Has Madhya Pradesh developed into a Hindutva laboratory?

By Md. Ali, TwoCircles.net,

Patna : A delegation of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) led by its Chairperson Mohamed Shafi Qureshi visited the riot-torn areas of Khujrana and Junaresala in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) on July 15, 2008.

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These two Muslim-dominated ghettos were very much affected in the riots which broke out on 3rd July, the day when Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) gave a call for “Bharat Bandh” as a protest against the withdrawal by the J&K Govt. of the forest land given to the Amarnath Shrine Board.

On the day, Hindutva activists went into the Muslim-dominated areas and tried to enforce the “bandh”. In order to provoke the Muslims they started harassing and beating them.

The police are alleged to have played a biased role against the underprivileged Muslims. Many social activists point out that the police were complicit in and directly involved in the killing of at least three Muslim youths.

Armed mob in Indore

The official figure of those who were killed in the riots is eight. They include Imran, Shareef Patel, Anwar Patel, Khemchand Mafi, Mahmood Khan, Zishan, Rizwan.

In a well-thought out plan the BJP Government of Madhya Pradesh lifted curfew and the enforcement of 144 of IPC in Khujrana and Jorselan the day before the NCM team visited the areas. This was to show the delegation that the situation has returned to normal.

But it appears that underneath the surface calm lies deep tension.

The NMC delegation visited each and every home of the victims and met their family members. The delegation also had a meeting with the officials of the Indore administration.

Talking to the press after surveying the whole situation yesterday NCM Chairperson Mohamed Shafi Qureshi said that the riots were preplanned.

After the NCM visit, the administration gave the orders for the inquiry into the killing of two Muslim youths, Rizwanur Rahman and Zishan, allegedly by the police. A case has already been registered against three policemen. The report of the inquiry will be submitted within a month.

Today on the 16th July, the NCM delegation also met a group of People’s Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL)which included representatives of various organisatios.

The PUCL was among the very few organizations which dared to work in the riot-torn areas and people associated with these organizations have continued their fight for protection of human rights of the people affected in the riots.

The PUCL group discussed various issues concerning the riots; prominent among them were the complicity and the involvement of the police in the killing of the innocent Muslims, the illegal arrest of Muslim youths on the name of SIMI and the case of Imran, a 17-year-old boy who was killed by the police during the riot.

Another point the group took up with the NCM delegation was the “illegal” arrest of poor Muslim youths on the name of SIMI in Malwa, a district close to Indore.

The NCM took a tough stand on it. Qureshi wondered that from where on earth the police got this lead when no evidence points towards the group.

Some times it sems that in the form of SIMI the administration has created an alibi which is made responsible for every wrong that happens in the state.

Dead in police firings

The PUCL group pointed out that it is unfortunate that the Commission did not take any tough stand on the role of the administration, although the police were directly involved and complicit in the riots against the Muslims. Many people have been killed with the guns of police.

So, the PUCL group said that at least the Commission should have pointed out that it got the impression from talking to the victims and the relatives of those killed that the police were complicit in the killing of Muslims and played a biased role in dealing with the riot, and it should be investigated into.

Interestingly, the Commission decided to visit Indore only after the report of PUCL Standing Committee and a complaint by Sandarbh, a human rights organization.

Otherwise the Home Minister of the state had considered that it was not a very serious incident and the situation is under control, police have restored peace in the area.

And when TwoCircles.net spoke to the Chairman of the State Commission for Minorities, Anwar Mohammad Khan, he too tried to undermine the whole episode. Being a BJP leader he cannot point out the failures of his party’s government in the state.

He said that the fight was not communal initially; there were some property issues involved in the case. But later on the case took communal colors. He said that the police have managed to bring “peace” in the area.

The PUCL group demanded from the NCM delegation that the victims of the riots should be provided with the adequate security in order to bring a lasting peace in the affected areas.

The PUCL group further pointed out that only if the government implements the recommendations of the Commission, situation can be kept from worsening.

In the aftermath of the riots various peace committees have been formed.But these committees do not have adequate representation of the social and human rights activists.The committees comprise the representatives of the political parties, who talk about forgiving each other including the police personnel who are alleged to have killed two innocent Muslim youths.

Khajrana had been a model of communal harmony since last four hundred years, as in earlier occasions it had managed to remain untouched of the communal tensions generated throughout Indore, but this time it gave in and was the worst hit of the communal riot which broke since the call of bandh given by the right wing Hindutva groups like Bajrang Dal, ABVP on 3rd July. The bandh was supported by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

There seems a parallel between the way Gujarat riots were orchestrated and the riots in Indore: involvement of Hindus from lower castes and the Other Backward Classes in the riots against Muslims. In Gujarat riots of 2002 also the Dalits were included in the violence against Muslims.

Another parallel which comes out prominently and starkly between the two riots: the role played by a section of the local media, particularly the electronic media, in the coverage of riots.

In much the same way as the Gujarati media played into the hands of the communalists and encouraged the rioters to retaliate against Muslims in order to avenge the Godhra carnage, the local media of Indore also had an important role to play in the riots.

First of all, the way the local media of Indore presented the riots is not only prejudiced but also misrepresentation of facts. It tried to justify the killing of the innocent in the riots by creating the alibi in the form of SIMI. It fanned the panic and the SIMI phobia instead of pointing the culprits involved in the riots.

All blames were put on SIMI. But at most SIMI could have thrown stones because this is what the Muslim side did expressing their anger, says Dubey pointing out that everybody knows that the Hindus openly fired at Muslims and four of them were killed with their bulles.

Instead of being the conscience of the society the local media in Indore remained indifferent to injustice, pain and trauma felt by the victims of the riots because they happened to be the underprivileged Muslims. When the riot was at its climax and curfew was clamped, instead of reporting about the riots the media was reporting on how enjoyable this period of curfew is to the middle class families. It reported extensively on the kinds of parties that were going on in the homes.

From the reporting of a section of the local media, one got the was as if nothing has happened.

It all showed that there have emerged clearly defined divisions within the minds of people. This division is manifested in the separation of Muslim ghettos from the residences of Hindus.

The feeling is that Muslims are no longer important. “We” can be developed without “them.”

This is not a new situation in which Muslims are sidelined from the mainstream life in any state. Gujarat has shown the way to the present Madhya Pradesh. In much the same way the government can afford to do away with the Muslims altogether and be a model of an excellent “developed state.” Madhya Pradesh too is going on the way of becoming another Hindutva Laboratory.