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Express Investigation Report of Riots in Uttar Pradesh


Express Investigation Part-I: Over 600 ‘Communal Incidents’ In UP Since LS Results, 60% near By-poll Seats

All Other Parts of the Investigation:

Express Investigation Part-II: My Loudspeaker versus Your Loudspeaker

Express Investigation Part-III: Dalit-Muslim Divide Deepens, Goes Rural

Fighting Kids to Dhaba Bill: Takes Little To Keep Communal Pot Simmering




By Appu Esthose Suresh

August 5, 2014

A third of all “communal” incidents recorded by police in Uttar Pradesh in the 10 weeks following the Lok Sabha election results have occurred in — or on the fringes of — 12 assembly constituencies that are scheduled to go to polls over the next few months.

If a larger circle is imagined — covering broadly the region around these constituencies — this proportion rises to two-thirds, police records scrutinised by The Indian Express show.

The records show a running strand of attempts made by an aggressive BJP, a desperate SP, and a flagging BSP to turn every clash involving individuals from the two largest religious communities into a communal issue.

There is also clear evidence of provocation in areas where Dalits and Muslims live together, leading to communal polarisation.

Between May 16 — when UP delivered a spectacular tally to the BJP in the Lok Sabha — and July 25, 605 low-key clashes took place which police identified as “communal” in nature. Nearly 200 of these occurred in or around the 12 constituencies and another 200 in the broader region.

MLAs at these 12 assembly seats contested the Lok Sabha elections and have become MPs. Polls to the vacant seats are due within six months.

Five of these seats — Saharanpur Nagar, Bijnor, Kairana, Thakurwada and Gautam Buddh Nagar — are in Western UP, where the largest number of 259 communal incidents was recorded. Fifty-three incidents took place in Awadh, where the Lucknow East assembly seat will go to polls.

In the Terai, Eastern UP and Bundelkhand regions, each of which is home to two of the 12 seats, 29, 16, and 6 incidents respectively were recorded.

Records of more than 400 communal incidents in and around the constituencies show that tensions arose out of broadly six issues. The most common were construction activities involving Masjids, madrasas and Quabristans (graveyards); and the use of loudspeakers for prayers (120 instances each).

Issues of land led to communal tensions in about 70 cases; alleged incidents of cow slaughter in 61 cases; and alleged incidents of elopement and eve-teasing or harassment involving men and women of different communities in 50-odd cases. Minor accidents triggered communal incidents in some 30 cases.

In mid-July, in Bijnor’s Keeratpur area, a delegation met the district administration to demand that the construction of a gate on the Bijnor-Haridwar highway be stopped because the top of the gate was beginning to resemble an Islamic “Minar”. The administration has now stopped work on the gate, but at a local Mandir barely 10 metres away, a practice has begun of weekly recitals of Hanuman Chalisa, at which the gathering is told of the construction.

Septuagenarian Jakhir Ahmed, who has kept a small shop next to the gate for three decades, said, “Construction had been on for months. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, protesters showed up, demanding its demolition.”

A senior official of the district administration, who didn’t want to be identified, said, “There is a constant pressure from one group to keep issues burning. We get daily complaints about issues, many of which are old. But they are being pursued on a day-to-day basis. And wherever possible, politics is being introduced.”

On June 20, in Rampur village of Bijnor’s Nagina region, Muslims objected to a DJ playing music in the community hall of the village. The music was turned off, but the following day, a clash broke out between Hindus and Muslims. Police and local people are still not sure how the trouble began.

Five days later, in Noorpur Chiperi village 50 km away in the Sherkot area of the same district, residents objected to music being played at a birthday party for the nephew of Pradhan Mahavir Singh. Here too, the music was turned off, but some local dailies reported that Hindus and Muslims had clashed. The following day, the police arrested a Muslim man for allegedly intruding into a temple and damaging the Mandir’s property.

When The Indian Express visited Noorpur Chiperi, a Dalit-dominated village, the pradhan brushed aside the incident. “It was misunderstanding based on wrong information. We have no problems.”

Not far away, in the Gulabbadi area of Moradabad town, where Dalits and Muslims live in almost equal numbers, police have begun to receive anonymous calls about the construction of a Minar in a Masjid. The Masjid in question is deep inside a narrow street, lined by buildings standing cheek-by-jowl and crisscrossed overhead by a thick jumble of hanging power cables.

On July 1, four loudspeakers on the second-floor roof of the mosque were raised to a height of three feet for Ramzan. The calls to the local police and district administration have, however, been complaining of “attempts to raise a new minar, leading to the setting of a precedent”.

Only a fortnight earlier, police and protesters had clashed in Kant, 35 km from the town, after the administration brought down a newly set up loudspeaker in a Dalit temple.

According to a senior police official, the incidents “reveal how closely communities are keeping a watch on issues that have potential for communal clashes”. The loudspeakers of the Moradabad Masjid have been returned to their original height. DIG, Moradabad Zone, Gulab Singh, said, “Even small issues like motorbike accidents involving Hindus and Muslims is leading to mobs gathering. No one seems willing to see reason.”



Express Investigation Part-II: My Loudspeaker versus Your Loudspeaker

By Appu Esthose Suresh

August 6, 2014

Mitron Aaj To Tumhare Mandiron Se Speaker Utar Rahe Hain, Ek Na Huye To Kal Yeh Tumhare Ghar Main Ghuske Tumhari Izzat Utarenge. Isliye Bolta Hoon, Apni Taakat Dikha Do. To Sab Milte Hain, Shaam 6 Baje Bageshwar Mandir. (Friends, today, they are removing speakers from your temples; if you do not unite, tomorrow they will enter your homes and humiliate you. This is why I say, demonstrate your strength. So let us meet at 6 pm at the Bageshwar temple.)

— Message sent out on WhatsApp, allegedly by Vijay Kumar Mittal, head of the Bageshwar temple committee in Saharanpur.

On July 23, four days before riots broke out between Sikhs and Muslims in Saharanpur city, nearly 2,500 Hindus answered the message, gathering quickly at Kothwai Nagar, 5 km outside the city. On the previous night (July 22), loudspeakers at the temple had blared Shiv Katha, disturbing scores of Muslims at their night-time Ramzan Namaaz. Some 300 Muslim families live in the Hindu-dominated area, and an argument broke out between the two communities on Behat Road before the police were called in. The night passed peacefully, but the next morning, the WhatsApp message went out.

On the same day, in Nehtaur in adjoining Bijnor district, two Muslim men attacked a Hindu Pandit called Rajesh Singh Saini with a knife. Saini’s temple is in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of Holiyan, and residents of the area had objected to the volume of the temple’s loudspeaker. The local police shrugged off the attack as the result of personal enmity between Saini and someone called Salim. But a full week after the incident, The Indian Express observed five armed policemen still patrolling the area.

In the 10 weeks after May 16, when the new government took over in Delhi, police in Uttar Pradesh recorded 605 incidents of “communal” nature, two-thirds of them in and around 12 assembly constituencies headed to by polls. In this communal tinderbox, the humble loudspeaker emerged as a potent catalyst for tensions.

Traditionally used for propaganda, provocation and posturing, the loudspeaker was transformed into an effective instrument of polarisation. Police records of over 600 communal incidents during this period scrutinised by The Indian Express show some 120 of them were triggered by the use of loudspeakers at places of worship — the largest contributor, alongside construction activities involving Masjids, madrasas and Quabristans, to tensions.

Ten incidents occurred in Muzaffarnagar; nine each in the districts of Bijnor, Meerut and Moradabad. Loudspeakers triggered eight incidents each in Amroha and Saharanpur; seven each in Sambal and Bareilly; and six in Shamli. Five incidents each were witnessed in Baghpat, Rampur, Bahraich and Balrampur.

The incidents spiked sharply after June 16, when \Hindu mobs poured out on the streets of Kant, Moradabad, after a newly installed loudspeaker at a Dalit temple was removed.

Between May 16 and June 16, only 17 incidents were recorded — all but one of which were in the western UP districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Amroha, Sambhal and Moradabad. After June 16, however, and especially after Ramzan began on June 30, there was a spurt in communal incidents, which also spread rapidly eastward.

In nearly all of these 120 cases, a familiar pattern was seen: temple loudspeakers competed with loudspeakers of the Azaan; and a new and aggressive Hindu insistence on the right to use loudspeakers triggered Muslim reaction.

Outsiders, Rumour, Denial

Vijay Kumar Mittal of Saharanpur’s Bageshwar temple committee — also an activist of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad — denied having sent the WhatsApp message that, besides exhorting Hindus to “unite”, contained several offensive references to Muslims. Police are yet to establish where the message originated.

Eyewitness accounts of Muslims, corroborated by police officials, suggest that the majority among the 2,500-strong Hindu mob that gathered at the temple were outsiders. A Muslim man in Saharanpur, who identified himself as Nazir, said “We have never had such problems in the past. If it (the loudspeaker) was loud, we would request that the volume be turned down, and the pujari would oblige. But this Ramzan, it was impossible to conduct our prayers.

“We informed administration officials because we did not want conflict. But an agitating mob showed up the next day. There were very few locals in that mob. I don’t know what would have happened had the administration not intervened.”

Nazir was among members of the community who gathered for afternoon prayers not far from Bageshwar temple amid curfew in Saharanpur.

Kapil Mishra, a member of the Bageshwar temple committee, said, “The loudspeaker will remain where it is, and the Shiv Katha will continue. The temple uses loudspeakers only occasionally. What about the Masjid? Their radio (loudspeaker) blares throughout the year. Have we ever objected?”

Assembled inside the temple, Mishra and other members of the temple committee described an alleged attack by Muslims on a priest. “Muslims attacked the Pandit of the Shankaracharya temple and injured him. This is what is happening to us wherever the Mohammedans are in a position of strength,” they said.

However, the local police station has no record of any such attack. About the July 23 incident, Kothwai Nagar police have recorded in the station registry that following rumours of a loudspeaker being removed in Bageshwar temple, both communities had gathered on the main road, but the district administration had settled the matter and urged both sides to maintain peace.

At Muzaffarnagar, Balraj Singh, the Bajrang Dal’s regional coordinator for western UP, told The Indian Express: “Why do Muslims object to Mandirs using loudspeakers? They don’t want Hindus to express themselves. They want to subjugate us. We are being denied the right that they enjoy. That is why they are making an issue out of Mandirs using loudspeakers.”

Balraj Singh said he had just returned from clamped-down Saharanpur.

Politicians’ Opportunity

At 7 pm on July 23, barely half an hour after the knifing of priest Rajesh Singh Saini in Nehtaur, Bijnor, Karan Singh Saini, the BJP’s Nehtaur in-charge, arrived at the local police station along with 200 others. Gathering the crowd had been easy, he said, because everyone knew pressing charges against Muslims would be difficult.

“The news spread to nearby areas, and we decided to meet at the police station. We knew it would be difficult to press charges against a Muslim because the Samajwadi Party government patronises Muslims,” Karan Singh Saini said.

Soon afterward, a “Muslim” delegation led by the SP’s local unit in-charge arrived at the police station, seeking an “amicable” compromise. Police, however, charged both groups, much to the dismay of the Hindu population in the area. The station registry recorded that the incident involved two individuals of the Hindu and Muslim community, both of whom were under the influence of alcohol, and that an FIR had been registered.

Later, standing in the one-room home where Rajesh Saini is recovering from his injuries, a neighbour said, “The SP government patronises them (Muslims). We are the victims, but get charged.”

Everyone in the room agreed, and several people recounted incidents of attacks on priests during Ramzan. The Indian Express could not confirm any of these incidents. The police have no record of such attacks.



Express Investigation Part-III: Dalit-Muslim Divide Deepens, Goes Rural

By Appu Esthose Suresh

August 9, 2014

On Monday morning, a minor argument over widening a village road resulted in a violent clash between Muslims and Dalits in Katauli Kala in the Deogaon police station area of Azamgarh district. SP (City), Vinod Kumar, said there was no history of tension between the two communities in that area.

However, according to diary entry at Rani Ki Sarai police station in Sonvar village of the same district, on July 4, an argument between a Muslim family and a Dalit family over the boundaries of their fields resulted in a communal clash in which eight people were injured.

Data from police stations across Uttar Pradesh scrutinised by The Indian Express show that out of 605 communal incidents in the state in the 10 weeks beginning with the Lok Sabha election results of May 16, 68 — or every ninth incident — involved Muslims and Dalits.

Forty-eight of these 68 incidents — over 70 per cent — took place in and around 12 assembly constituencies where by-elections are due.

Part 1 of this Investigation published on August 5, showed that about 400 of the 605 communal incidents between May 16 and July 25 occurred in or around assembly constituencies whose representatives have now become MPs, necessitating by polls by mid-November.

Part 2, published on August 6, showed how groups and political parties have transformed loudpeakers at places of worship into powerful instruments of communal polarisation, leading to clashes between Hindus and Muslims. In as many as 120 of the 600-odd communal incidents, police records of which were analysed by The Indian Express, the trigger for violence was found to lie in a clash involving the use of loudspeakers in masjids and temples.

The clashes between Muslims and Dalits signal a fracture in the BSP’s once-potent social engineering experiment. One fallout of the weakening of the BSP’s Dalit-Muslim coalition has been that the party’s mixed leadership in these areas has found it difficult to take sides — and individual leaders have often rushed to align with their respective religious groups, alienating members of the other group.

Tensions between Dalits and Muslims began, in several cases, after a relationship between, or elopement of, couples from the two communities. In many of these cases, local BJP units and leaders emerged as the “protector” of Dalits, police records show.

Village Gaineridan, Police Station Jahanabad, Pilibhit; May 20: A Muslim family took away by force their girl, who had married a Jatav boy. Local BJP leaders demanded security for the Hindu family and the return of the girl, leading to tensions.

Village Lisadi, Police Station Lisadi Gate, Meerut; May 30: The local BJP leadership got involved after a Jatav girl eloped with a Muslim boy.

Village Ashapur, Police Station Kotwali, Faizabad; June 2: A game of cricket between Muslim and Rawat boys ended in a fight, in which BJP workers got involved. A case has been registered.

Village Neta Nagar, Police Station Karari, Kaushambi; June 6: Local BJP leaders got involved after an incident of stone throwing between Pasi and Muslim groups. Hindus complained to police, and an FIR was registered against the Muslims.

Village Kasba, Police Station Thana Bhavan, Shamli; July 14: BJP leaders led protests after a Khatik girl eloped with a Muslim boy.

Mohalla Naurangabad East, Police Station Sikanderarao, Hathras; July 15: BJP leaders led a protest roadblock after a Jatav girl committed suicide, allegedly after having been raped by a Muslim man.

Mohalla Malkand, Police Station Bilgram, Hardoi; July 17: An object that looked like a Shiv Linga was found while digging near a Quabristan, following which Hindus put up a flag at the spot and began worship. Police intervened after Muslims protested; the local BJP leadership was present.

Indeed, the aggressiveness of Dalit populations has been a significant aspect of the communal tension in the state, and especially in Western UP, in this period. In the July 25 Saharanpur riot — in which Sikhs clashed with Muslims — half of all incidents of arson and violence took places in Dalit and Muslim areas.

According to a senior police officer who was involved in tackling the fallout of the riot, Dalit rioters were involved in around 70 per cent of cases of destruction of property. In Kalasi Lane on the outskirts of Saharanpur town, an area that is surrounded by Muslim and Dalit neighbourhoods, only three shops in a shopping complex were set on fire — all belonging to Muslim tailors. All the suspects that police have in the case are Dalits.

Of all the non-Muslims who were arrested for the violence in Saharanpur, only 2 per cent were Sikhs — most of the rest were Dalit Hindus.

The second significant — and new — aspect of the ongoing phase of communal tensions in UP is the intensity and spread of the violence in areas that are completely or predominantly rural. Rumour has played a role in polarisation, along with instruments of propaganda and posturing such as loudspeakers.

In several cases, communal tensions have polarised communities that have had no history of animosity, and have lived in harmony for decades.

In Muzaffarnagar’s Kheti Viran, 80-year-old Izhar Hussain, the oldest person in the village, described how the family had decided to leave after Partition, but had been persuaded by Hindu neighbours to return from the railway station. Years later, Hussain’s uncle, Miyan Majahir Hussain, then the biggest landlord in the village, donated the piece of land on which a Ravidas Mandir stands today.

Kheti Viran is run as a single administrative unit along with its twin Badarpur. Together, the two villages are home to 4,500 families, Hindu and Muslim in the ratio of 60:40. A majority of Hindus are Dalits.

On July 11, around 6.30 pm, village elders in Kheti Viran reprimanded a Muslim neighbour for tying his buffaloes next to the gate of the Ravidas Mandir. Within a half hour, a 600-strong mob had gathered at the temple. Most in the crowd were Dalits from Badarpur, who had heard that Muslims had forcibly removed the temple’s loudspeaker.

“Someone had spread a rumour in Badarpur that Muslims had damaged the temple’s loudspeaker,” Pradhan Jag Sooran Singh said. Local BSP leaders — facing a statewide erosion in their party’s Dalit-Muslim base — tried to get involved, as did the local BJP unit. But Kheti Viran pushed back.

Two weeks after the July 11 incident, villagers insisted there was no divide. They recounted an incident after last year’s riots in Muzaffarnagar, when a tractor was burnt not far from the village, and both communities had taken it in turns to patrol the perimeter of Kheti.

And yet, several villagers told The Indian Express that they were disturbed that the old Bhaichaara had been replaced by Tanaav, and that so many people had responded to the rumour about the loudspeaker. On August 6, in Part 2 of this Investigation, The Indian Express had reported how a provocative WhatsApp message, purportedly sent by a local VHP leader in Saharanpur, had triggered a near riot, with 2,500 Hindus willing to confront Muslims in the street.

A 40-minute drive from Kheti Viran, towards the east, is Kheti Sarai village. There, a few metres away from the compound in which the local Ravidas Mandir and Shiv Mandir stand, a new madrasa has come up. Students come from as far away as Assam.

On June 18, two days after a full-scale riot took place in Kant, Moradabad, 25-odd students of the madrasa, all in the age group of 12-18 years, allegedly forced their way into the Ravidas Mandir and damaged the loudspeaker.

According to the Dalits, who make up 40 per cent of the village, the local BSP MLA, Maulana Jameel, has been visiting the madrasa frequently and patronizing the Muslims of the area. Jameel had been arrested for allegedly inciting riots in Muzaffarnagar last year.

According to Manavendra Singh, the former Pradhan of Kheti Sarai who played a role in cooling tensions, the BJP’s Lok Sabha member from Bijnor, Bharatendra Singh, had wanted to visit the village to address a gathering. But Manavendra Singh had refused to cooperate.

Manavendra Singh said he was associated with the BJP himself, but “I don’t want any issue in this village. We are living in really bad days.”

He added, “A lot of people from Muzaffarnagar town wanted to visit the village to show solidarity with the Hindus. I ensured with the help of the police that nobody actually came here.”



Fighting Kids to Dhaba Bill: Takes Little To Keep Communal Pot Simmering

By Appu Esthose Suresh

August 9, 2014

As many as 605 communal incidents took place in the 71 days in Uttar Pradesh between May 16 and July 25 — that is, nearly nine incidents a day on average — but fewer than a dozen people died in them.  That, however, is of little comfort.

For, police records scrutinised by The Indian Express suggest the creation of a carefully calibrated state of unrest — in which tensions simmered just below the surface, and frequently erupted in an “incident”, but which were rarely allowed to become full-scale communal conflagrations.

The SP government and district administrations, sometimes working with village communities, prevented riots like the ones seen in Muzaffarnagar last year. But powerful polarising currents continued to fan mistrust and hostility, and created a general atmosphere that kept both Hindus and Muslims on edge.

The analysis of police records of all 600-odd communal incidents shows they were often triggered by trivial issues. Clashes, sometimes leading to curfew and lockdown of markets, started, for example, after an argument over who should be served first in a local eatery; the use of a public latrine by one community; the grazing of cattle by a member of one community in a field owned by a member of another community; the cutting of a Neem tree, small collisions between children riding bicycles and minor motorbike accidents; bathing in ponds and canals, etc.

Consider These Incidents Recorded In The 12 By Poll Areas.

Western UP

Patti Choudhran, Badauth police station, Baghpat; May 27:

A Hindu man allegedly refused to pay after a meal in a restaurant owned by a Muslim, leading to clashes between the communities.

Shaoukat Market, Baghpat; June 11:

A Hindu man on a motorcycle bumped into an auto rickshaw in which a Muslim man was travelling. An altercation followed, and soon, Hindu youths and Muslim traders were fighting in the street.

Village Khirva, Naobad police station, Sardana, Meerut; June 18:

Groups of Hindus and Muslims fought over bathing in a small canal. Ten members each from both communities have been charged by police.

Mavana Bus Stand, Civil Lines police station, Meerut; June 29:

Some Hindus enjoying a “rain dance” outside a Masjid near the bus stand allegedly began religious chants, which led to a communal clash.

Village Damath, Purkazi police station, Muzaffarnagar; July 10:

Gujjars released their buffaloes in a public pond in Gagan Nagar, in which Muslims were bathing. This triggered repeated clashes between the communities until police pressed charges.


Village Goutoura, Sarojini Nagar police station, Lucknow; May 21:

Hindus and Muslims clashed over defecating in a field, and over picking mangoes from an orchard.

Nooruddin Nagar, Kothwai police station, Unnao; May 30:

A Hindu child learning to ride a bicycle hit a Muslim child’s bicycle, sparking an argument that ended in a street fight between the communities.

Ashok Nagar, Bilhaur police station, Kanpur; June 24:

Hindus and Muslims clashed over the distribution of Prasad by a Hindu family.


Shastri Nagar, Kheri; May 19:

A minor Hindu girl was suspected to have eloped with her Muslim teacher. Police initially registered a complaint against unknown persons, which led to Hindu organisations calling for a protest, and a lockdown of the local market.

Village Guthana, Prayagpur police station, Bahraich; June 6:

An argument between a group of Hindu guests at a wedding and a Muslim fruit vendor resulted in a fight between the baraatis and Muslims.

Eastern UP

Bhavanipur, Rohaniya police station, Varanasi; May 31:

A Hindu man objected to a Muslim’s goats grazing in his field. There was an altercation, and police charged members of both communities with spreading disharmony.

Village Ilayichiyan, Shahganj police station, Jaunpur; June 1:

The father of a Hindu girl complained to police about an alleged plan by a Muslim boy to elope with his daughter. Hindu leaders called for shutters to be downed to protest the lack of police action.

Village Shobhapur, Kotwali Dehat police station, Mirzapur; June 12:

Muslims objected to a band playing in a baarat, leading to a clash. Police charged members of both communities with violating law and order.

Gopiganj, Mirzapur; June 21:

A motorcycle driven by a Hindu hit a Muslim and a scuffle broke out. A Hindu organisation called for Bandh on June 23 and, on June 24, protesters burnt effigies of the police and administration.

Village Telidhana, Adampur police station, Varanasi; July 1:

Hindus led protests against Muslims who tried to cut down a Neem tree.

Petty incidents triggering communal situations was a trend seen across UP — and similar small incidents were able to trigger clashes in places geographically far removed from each other.

Thus, fights over the use of public water bodies led to clashes in Meerut and Muzaffarnagar; arguments over the bill in an eatery triggered tensions in Baghpat and Bahraich. Small motorbike accidents led to clashes in Gopiganj in Eastern UP’s Mirzapur, as well as in Baghpat in Western UP.

In both Saharanpur’s Beleda and Muzaffarnagar’s Galibpur, kanwaria and wedding processions led to tensions. In Beleda on July 16, the local police were able to broker a deal under which the Hindu processions took a route that avoided a Masjid. However, in Galibpur on May 30, both Hindus and Muslims showed less flexibility.

A senior police officer who has tackled multiple riots in UP over the past year told The Indian Express that a state of simmering communal tension was dangerous because it was continuous and unpredictable. “A riot ends an issue. The reaction to a riot caps its spread. On the other hand, low-key issues are unpredictable, they build up, and the fissures between the communities keep getting wider. It is more dangerous.”