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Kutch communal violence 'provoked' to cause physical, psychological, financial damage

Counterview Desk 

The Gujarat-based civil rights organisation Minority Coordination Committee (MCC) team’s* fact-finding report on communal violence in Kutch, Gujarat, has claimed that it was a conspiracy to intimidate Muslims, grab their property and communally polarise people in view of the upcoming local body elections.
During the violence, which took place during the fund collection drive for the construction of Ram Mandir in two villages of Kutch last month, “the Muslims were provoked, with the help of police and administration, to such an extent that there should be some reaction from them”, the report states.

Text:

1. Kidana, Gandhidham

On January 17, 2021, in Kidana village of Gandhidham Block of Kutch, around 300 people mounted on 30 bikes and a tractor trolley, armed sticks, trident and spear, during the late hours of the day, began fund collection drive (Chanda Yatra) for the construction of Ram Mandir. The said Yatra soon entered in the Muslim locality of ​​the village with chants of provocative slogans such as "har Hindustani bolega, Jai ​​Shri Ram (Every Indian will say Jai Shri Ram)", “Babri Masjid Todenge, Ram Mandir Banayenge (will destroy Babri Masjid and build Ram temple)"- recalled a villager (name undisclosed).
These slogans became increasingly offensive and provocative, accompanied with derogatory and controversial remarks against Muslims, as they reached nearby village Mosque. A member of Muslim community tried to have reason with them but the mob kept on moving forward without hearing the plea of the man.
As they reached deeper inside the Muslim area, they began stone-pelting which they were carrying on tractor trolley. Bewildered people from the Muslim community made attempts to talk with the mob and Police personnel present during the Yatra. According to people “only 7 police officers were present and for such a small force, it is difficult to control the mob of more than 300”.
People contacted the district administration and senior police official over phone and requested additional force to control the mob and maintenance of law and order. The Superintendent of the Police soon arrived with additional force at the village and ordered mob to turn back. While returning, the mob attacked the house of Advocate Iqbal, and other three houses at the periphery of the village.
The mob vandalised vehicles parked outside houses and attempted to commit arson. Simultaneously, this news of attack spread in the village and people came out to support and help those attacked only to be welcomed by the tear gas fired on them by the police. On the other hand, people from the nearby villages joined the mob and blocked the entry and exit points of Muslim locality. During the incident, vehicles of police were also attacked and damaged but police failed to take any action against mob.
This mob blocked the road and continued to beat the people on the basis of their appearance. A rickshaw driver Noor Mohammed, was attacked by trident, which caused fatal damage to his neck while the passenger he was ferrying, Arjun, a labourer from Jharkhand, was attacked and killed on the spot. Arjun was attacked due to his beard and whom mob mistook as a Muslim. After getting information about the incident, the senior leader of Muslim Samaj, Haji Jumma came to the village, mob also attacked his vehicle, and the police had to fire tear gas shells in order to disperse the crowd.
According to local people, before the incident people from outside village started gathering near Ahir Samaj Wadi of the village around 4:00 pm and the incident took place at around 6:00 pm in Muslim locality. Within 15 minutes of incident, people from outside village were mobilised. Which shows that there was a planned conspiracy aimed at communal conflict in peace-loving village and deliberate attempt to cause damage to the properties of Muslims in an attempt to scare Muslims and force them to leave the village.
After damaging and destroying properties in Kidana Village, the anti-social elements moved to the adjacent village of Antarjad, where they vandalised a dargah and a mosque. The Chadar of the dargah was burned and religious books and other properties of Mosque was damaged.
Arjun, a labourer from Jharkhand, was attacked and killed on the spot. He was attacked due to his beard. The mob mistook him as a Muslim
During this entire incident, houses and properties of Muslim community were burnt and demolished; Arjun, a migrant labourer from Jharkhand was killed and a Dargah and mosque was desecrated. Despite the fact that many Muslims were injured, an FIR was lodged against them in which 30 people were arrested and only 13 people who were part of the mob were arrested. Police is yet to file a case Under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code for the gruesome and coldblooded murder of Arjun.
The reason behind conducting the fund collection drive in Muslim areas clearly points towards conspiracy to deliberately cause communal riots with an intentions to cause damage to property and lives of Muslims.
Prior to this incident, last year, a Tiranga Yatra (flag march) was conducted in the same village on the occasion of Republic Day. In this Yatra, instead of Tricolour, people were walking around the whole village, raising objectionable slogans with a saffron-coloured flag which resulted in a minor tussle between two communities on the same day. It is clear from this that the events of 17th January 2021 is part of a big pre-planned conspiracy devised to cause communal riots.

2. Sadav, Mundra

On January 17, 2021, at around 4:30 pm, 15 to 20 bike riders come together and did a round of the village. While doing this they indulged themselves in a small ruckus with villagers. Again, they returned around the time of evening prayer (Maghrib) with more than 300 people on car and bike and began playing loud music for around an hour on the road on which mosque is located.
As they raised communally loaded slogans, people of the community tried to have dialogue with them and asked that there is no need of such a large number of people in this small village and no need to play loud music in such close proximity of mosque at this time as well. The communally motivated mob did not paid any heed to the request of the villagers. Despite all the provocations, villagers asked them if they have permission from the administration to gather in such a large number and play loud music. According to the mob, they had obtained permission from Mamlatdar.
As time passed, few people, part of mob attempted to forcefully enter homes of people of Muslim community and made objectionable remarks at the children’s playing outside their homes and tried to provoke the community. Police was present and it effectively assumed a role of spectator during entire episode. It appeared, as eyewitnesses claimed, that there was an order from above to allow the mob to commit hooliganism.
***
Looking at both incidents, it is clear that both events were pre-planned with an aim to disrupt communal harmony, cause physical, psychological and financial damage to the people of a particular religion. It is a part of a larger conspiracy to create fear among Muslims and force them into ghettoized colonies. In both these incidents, a systematic recce was conducted by few people then later gather at Muslim localities with large number of people in order to disturb peace and deliberate harassment. Evidences suggest, police and administration is hand in gloves with anti-social elements of the society and part of larger conspiracy.

Findings of the team

In January 2021, a four-member independent fact-finding team visited abovementioned areas to investigate the causes of communal violence in Kutch district. Due to the restraint and understanding of the people, the incidents of violence did not spread much, the members of the party felt that these incidents deepened the disharmony among Hindu-Muslim. If the atmosphere of communal harmony is not sustained, then the threat to life, security and prospects of development of people of Gujarat will deepen.
From January 25 to 27, 2021, the team visited the villages and met with affected people, this team found that there are some similarities in these two events and their form resembles each other in a particular way. In Kidana, Gandhidham, the majority community crowd deliberately chose Muslim-dominated areas and took out rallies and raised derogatory slogans etc.
In these incidents, rallies were taken out in Muslim-dominated areas, in the name of collecting donations for construction of Ram Temple which to be built in Ayodhya. The Muslims were provoked, with the help of police and administration, to such an extent that there should be some reaction from them.
On one hand, it tried to create panic in the Muslim community, on the other hand, through the media, they were proved stone-pelter and put in behind bars. The victims also pointed out that such communal incidents increase more with the coming of elections. Remember that elections are going to be held in Gujarat for panchayats and local bodies in coming months.
The members of the investigation team believe that the statements by those in positions of authority and those responsible in the ruling parties clearly encourage fringe elements to commit violence against minorities. Due to pressure from the government, the police and administrative system are completely failed to discharge their constitutional obligations and duties.
In all cases it was also seen that the police failed to take action against the fringe elements and First Information Report (FIR) of the victims were not written. Team members felt that the police machinery was under great pressure in the face of this state-sponsored and protected majority led communal violence.

Demands of the fact finding team from government and administration:

  1. Curb on armed rallies for the collection of donation
  2. Deployment of police force in large numbers in areas where these rallies are planned
  3. Video recording of such rallies should be done in order to maintain police impartiality
  4. Release of innocent people arrested in these incidents and the real culprits should be put behind bars
  5. Appropriate compensation to people whose houses or other properties have been demolished or looted
  6. Immediate compensation to Mosque and Dargah for repair
  7. Compensate those injured or died in these incidents
  8. If police negligence is found, then officer and other police personnel involved should be dismissed immediately and criminal case should be registered against them
  9. Those raised provocative and offensive slogans should be booked under UAPA Act
  10. Such rallies should not be allowed in Muslim area and if there is a no way except through Muslim areas, then there should be a meeting with the people of both the communities in order to make necessary arrangements to avoid communal tension
  11. Permission should be denied for use of DJs and movement towards or near religious places should not granted
  12. Storage and transportation of stones, sticks, baton, trident, hockey, baseball bat inside tractor trolley should be banned and those who found not following these rules should be booked for treason
  13. It should be made mandatory to have 50% women in such rallies so that the indecent or anti-social elements should be controlled
  14. In order to restore peace, harmony and law and order, programs should be organised for collective harmony and reconciliation.
  15. A policy should be made for the rehabilitation of people affected by communal violence.
---
*Mujahid Nafees (convener, Minority Coordination Committee, Gujarat), and social workers Usman Gani Sherasia, Ibrahim Turk, and Mohammad Lakha

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