Bihar riots: fact-finding team alleges violence was staged by BJP and Bajrang Dal

By Staff Reporter

A fact-finding team of comprising of activists and journalists mainly belonging to human rights group United Against Hate (UAH) released its fact-finding report on recent Bihar riots on Monday in the lawns of Press Club of India, New Delhi. The team, which comprised of Nadeem Khan, Prashant Tandon, Hasnul Banna, Tarique Anwar, Sagrika Kissu, Mahtab Alam, Farrah Shakeb, visited Siwan, Gaya, Kaimur, Aurangabad, Samastipur, Munger, Nawada, Nalanda, Haiderganj and Rosera areas of Bihar after the engineered communal violence around Ram Navami this year.

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As the press statement notes, the team spoke extensively to the people of these riot-affected places belonging to both the communities. “We spoke to eye-witnesses and state officials in order to understand how the violence unfolded,” said the statement.

The UAH team has alleged that after speaking to people and visiting riot-affected places, it was very clear that this violence was not spontaneous but pre-planned and very carefully orchestrated by the BJP and Bajrang Dal hooligans.

“There was a similar pattern of violence that was orchestrated in every place that we visited. In many places, preempting the violence, peace meetings were held that had set terms and conditions to the rallies next day to avoid violence. Even the police gave conditional permission to all the Rama Navami rallies and set their definite routes,” claimed the fact-finding team.

“But all these conditions and routes were violated on the next day. The rallies were forcefully taken to Muslim areas, where extremely derogatory communal songs were played and communally provocative slogans were raised. This was followed by large-scale violence, where particularly mosques and Muslim properties were targeted by the mob. At many places, they even destroyed properties and shops owned by Hindu community,” said the statement.

The songs and slogans were distributed in CDs and pen drive a few days back which show the meticulous planning of the violence. The example of the songs played like “Topi wala bhi sar jhuka ke Jai Shri Ram bolega”, “Ramlala hum aayenge mandir wahin manayenge”, and “Jo chuyega Hinduo ki hasti ko, jala dalenge har ki basti ko”.

According to the report, one allegation that was common in the versions of both sides that the mob was carrying a large number of swords. The Principal Secretary (Home) Amir Subhani also confirmed the same. These sharp edge weapons were imported through courier from outside and distributed across the districts for free.

“We were aware of swords being present at the processions in large numbers. Don’t know exactly how many. It is hard to track sales online. Swords have never been seen before at the processions,” he said. “We are living in a volatile maybe even explosive situation.”

The Bhagalpur timeline, according to the UAH fact-finding report, notes, “Clashes broke out between the two communities on March 17 in Bhagalpur – the Silk City on the southern banks of the river Ganges – after workers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the RSS and the Bajrang Dal took out an unauthorised procession led by Union Minister Ashwini Choubey’s son Arijit Shashwat to mark ‘Vikram Samvat’ – a Hindu new year.”

Furthermore, the procession, organised by the Bharatiya Navvarsh Jagran Samiti, passed through a 15 km route, which included at least half-a-dozen Muslim-majority areas. The clashes occurred in Medini Chowk – a Muslim concentrated area – under Nathnagar police station.

In Samastipur, one of the areas most affected by riots, “A mob of hundreds of people with saffron headbands and swords were passing through the Gudri Bazaar area, chanting provocative slogans. A sleeper fell from a rooftop and hit one of them. I don’t know whether it was thrown intentionally. Following the incident, violence erupted between the two communities in the presence of the police who acted as mute spectators. Somehow, both the groups were pacified and the procession moved away. Fearing a backlash, shutters were brought down in the entire market. The mob returned and looted the shops owned by Muslims before setting them on fire,” recalled a local to the UAH team.
UAH has further alleged, “In many places, police stayed as mute spectators while in others they were unable to control the mob.”

BJP Cabinet minister Ashwini Kumar Choube’s son Arijit Saraswat, BJP MP Sushil Kumar Singh and Congress MLA Anand Shankar Singh’s involvement in riots were clear as per many eyewitness accounts and photographic evidence claimed the UAH report. “The complicity of the police and the Nitish Kumar’s government in allowing the communal goons of RSS BJP and Bajrang dal to create the ruckus in the name of Ramnavami was absolutely clear.”

The team has demanded the accountability of the public officials and elected representatives, who participated, instigated and encouraged the riots to be fixed and should be given an exemplary punishment.

It has also demanded the authorities to provide compensation for the victims at soonest possibility.

A judicial inquiry to look into the plan and programme of the organized violence is also one of the major demand raised by the UAH team.