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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Four states, same story of discrimination

From Indian Express
The last six months have witnessed attacks on members of the minority community in four different states: Forbesganj, Arhariya in Bihar, Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, Rudrapur in Uttarakhand and Gopalgarh, Bharatpur in Rajasthan. All those who have been killed and suffered material losses have been members of the minority community. Despite the fact that the states concerned are ruled by very different political dispensations — the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, JD(U)-BJP in Bihar, the BJP in Uttarakhand and the Congress in Rajasthan — the unforgivable and dangerous communal bias displayed by the police and administration and the ways in which political rulers have sought to cover up, justify or downplay this bias, have been similar. Those who believe that all Indian citizens have the right to equal treatment from the administration and the judiciary must voice their concern.


Affected families from Forbesganj, Moradabad and Gopalgarh attended a convention against communal conflict organised by the All India Democratic Women’s Association in the capital recently. Rudrapur went unrepresented because the families of victims have fled the town. They spoke at the convention about bereavement. It was not pity they sought, but recognition of injustice, and punishment of those responsible.



On June 3, Muslims in Forbesganj resisted the state government’s effort to deny them access to a road that was their only link to the mosque, schools and workplaces. The police version is that the protesters resorted to stone-throwing. The police responded by firing. Four Muslims, including a woman and an eight-month-old infant, were killed. One of those killed was 18-year-old Mustafa, and a policeman was filmed jumping on his dead body. His brother, Quddus, recited his poem at the convention: “Jo soch naheen sakti duniya, voh manzar kal dikhlaya hai, vardi mein darinda aaya hai, vardi mein darinda aaya hai...” Except for giving compensation to the dead infant’s family, the state has not taken any action — even the photographed constable has not been punished. A few days ago, after the Supreme Court’s intervention, a judicial inquiry was announced.

The trouble in Moradabad started on July 6, when local policemen went to enquire into a complaint, and allegedly slapped a12-year-old girl and kicked the Quran. News of this “desecration” spread like wildfire in areas heavily populated with Muslims, followed by road-blocks and the burning of police jeeps. Unfortunately, the DIG was attacked by a mob that he was trying to reason with while, inexplicably, the DM returned to Moradabad. Reinforcements brought the situation under control. While there are complaints of indiscriminate beatings, destruction of property and arrests — even of those who had been helping the administration — what is outrageous that three minors received bullet wounds and at least 12 minors are among those arrested. One of them, Rehan, the son of a daily-wage labourer who sold his entire holding of 2 bighas of land to have his son treated, died on October 19. No reports have been filed even though at least two of them were treated in government hospitals, and the administration and judiciary have refused to accept school certificates and send the minors to a juvenile home and their cases to a juvenile court. Salma, whose son Tauseef is one of the school-children, showed the convention his photograph.

Ten Meos belonging to Gopalgarh, Bharatpur were killed on September 14, most of them in police firing. A long-standing dispute over a graveyard that the administration was aware of, but did not resolve, led to an attack on some Meos. The police called both parties to the thana and reached a compromise that recognised the Meos’ right to the graveyard. This was not acceptable to some members of the majority community who surrounded the thana, falsely alleging that they were being “massacred” by the Muslims. The DM and SP reacted by declaring that “they” would be taught a lesson. Indiscriminate firing on the Meos and on the mosque was resorted to. The Rajasthan government has made some interventions, but the villagers accused of killing and incitement have not been punished.

Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, saw a deliberate attempt to incite communal clashes when, in September, pig-meat wrapped in pages torn from the Koran was thrown near a temple. The police did nothing and, on October 2, the same thing happened again near a mosque. When Muslims demonstrated outside the thana, they were attacked by the police, who also encouraged others to follow suit. At least eight Muslims were killed, shops belonging to them were looted, and thousands have fled.

The events of recent months have emphasised the necessity of making the police, administration and judiciary free of bias and committed to secular principles. Exemplary punishment must be meted out to those who violate these principles. Governments must display much more sensitivity and commitment to rehabilitation. The state has to prove its commitment to the secular Constitution through action that cannot be half-hearted and tardy.

The writer is vice-president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association and member of the central committee of the CPM

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