By Tarique Anwar / News Click
Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh)/New Delhi: Protests to press forth the demand for legal action against two ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders (now suspended) for their incendiary comment on Prophet Muhammad triggered incidents of communal rioting and stone-pelting in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur on June 3, but the UP Police is being accused of only “one-sided” action against Muslims even as a first information report (FIR) mentioned that a section of Hindu community pelted stones and hurled firecrackers on protesters in “self-defence”.
Of the three FIRs (No. 0042/2022, 0043/2022 and 0044/2022) registered at 3:50 a.m, 5:36 a.m and 6:30 a.m, respectively on June 4 with a delay of over 12 hours after the incident that took at around 3:30 p.m on June 3, the highly political and cautiously worded second FIR filed by one Mukesh at Becon Ganj police station in Kanpur East (Kanpur Nagar Police Commissionerate) says a slogan shouting mob of protestors approached Chandeshwar Hata (a residential area near Parade Chowk) and started pelting stones that were returned.
The FIR also narrates participation of Hata residents in the violence, which is being ignored.
“…. When few people fortunately realised that Chandeshwar Hata would be eliminated today, 8-10 of them came forward and began throwing back the stones hurled at them so that the crowd hell-bent at massacre can be contained till the police force arrive at the spot. Had they not come to the fore, there would have been genocide of the Hindus,” the FIR says.
“Whatever they caught hold of, they threw it towards the violent crowd in self-defence. Several men and women had suffered injuries while trying to stop the mob from entering Hata. As the news spread that Hata has come under attack, people from inside the colony came out with left over firecrackers of Diwali and hurled it towards the crowd in self-defence to scare the rioters,” Mukesh revealed in the FIR.
“Hata has been the target of Muslims,” he alleged and added, “And therefore, they (Muslims) are constructing six storey buildings, surrounding Hata from all four sides, so that it can be attacked with bombs from above and its existence can be removed. The buildings are being constructed on enemy’s property”.
Trying to defend the police, he said in the FIR that he was expecting that the cops stationed at Sadbhavna Chowki (police post) located near Parade Chowk would come to his rescue. “Though they (the police men) came, yet could not make any impact perhaps because their number was not sufficient to control the unruly mob and they were not prepared to tackle the sudden attack,” he said.
Interestingly, the first and third FIRs filed on the complaints of two police officials with regard to the violence that erupted from Baba Chauraha and Dadamiya Chauraha, respectively, do not find any mention of the “retaliatory” stone-pelting and hurling of fire-crackers, as revealed in the FIR filed by Mukesh.
The two FIRs claimed an unlawful assembly of Muslim youth, who, outraged by the insult of Prophet Muhammad by BJP’s former national spokesperson Nupur Sharma, were forcibly asking people to shut their shops after Friday prayers as a mark of protest. They clashed with the police when they were asked to disperse and not create obstacles in vehicular movement.
There is also no mention of any alleged attack on Chandeshwar Hata in the two FIRs.
However, video footage accessed by NewsClick clearly shows stone-pelting between Muslim protesters, Hindu “defendants” and the police.
(This publication does not vouch for the authenticity of the videos.)
THE UNTOLD STORY
It is widely reported and known that a section of the protesters did indulge in stone-pelting. However, there are claims and counter-claims with regard to instigation.
The Muslim side has claimed that after Friday prayers, people in “small groups” moved from Dadamiya Chauraha and Baba Chauraha in the form of a procession that reached Yatimkhana (orphanage) and took a turn toward Parade Chowk.
“The protest march was peaceful till it reached Parade Chowk, though the police were intermittently trying to stop them. Violence erupted after the protesters took a turn from Parade Chowk to move on to Nayi Sadak (of the biggest wholesale markets in the city) and were objected to and attacked by the residents of Chandeshwar Hata. The filming of the protesters by the residents of Chandeshwar Hata led to a heated exchange between the two groups. This resulted in stone-pelting between the two sides that continued for 10-15 minutes, and then the situation was brought under control,” they added.
But selective videos are being played on TV news channels, they alleged, as if only Muslims pelted stones and the other side was either “mute spectators or garlanding the protesters.”
“Even the photographs of 40 suspected rioters released by the police belong only to the Muslim community. Except a printing press owner, who had published 20 posters — calling people to undertake a ‘jail bharo andolan’ on June 5 against the alleged insult of Prophet Muhammad, all 50 people who have been arrested are Muslims,” a Muslim Community member told NewsClick.
Kanpur Shaher Qazi Abdus Qudoos Hadi said there were always two sides to a case of violence, adding that the police was selectively targeting one community while the real perpetrators of violence were being allowed to go scot-free.
“Police have taken action against one side while other side, which is equally responsible for the crime, is being let off,” he alleged.
To support his allegation, he showed a list of 36 people named in the FIRs. All of them belong to the Muslim community. “Why have members of other communities not been arrested or FIRs lodged against them?” he said.
Hadi and his son Waqar said they were manhandled when they were going to meet the Kanpur police commissioner who had reportedly called the cleric to pacify the protesters. The father-son duo can be seen being manhandled in a video accessed by this publication (not authenticated by NewsClick).
“As I, along with my son, reached the main gate of Chandeshwar Hata, we were manhandled. My phone was snatched. While saving me from the rioters, my son took several blows on his body. It happened in front of the police who, instead of chasing the rioters away, helped me walk away. It is for everyone to see. There is video evidence in favour of this. Yet the police arrested one of my aides,” said Hadi.
There are videos that show the police standing with the Hindu mob and pelting stones on the other side. “Where goes their duty of remaining neutral in such situations?” he added.
Another video (veracity not authenticated by NewsClick) shows a Muslim boy being mercilessly thrashed by a Hindutva mob in the presence of police. He was later rescued by the police who can be seen letting the assaulters go scot-free.
Meanwhile, Uzma Khanam, wife of Hayat Zafar Hashmi, rubbished the allegation that her husband was the “key conspirator” of the violence.
“He always offered Friday prayer at Sunehri mosque near Parade Chauraha. But on June 3, he went to a mosque at Dada Miyan Chauraha. After he came out of the mosque, he spoke to the media, appealing to people not to take out any procession. He returned home at around 1:30 p.m after offering the prayer. He went to Parade Chowk area at 3:30 p.m after he got several calls from police officials who asked him to come over and help the administration in pacifying the protesters. He came back home at around 6 p.m to tell me that he is going again. He told me before leaving: ‘If I don’t return, take care of yourself and our daughter (who is 3 years old). I came to know about his arrest from the media,” she said and broke down.
Uzma Khanam said her husband had not given any call for an agitation on Friday. “The proposed jail bharo agitation was called off a day before the violence following a meeting with the police administration. In fact, he had even announced the same on Facebook. Finding him a soft target, the police arrested him and declared him a mastermind. Selective leaks are being done to the media to create a narrative against him among people,” she alleged.
Saiba said even her minor 10-year-old brother has been arrested in connection with the violence.
“My elder brother and husband were first picked up by the police and kept in lock-up at Colonelganj police station from 5 p.m on June 3 till 1 a.m on June 4. They were released only after her 10 year-old brother surrendered. He told my mother who had gone to meet him that the police are pressuring him to confess the crime and tell the magistrate that he is 17. He has been brutally tortured in police custody,” Saiba alleged, showing her minor brother’s Aadhar card, which says he was born in 2012.
She said her minor brother was not named in any FIR. Even his photo is not there in the poster of suspects the police have released. Yet, he is behind bars.
Sana, a mother of two, claimed her husband Mohd Nasir was at Bakarmandi, some 5 km from the spot of violence, yet he was arrested by the police. “The police had come to our house to arrest some of our relatives but failing to find them, they took my husband away and is now among the 36 accused named in the FIR”, she said.
Sana said one of her relatives had lodged a complaint against the now suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her “blasphemous” statement at the Colonelganj police station. “My husband has nothing to do with that complaint, yet he was arrested,” she said.
Mohmmad Sulaiman, an elderly activist who, along with a delegation, met the commissioner of police to register a protest against “one-sided” police action, told NewsClick: “No one is denying the fact that taking out a protest march was a mistake. It can also not be denied that brick-batting took place. But both sides indulged in this act of violence. Yet the police are selectively targeting Muslims. There is no action against the other side. This is casting aspersions on the integrity of the law enforcement agency. Mindless arrests are going on. Arrest those who have bricks or stones in their hands. Why are you (the police) picking up those who were merely present there?” he said.
Sulaiman said he, as part of the delegation, has registered strong protest with the top cop who reportedly told the delegation that the police were convinced that the other side, too, had participated in the violence and that they, too, would be arrested following further investigation.
‘AGGRESSOR Vs SELF-DEFENDERS’
NewsClick spoke to a few residents of Chandeshwar Hata who reiterated whatever they did, saying they did it in “self-defence”. The locality is predominately inhabited by dalits and OBCs (Other Backward Classes) most of whom are engaged in leather work and trade.
“The Muslims protesters acted as aggressors, and our response was of a self-defender. We are just 3% here, and they constitute 97% of the population in the region. They want to throw us out so that they control the entire market here,” a resident of Hata not wishing to be identified told NewsClick.
Describing the incident, one Shivam, a resident of the colony who refused to be photographed, said: “Hindus got agitated after their men and women were injured in the one-sided targeted stone-pelting. We defended ourselves initially when the police deployment was not adequate. Once the police arrived, we too responded to them in “their” language. We had no option but to do so in self-defence. Later, the police chased them away.”
Shivam claimed the crowd was “armed with bombs and handcart full of stones” and returned to attack them, but was made to retreat. “Those who are accusing the police of being biased and taking one-sided action must not forget the attack was also unilateral. Eight of us have been injured in the stone-pelting, including a woman. One boy has broken his elbow,” he claimed, but refused to accompany this correspondent to the injured woman and child.
When shown a video clip wherein a man from the Hindu mob can be seen pushing a handcart loaded with stones, Shivam said it was only in “self-defence”. “If they have a problem with Nupur Sharma, they should go to her place to oppose her. Why did they come to our area with bombs? Will you set our houses on fire if tomorrow someone says something?” he said.
He was again shown a video clip where people from his area can be heard asking others from Hata to bring petrol bombs to hurl at Muslim protesters, he said those people were not from his locality. “I don’t know who they are. I am also unable to identify the spot where it happened,” he added.
The young man listed out a string of allegations often levelled against Muslims, such as they are trying to evict Hindu residents from the area, are “trapping” Hindu girls in “love-jihad”, own “enemy property”, as in those who migrated to Pakistan from India post-Partition handed their property to their relatives, and so forth.
Reiterating the charges levelled in Mukesh’s FIR, he said: “They can attack us any day…. We are protected just because the state has Yogi (Adityanath) government. They know any of their misadventure will result into rolling of bulldozers on their properties.”
When all the above allegation were put to Police Commissioner Vijay Singh Meena, he chose to avoid specific questions, saying investigations are underway and the culprits would be brought to book “without any discrimination.”
However, Joint Commissioner Anand Prakash Tiwari refuted the charges levelled above. With regard to the FIR filed, based on a complaint by Mukesh, he said: “If a person injured in violence lodged a complaint, how could the police refuse him? We are investigating the violence threadbare and anyone responsible would not be spared.”
Asked about the arrests, Tiwari said:, “We have fool proof evidence against all the accused. Our action is based on the outcome of our investigation so far and the human intelligence and electronic evidence we have gathered. We are taking utmost care to ensure that no innocent is sent behind bars.”
This article first appeared on newsclick.in