse violent groups. More than 8 persons were hurt in these clashes. A police inspector was also injured during the clashes.
Ahmad Nagar is another communally sensitive centre in Maharashtra. On 12th April a Ganesh idol was found damaged and disturbances broke out. On learning of this a religious place belonging to Muslims was seriously damaged. The BJP-Shiv Sena workers collected outside the religious place and started doing maha arti. Several places in town came under spell of violence. According to the police about 12 youth were arrested for damaging the Ganesh idol.
Banswada in Rajasthan, though not communally sensitive, also witnessed communal clashes. Rajasthan these days has become a stronghold of communal forces. The VHP is openly distributing trishuls to Hindus and this trishul has a shape of knife which can be used for stabbing. Thousands of such trishuls have already been distributed by the VHP volunteers.
In Banswada communal violence erupted on hearing that three persons were killed in a road accident who belonged to the other community. This was enough to ignite the situation and the police had to impose curfew on 20th May which continued up to 24th May when it was lifted and there were no untoward incidents. Bhilwada in Rajasthan has also become very sensitive.
Next Chamrajnagar in Mysore district in Karnataka erupted with communal violence after murder of a youth belonging to minority community on 2nd June. Arson and looting began on a large scale. The situation became so serious that the police had to impose curfew. Twelve persons were taken in custody for inquiries.
Lucknow too has found its place now on the map of communal violence during BJP regime. Earlier it was mainly known for its Shia-Sunni clashes. On 5th June trouble erupted near Tilewali Masjid when the police constable accosted a Muslim girl and asked her to accompany him to police station. This led to unrest among the Muslims who had gathered to witness illumination on the occasion of Shab-e-Barat festival. Muslims protested and violence began. The Muslim youth alleged that the constable was misbehaving with the girl whereas the constable maintained that the girl was making obscene gestures.
Many people came out of the mosque and began pelting stones and burnt down the police Chowkie. Some policemen were thrashed. The police opened fire and one young boy Naeem was hit and died on the spot. The police could not control the situation, as there was no adequate force. Most of the police were posted in another locality where madh-esahabah (Sunni Muslim) procession was being taken out. The mob therefore became very aggressive and inflicted lot of damage on properties. Number of autorickshaws were burnt down. Another person who was also hit by the police bullet died next day in the hospital and number of those died rose to two in Lucknow disturbances.
On 5th June night Jamner in Jalgaon district in Maharashtra became hub of communal violence after an incident of eve teasing in Anand Mela in that town. This was only a triggering event. Many communalists taking advantage of this came out with swords in hands and began looting and burning properties. In all 17 properties were gutted fourteen of which belonged to the Muslims and three to Hindus. In this town the MLA and sarpanch both belong to the BJP. The Muslims of Jamner maintained that it was not really a riot between Hindus and Muslims but an attempt by the communalists to terrify Muslims of the town. The population of Muslims in this town of 65 thousand is thirty thousand. It is quite substantial population. Unfortunately those responsible for looting and arson fled the town and had not been arrested even many days after the incidents.
Another town in Maharashtra, Sangamner experienced communal violence. It seems this year Maharashtra saw many communal incidents, more than forty and the opposition members attacked the government for this in the assembly. Sangamner witnessed communal violence on account of the film Ghadar. This film became quite controversial and some Muslims felt that it should be banned. The two groups of people of Sangamner clashed and one person died. In fact it was not film Ghadar which was being shown but another film Lagan during which trailor of the film Ghadar was shown leading to these clashes. This happened on 9th July. After coming out of the theatre the two groups clashed and indulged in stone pelting injuring many people. Irfan Tamboli was seriously injured and died two days later. The Government posted CRPF Company in the area to control the situation.
On 23rd July a gang of miscreants attacked houses of minority community in Saraswa Gor village in Moradabad district in U.P. and killed 6 persons including a two year old girl Shabina. No one was arrested and the whole incident is shrouded in mystery. The Police said the motive could be robbery. This mayhem continued for two and half hours in the village and people were done to death by iron rods. Because of this beating one Anwar Khan, his wife and two-year-old daughter died on the spot.
A deputation of Jamiat-ul-Ulama visited the village and refuted the police theory that the motive could be robbery on the grounds that those killed were very poor and hardly anything in their house worth robbing. It clearly seems to be a communal incident to terrify Muslims. , Maulana Asad Madnai also demanded that the concerned policemen of the Thana should be suspended for neglect of duty. The opposition members also raised the matter in Parliament and demanded thorough inquiry. The parliament session was disrupted.
Muzaffarnagar in U.P. witnessed tension, looting and arson on 5th August when some highly objectionable pamphlets were thrown on a Mosque. This led to clashes between Hindus and Muslims and many people were injured. The Police had to impose curfew in the town in view of the seriousness of the situation. In Meenakshi Chowk when members of two communities came face to face the police had to fire in the air. Stoning continued for some time and properties were set to fire. The matter was so serious that it led to disturbances in Parliament during question hour next day when the members of Samajwadi Party raised the matter in Parliament.
Karjagwant in Malegaon district in Maharashtra on 7th August, Raebareli in U.P. on 3rd August, in Mumbra near Mumbai on 28th August there were communal incidents in which there were instances of stoning and minor violence leading to curfew to avert major incidents.
On 12th August in Amravati, near Nagpur in Maharashtra the Shiv Seniks attacked some Muslims who were taking oxen for slaughter leading to clashes in which two persons were killed and 30 persons were wounded seriously. The police arrested 70 persons in this connection. The Bajrang Dal activists were keeping watch near the slaughter-house and preventing the Muslim butchers from taking their animals for slaughter, often attacking them. Because of this, tension was prevailing in the town between Shiv Sainiks, Bajrang Dal people and Muslim butchers which led to eruption of violence on 12th August resulting in two deaths and injuries to several persons.
Ahmedabad witnessed communal incidents on 24 and 25th August. Hawkers belonging to minority community were beaten up in Maninagar area. And since the police took no action a bandh call was given by a minority organisation which resulted in forcible closure of shops and stone throwing in which 10 people were injured including 4 policemen. Stone throwing incidents took place in Mirzapur, Kalupur, Garden Chowk and Panchkui areas. Then on 25th August violence broke out in Daryapur area of Ahmedabad and the police had to impose indefinite curfew. The police also opened fire in which one person was killed. The police fired six rounds. The police arrested 4 Bajrang Dal people for inciting violence in Ahmedabad after one more Muslim succumbed to injuries thus pushing death toll to two.
There were communal skirmishes in Bhadgaon in Jalgaon district in Mahrashtra on 5th September when Hanuman idol was found polluted with excreta. This desecration of Idol was discovered at 4 P.M. and it spread like wildfire in the town leading to soaring up of communal tension. A mob began attacking and looting nearby shops and a religious place was desecrated. Some kerosene tankers were also upturned. The police had a tough time controlling the situation.
On 26th October Malegaon in Maharashtra witnessing major communal rioting in which 13 persons were killed, several injured and properties worth more than 15 crores damaged. A Muslim youth distributing pamphlets outside a mosque calling for boycott of American goods was arrested and taken to waiting police van. This angered Muslims coming out of the mosque after Friday prayers and then disturbances began. The mobs from both sides began attacking, looting and setting fire to properties. The police opened fire resulting in death of three persons on spot. Two persons were killed in stabbing and more succumbed to their injuries later.
The disturbances spread to many villages nearby and members of Shiv Sena attacked Muslims in these villages where they were in small minority. Their properties were looted or destroyed. The riots went on for about a week in these villages. Curfew had to be imposed in Malegaon town for several days and was lifted gradually. Kanpur riot of March and Malegaon riot of October-November were two very major riots in the year 2001 and both these riots shook the country.
Though these riots taking place in Post-Babri demolition period are not as horrendous as those taking place in Eighties, they are still a shame for the secular India. In eighties of twentieth century the average number of deaths used to be more than 250 to 300 in these riots, after demolition of Babri Masjid average death has been around 25-30. But this provides hardly any relief. One should see that no riots take place. The West Bengal CPM Government has succeeded in maintaining communal peace. It should become a role model for other states as well. For almost all riots politicians are responsible. It is only in people-oriented politics that riots can be eliminated, not in power-oriented politics.