UTTAR PRADESH: Bulanshahar Violence and Killings
ON December 3, 2018, Bajrang Dal activists mobilised supporters from neighbouring areas to congregate in village Marwah, Bulandshahar district where pieces of cow meat were prominently displayed in a field. The owner of the field and others in his village had informed the police and were in the process of giving the meat a quiet burial when a gang led by Yogesh Raj, district convenor of the Bajrang Dal, arrived and loaded the remains onto a tractor trolley. The Inspector of Sayana PS., Subodh Singh Rathore tried to reason with them but the frenzied mob insisted on driving to the main Bulandhshahar-Gadh road which they were determined to block. The reason for this was the fact that about 15 lakh Muslims had congregated 50 kilometres away for a religious gathering, Ijtema, which ended on that day. Thousands of them would be returning home and the Bajrang Dal leaders and supporters were hell-bent on using the cow remains to organise attacks on them and engineer a major riot that would spread in Western UP like the riots of 2012.
Subodh Singh was at a severe disadvantage since most of the police personnel of the district were involved with the Ijtema. In any case his PS is severely undermanned, like all the police stations in the state. Despite this, he and his constables did everything to clear the road. Yogesh Raj’s goons had come armed with swords and weapons. They resorted to firing and brickbatting and Subodh Singh suffered a severe head injury. His driver managed to carry him to his jeep to take him to a hospital but the goons resorted to firing and Subodh Singh was killed. A boy in the crowd, Sumit (18 years old) who belonged to a neighbouring village was also killed by a bullet identical to the one that killed Subodh Singh.
These deaths forced the goons and their leaders to flee and a bloody communal conflagaration was averted but at the cost of two lives.
On the 4th, a CPI(M) delegation led by state secretariat member, Surinder Singh and including state committee member and district secretary, Chandrapal Singh, visited the site of the violence (Chiravati Police Chowki) but were prevented by the police from going into the villages. They returned on the 5th and have submitted a detailed report of their findings.
Their report has important conclusions. The farmers of Mawah village, where the cow remains were found, did not suspect anyone of cow-slaughtering because this is something that does not occur in this area. They were extremely angered by the fact that ‘outsiders’ had entered the area in order to foment communal tension and rioting. In the neighbouring villages also, including Sumit’s village, the farmers expressed the opinion that the Muslims in the area who are quite few in number, had never indulged in cow slaughtering. They also expressed relief that the attacks on the participants in the Ijtema did not take place because this would have led to ‘unbearable consequences’.
On the 4thand 5th, ‘cow remains’ in other villages were also reported but farmers of both communities sat in dharna together, requesting the administration to take action.
While those responsible for the killings and incitement have been identified, the ringleader Yogesh Raj remains at large. He is a known ‘trouble-maker’ in the area and has been involved in innumerable cases of communal rabble-rousing. He is, of course, being supported openly by elected BJP leaders of the area. Most astonishingly, he was able to lodge an FIR on the December 3, in which he ‘named’ several Muslims, accusing them of cow-slaughter. Four of them have been arrested despite the fact that neither did Yogesh witness any cow-killing in Mawah and nor were the accused in the area at the time.
The chief minister of the state has, of course, responded to the violence and killings by emphasizing that the main issue is that of cow slaughter, the killings are ‘just an accident’.
In another twist to the tale, an Army man, Jitu Fauji who has been identified in videos of the incident and is believed to be responsible for firing and possibly murder has been arrested. He has confessed to having been present on the 3rd, but insists that he was just a bystander.
The communal tinder-box that Western UP, along with other parts of the state and the country have become, is a danger that cannot be overstated. In the days to come, the Sangh Parivar will resort to greater aggression and incitement to violent attacks as they know that popular discontent, specially among the peasantry, is reaching huge proportions. At the same time, this discontent and anger is also encouraging ordinary rural people to come together not only for their demands but also to protect unity and peace.
The CPI(M) has been organising a series of Bhaichara (solidarity) conventions in Western UP in the last few months. The response has been very encouraging and many sections of people, including political leaders and secular-minded individuals are attending the conventions and joining the organising committees. Many of those involved have been active in Siyana since the beginning of December. They have been helping those coming from far-off places to attend the Ijtema and helping them even more in leaving it safely. Many provided shelter and food to those who were caught on the road on December 3.
On December 19, a massive convention will be held in Bulandshahr city to further strengthen the efforts to forge solidarity and defeat the communal agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
(With inputs from Surinder Singh, CPI(M) state secretariat member)