Communal Thunder Across UP
The recent riots in Uttar Pradesh have brought the state to global attention. From Muzaffarnagar riots to Lucknow gang rape, UP is burning in the fire of crime, communal violence and goonda raj
Uttar Pradesh which was well known for its culture heritage has now become a den of communal tension and a safe haven for the criminals. The state has been engulfed with the dark clouds of riots and the recent Saharanpur riots makes it clear that the communal and crime situation in UP is spiralling out of control. Riots broke in the communally sensitive Saharanpur area of Western Uttar Pradesh over a disputed land. The celebration of Eid in this violent-hit area was celebrated with residents coming out of their homes wearing arms bands and black cloth banners in a message of peace. The town which is 170 km from the national capital celebrated Eid under the shadow of curfew which was partially lifted for few hours to facilitate prayers and celebrations.
As the situation remains tensed, IG, Meerut Zone, Alok Sharma confirmed that the clashes were pre-planned. “The riot was pre-planned. The way the firing was done and shops were burnt indicate many possibilities…We are investigating all angles,” he said. Police have arrested 38 people for rioting and arson. District administration has imposed curfew and shoot-at-sight orders in the area. Around 18 companies of additional force including eight of PAC, six of CRPF, two of RAF and two of ITBP are reportedly deployed in the troubled areas.
The centre has also sent 600 paramilitary personnel to assist the state government in maintaining law and order. Army has been called from the neighbouring Delhi and Chandigarh to take control of the situation. Uttar Pradesh Police is now taking the help of drones to monitor the situation in the area. According to some reports, police are using drones to keep track of the situation on the ground as the lanes in the area are so narrow that surveillance can’t be kept strictly. Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh called UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and asked him to take all possible steps to control the violence.
The riots erupted, when some members of a group started the construction on a disputed land following which clashes broke out between both communities in wee hours on July 26. The two sides indulged in brick batting and arson, which killed three persons and as many as 34 were injured. Many shops and vehicles were vandalised and set on fire as the two groups confronted each other. According to survey done by the city administration, 165 shops were burnt during the riots, but, the number might increase after completion of the survey. Also, 42 vehicles, and a house got damaged in the riots.
ADG, Telecom, Devendra Singh Chauhan admitted that the local administration could have prevented the riots if decisions were taken promptly. “The district magistrate and the senior Superintendent of Police are expected to take prompt decisions in such situation. The violence could have been averted if action was initiated at the proper time,” Chauhan, who has been sent to Saharanpur as special observer, said.
The rioters had a well-chalked out plan as they first set ablaze the fire-brigade office and fire tenders, crippling the department from carrying out any relief work. They, then carried out looting and arson at the Ambala Road. “Some rioters were lighting Molotov cocktails and throwing them inside the shops. Despite repeated requests to impose curfew in the city, the police kept saying till 4pm that they didn’t receive any order to stop the people from gathering. Over 4,000 people had assembled at Ambala Road by 10am. They were increasingly getting violent,” claimed cloth trader Harvinder Singh, whose shop was torched.
The land dispute between Muslims and Sikhs in Kutubsher area of Saharanpur was the root cause of the riots. From past few years, both the communities has claimed the ownership of the small piece of land adjacent to Gurudwara.
The Sikhs claim that they purchased the land 15 years ago and since then they have been taking care of it. They say the land is adjacent to their Gurudwara and it rightfully belongs to them. Acoording to them, the land was purchased from a Hindu family to build a langar hall and there was no masjid then.
On the other hand, the Muslim community claims that the land belongs to the Wakf Board and there cannot be any construction without their permission. Some media reports say that a petition was filed by Moharram Ali Pappu in Saharanpur Civil Court ten years back, stating that a mosque had been built on the disputed land and it must not be used by Gurudwara. But, in May 2013, the Additional District Judge passed order stating that the land belonged to Gurudwara.
Uttar Pradesh is fuming in an overly increasing rate of crime and communal violence. According to a report, Uttar Pradesh has topped the list of states that witnessed riots in 2013. UP has witnessed 247 incidents of communal violence, which has claimed 77 lives. While the data for this year is still being compiled by the Union Home Ministry, a rough estimate put the number of communal clashes reported this year to around 65, in which at least 15 people lost their lives. The riots in Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining areas claimed over 60 lives during August-September last year. More than 90 people were also injured and over 50,000 people were displaced due to the communal violence. Uttar Pradesh also recorded a maximum of 360 people being injured in these incidents in 2013.
Incidence of communal violence in the state is on steep increase. There are many incidences of communal violence which include riot in Rampur where a petty dispute triggered a major clash between members of two communities. Over a dozen people were injured in a Meerut village when clashes erupted between two sects of Muslims over offering Eid prayers. Uttar Pradesh has become a crime capital where horrifying crimes like rape, dacoity, murder and communal violence are a common thing. Akhilesh Yadav target to make UP an ‘Uttam Pradesh’ is surely reaching its destination!
By Rohan Pal from Lucknow