Undoing the secular state in India: Muzaffarnagar 2013

From Kafila, January 3, 2014

Independent inquiry into Muzaffarnagar ‘Riots’: Mohan Rao, Ish Mishra, Pragya Singh, Vikas Bajpai

by Nivedita Melon

Press Statement on the Report  prepared by Mohan Rao, Ish Mishra, Pragya Singh and Vikas Bajpai

December 30, 2013

A team of independent academics and a journalist carried out an inquiry into the communal violence that shook Muzaffarnagar district in UP this past September. The report is based on the findings of the team during its visit to Muzaffarnagar district on the 9th and the 10th of November and again on the 27th November. The members of the team were:

Dr. Mohan Rao, Faculty, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU.

Mr Ish Misra, Faculty, Department of Political Science, Hindu College, Delhi University.

Ms.Pragya Singh, Journalist, Outlook, and

Dr. Vikas Bajpai, Ph.D. Scholar, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU.

The team also drew upon the assistance of Dr. Subhash Tyagi, Professor of Geography, Machra College, Meerut, and Praveen Raj Tyagi, Principal Greenland Public School, Duhai, Ghaziabad, in the collection of some data and the conduct of the visit.

OBJECTIVES OF OUR ENQUIRY:

. To investigate the role of state agencies in either preventing or containing violence, in taking appropriate punitive actions against the guilty and also to investigate some incidents of communal violence.

. To investigate the role of the government in providing relief and rehabilitating the displaced and the progress made in displaced people going back to their villages and homes.

. To understand economic, social and political reasons that led to the recent spate of communal violence in this area of Western Uttar Pradesh.

SALIENT FINDINGS:

Role of the agencies of the State

The fact that India is Constitutionally mandated as ‘Secular’ State makes it obligatory on the agencies of the State to uphold secular values. However, the communal incidents in Muzaffarnagar, its aftermath and the continuing tragedy of the riot affected persons have been the undoing of the Indian State in this regard. Regrettably, this has been the outcome of deliberate and calculated decisions at different levels as is evident from the findngs:

The affidavits riot victims were made to sign for availing monetary compensation

The Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has made the riot affected Muslim families in relief camps to sign an affidavit (copy attached as annexure) that enforced following conditions on the signatories in order to avail of financial relief:

“That myself and members of my family have come leaving our village and home being terrorized due to violent incidents in ……… village and we will not now return to our original village and home under any circumstances”.

“That the lumpsum financial help being given for my family by the government will only be used by me to rehabilitate my family. By this money I will live with my family voluntarily arranging for residence at appropriate place elsewhere”.

“That in the condition of receiving lumpsum financial help amount, myself or members of my family will not demand compensation relating to any damage to any immovable property in my village or elsewhere”.

The State thus sought to impose a demographic change in the riot affect villages through a legal instrument. The monetary relief being disbursed was not to rebuild the damaged property or lost means of livelihood. This has served to reinforce the terror of communal violence in the minds of affected families besides driving a schism in the composite culture of the area which mars the possibilities of gradual healing. Muslims are now being ghettoized in towns and localities dominated by them.

These aspects were pointed out by the team members to the district administration, The officials however denied that the government was preventing people from going back to the villages and told of an order stating that those who wanted to return to their villages were free to do so. But a copy of the said order could not be provided by the administration.

Nepotism, complicity and inaction of the police in incidents of violence

The shallow credibility of the law and order machinery in Muzaffarnagar is best reflected in the statement of senior police officials that – “both the Jats and the Muslims are complaining against us, so the police must have done something good.” Police itself is at pain to enumerate pro-active and positive actions taken by them against the wrong doers. Establishing credibility in the eyes of minorities becomes all the more difficult when in a region with around 27 percent Muslim population, as per senior police official of the district, the representation of Muslims in police force is less than 3 percent. The officer however maintained that “this did not matter for a policeman is a policeman and religion was not a factor in discharge of his duties.”

The residents at the camps however said that they did not want to go back to their villages as their tormentors were still roaming free and that the government had done little that would have them repose their faith in the law and order machinery. The frequent transfers of the senior police officials in the district have not helped matters either. In 2013 the SSP of the district has been changed five times.

In Qutba village, where from single largest number of Muslim killings has been reported (8 Muslim were killed) a picket of PAC (provincial armed police) was posted in the village at the time of riots. These policemen were having tea in the Pradhan’s house when mobs started rampaging Muslim households. The three Muslim men who rushed to seek their help were said to have been locked up by these policemen in the Pradhan’s house.

The second incident of killings that took place with the police in vicinity was at the Mohammepur Raisingh village on October 30. Three Muslim youth from the neighboring Hussainpur village were abducted from the fields and killed by the Jats even as a picket of the state police was posted in the village. The Hussainpur villagers on learning of the abduction of youth repeatedly rang the SHO of Bhaura Kalan police station, but their calls went unanswered. It was told that the SHO had switched off his phone.

Pradhan of Hussainpur village later told that despite their best efforts many of those accused by name in the killings have still not been arrested and are roaming free in Mohammedpur Raisingh. He further alleged that the police has “declared rates” (of bribe) to weaken the cases against the accused or even let them go scot free.

It appears from the sequence and the circumstances of the incidents of violence in Muzaffarnagar that had the police and the district administration acted with alacrity and a fair sense of judgment in the immediate aftermath of the incidence of alleged “eve teasing” and related murders in Kawal village, the subsequent turn of events could have been entirely avoided.

Outsourcing of relief to the Muslim communal organizations by the State

It would have been best if the State machinery was seen by the riot affected Muslims as a dependable, sincere and caring source of succor and a guarantor of their safety. The State instead chose to outsource relief measures to Muslim communal organizations, principally the Jamiat-Ulema e Hind of Deoband though some other NGOs were also involved.

On being quizzed – why no state agency has a visible presence at the relief camps, the district administration told us that this was in accordance with the policy of the state government. The Shiv Pal Singh Yadav committee set up by the state government post riots had recommended that all relief be provided through community organizations.

This reflects redoubtable wisdom. Communal community organizations cannot be expected to be credible foot soldiers for Secular ideals. The impact of this was evident in the camps. Apart from apprehensions regarding security upon return to their villages, the people also said that they would prefer to live “amidst the security of their own people.”

Different reports before ours have graphically highlighted the pitiable conditions at the camps. We would only reiterate that even the least courtesies like essential medical or civil amenities such as drinking water or functioning toilets have not been provided to the people in the camps despite visits by the mightiest VIPs in the country.

Jamiat dominated committees appeared to tightly control what the people said of the arrangements at the camps. At the Bassi Kalan camp when the residents complained against the government, members of the managing committee tried to stop them. Likewise at camp no 1 at Shahpur a local Maulvi expressed his displeasure when the residents complained of the conditions. We were told by families in the relief camps that up to Rs 20,000 had been taken from them by functionaries of the Jamiat for constructing alternative accommodation.

A close confidant of ours asked the leader of the Jamiat as to why they were not opposing the affidavits that displaced Muslim families were being made to sign. Reply was – “there is nothing to worry about this and that all of them will finally be allowed to return to their villages.” Jamiat further claimed credit for getting handsome relief package for the displaced families. Silence of the Jamiat over the claims of the Samajwadi Party leadership that the Muslims in the camps were agents of the Congress and the BJP is equally deafening.

THE WAY FORWARD

Despite the constitutional and formal averments of the ‘secular’ character of the Indian state, the de facto reality remains that the state machinery has acted in a highly communal manner which undermines India’s secular credentials. Even as the communal poison being spread by the Hindutva forces need be countered with full force, the role played by the Samajwadi Party government in UP in connivance with the Muslim communal forces and the latest act of forcibly evicting the riot displaced families from relief camps brings into question the advisability of forming alliances with such parties to counter communalism. The stark reality is that despite the fact that Muslims constitute a much larger share of UP’s population as compared to Yadav’s, the propensity of the Yadavization of administrative structure is much stronger while the Muslims can at best expect their lives to be spared in the name of secularism. India’s secularism ostensibly sways between ‘Hindu Rule’ of the “secular parties” of the ruling classes and the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ of the saffron brigade.

Fighting communalism is not merely an electoral issue. The communal forces can be defeated only by ground struggles built by an alliance of the minorities, the working masses, the dalits, the tribals, other oppressed castes and progressive sections of the intelligentsia. In this regard the example held out by the people of Hussainpur, Kheda Gani, Garhi Novabad, Garhi Jaitpur, Kurawa and other such villages is a ray of hope.

OUR DEMANDS

The following demands acquire top most priority in our opinion under the prevailing circumstances:

. All the accused named in the FIRs should be arrested.

. Decommunalize the state apparatus.

. Restore all villagers back to their homes.

. Scrap the affidavit which was taken against five lakh compensation amount.

For the full report go to: http://kafila.org/2014/01/03/independent-inquiry-into-muzaffarnagar-riots-mohan-rao-ish-mishra-pragya-singh-vikas-bajpai/

 

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