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Normalcy eludes Kasganj, fear high among communities, as UP administration "harassing" minorities: NAPM

By Our Representative
A fact-finding team of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of grassroots organizations across India, has found that in Uttar Pradesh's Kasganj town, which saw communal clashes on the Republic Day, "an atmosphere of gloom" prevails even today. Birthplace of Amir Khusroe and Tulsidas, Kasganj's "normal lives are disrupted", the NAPM said in its report released on February 5.
Those who were on fact-finding mission on February 2-3 included Vimal Bhai, NAPM's national convener (Uttarakhand), Sudha, Afroze Jahan (from UP) and Rishit Neogi (Delhi), observing, possible, "The situation still remains tense. There is an atmosphere of tension and fear in the communities."
Pointing out that Uttar Pradesh was being turned into the next laboratory of Hindutva, the report said, Kasganj, which is two hours drive from Aligarh, saw riots following a Tiranga bike rally consisting 60-65 bikes "forcefully" trying to "pass through the narrow lanes of Buddoonagar."
A pre-dominantly Muslim area, a flag-hoisting ceremony was on at its Shaheed Hamid Chowk exactly then. "The bikers demanded the entire setup consisting of the tricolour, chairs and a small stage/microphone to be removed and make way for the rally to pass", the report said.
When the residents asked the bikers to take another diversion, as it was an annual affair and the programme would be soon concluded, the bikers initiated "heated arguments" raising "communally charged slogans like ‘Bharat mein rehna hoga to vande mataram kehna hoga’ and allegedly tried to raise saffron flags in the area."
Altercations followed and the bikers left Buddoonagar without their bikes. Elsewhere in the town, things became tense after a bullet killed a young Hindu boy Chandan Gupta. This subsequently raised the tension and mobilisations leading up to imposition of curfew and deployment of security forces across town, leading to complete shutdown of the town, the report said.
Pointing towards the type of insecurity prevailing in the town, the report said, "The team met Naushad, a 33-year-old labourer from Kasganj at the Aligarh Muslim University hospital general ward. Naushad carries marble slabs on his back for a living. He was shot in his thigh in the riot, and a bullet passed through his thighs. Till now, no one from the police, administration or government has met Naushad or offered any help or compensation."
The team found that many youngsters from Buddoonagar "were picked up by the police on charges ranging from murder, rioting to disturbing peace. Their friends and relatives claim they are innocent. Such was the tale of Rashid who was arrested along with his father and brother and later released arbitrarily with charges of Sec 151. Their phones were snatched during the operation and never returned."
The report said, "In the riot, lasting for three days, around 45 shops belonging to Muslims were set on fire. Many mosques were vandalized. A prominent business owner along with his family members, who owns one of the few profitable enterprises belonging to people from the Muslim community, has been arrested on serious charges of having conspired the riots."
Pointing out that despite a peace meeting called by the DG – Law & Order in the Nagar Palika Hall on January 29, where assurances of normal life were given, the report said, shopkeepers continued to be "harassed/arrested when they tried to go back to their shops".
It added, "Whereas predominantly Muslim areas were cordoned off with heavy security, elsewhere in the city, prominent small and medium Muslim businesses existing in main markets were allowed to burn. There was no effort by the administration to offer any real security or relief to quell the fear and paranoia of the citizens."
Noting that till date "there has been no action taken for stopping rumours and Facebook - WhatsApp hate messages", the report especially regretted, "The pronouncements of the Kasganj MP Raju Bhaiya from BJP openly calling for ‘blood for blood’ further created fear and hatred."
Demanding "a judicial commission to ensure fair inquiry into the January 26 incident leading to the murder of Chandan Gupta, and causing injuries to several others, arson and loot, burning of shops, damage to property and attack on mosques etc.", the team insisted, "Police should immediately register FIRs against perpetrators of violence without showing any prejudice to any community".

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