UTTAR PRADESH: Sangh Parivar Fomenting Communal Riots
GROUPS aligned with the Sangh Parivar are doing everything in their power to engineer riots in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of prime minister, Narendra Modi. Most unfortunately, Congress leaders are also supporting their BJP counterparts in this unholy conspiracy. On October 5, so-called ‘holy’ men and religious leaders gave a call to take out a protest rally against the refusal of the district administration to allow them to immerse Ganesh statues in the Ganga in the third week of September. On September 22, there had been a 30 hour dharna staged by those insisting on immersion in the Ganga which had been forbidden by the High Court. The police had forcibly removed them at night. The protest rally was in response to this.
On October 5, thousands of people were allowed to collect where the ‘religious’ leaders indulged in provocative speeches before taking out the procession. A Congress MLA, Ajai Rai, was also present along with many local BJP and Congress leaders. Those participating in the procession raised anti-Muslim and violent slogans and then started stoning the police. The police responded with a lathicharge and by firing tear gas. Many police vehicles were burned along with some shops. Petrol bombs were also used and many private vehicles burned. The fact that these incidents occurred at Godauliya crossing which is where large numbers of Muslims have their residences and shops is proof of the fact that those organising the procession and leading it were determined to engineer riots. Things deteriorated to such an extent that curfew had to be imposed in many parts of the city.
What is surprising is that when the procession began the district magistrate himself stood before the ‘religious’ leaders with folded hands and begged them to kill him if that would assuage their feelings. Despite all that followed, one of the leaders, Avmukteshwaranand was allowed to immerse a symbol idol of Shiva, under police protection, making a mockery of the High Court orders. Not only that, this sort of immersion also makes a mockery of the promise to clean the Ganga that the BJP government has been re-iterating and for which it has allocated 22,000 crores of rupees. It should also be noted that, in the name of cleaning the Ganga, the administration is removing many small farmers who cultivate seasonal crops along the river.
The particular ganesh idol that was to be immersed on September 22 was that of the Maratha Ganeshotsav Samiti. The governor of UP, Swayamsevak Ram Naik had himself visited this pandal two days earlier. All the other Samitis accepted the administration’s request not to immerse their idols in the Ganga except for this one. Tension started brewing on the 21st itself as Hindutva volunteers went around the area shouting provocative, anti-Muslim slogans. On the 22nd morning, they went around announcing a Benares Bandh. There was no administrative response or presence. It was CPI(M) leaders who contacted the DM and SSP but there was no result and the rioters continued their provocative actions. They beat up some Muslim shopkeepers in order to enforce their bandh. The ordinary citizens, however, seemed determined to maintain peace in the city. Finally, the administration stepped in and, at night, they resorted to force. Avmukteswaranand, one of those who received some mild injuries, is a Congress supporter. The newspapers, unfortunately, gave highly exaggerated reports the next day. Not only that, a senior UP minister, Shivpal Yadav, publicly apologised to the ‘relgious’ leaders.
The CPI(M) called a meeting of secular groups and parties at its office which was very well-attended. Many religious leaders also attended. They met the commissioner with their demands and said that in view of the fact that Durga Puja was approaching and that many idols are immersed at that time, the administration much see that the law is upheld and peace maintained. Unfortunately, the administration does not seem to have learned its lesson and October 5, events were allowed to unfold.
The Sangh Parivar along with other communal leaders and organisations is hell-bent on organising riots during the festive season in many parts of the state. While Western UP is already extremely sensitive, the eastern districts are also threatened. The Samajwadi Party government does not seem to understand the gravity of the threat or what its response should be. This will only add fuel to the fire.