Caste violence: What actually happened in Kasganj?
According to the findings of a fact-finding team, the violence was perpetrated by fringe elements in collusion with the police and the administration played a partisan role, allowing the mob to run amok
A joint fact-finding team under the banner of United Against Hate that went to UP’s Kasganj in the aftermath of the communal clash that rocked the small town around January 26 has found that the violence was not spontaneous but a carefully planned attack. From its conversations with people belonging to both Hindu and Muslim communities, the team found that the police and the administration played a partisan role and allowed the mob led by Sankalp Foundation and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) to run amok and indulge in organised violence.
Amit Sengupta, a veteran journalist who was part of the fact-finding team, said that the purpose of the endeavour was to ensure that facts on the Kasganj incident are laid bare in the public space, especially because a lot of misinformation prevails because of the way the episode has been reported by the mainstream media.
Apart from Sengupta, the team consisted of SR Darapuri (retired IG of UP police), advocate Asad Hayat Khan, social activist Rakhi Sehgal, journalist Hasanul Banna, senior journalist Aleemullah Khan, social activists Nadeem Khan, Khalid Saifi and Shariq Hussain, alongwith former JNUSU president Mohit Pandey. The team visited the town on February 2.
Here are a few findings of the team:
Chandan Gupta’s death
According to a report that appeared in a national daily, Chandan Gupta, who was part of a tiranga yatra, was shot dead when bikers holding the tricolour and saffron flags tried to pass through an area that is predominantly Muslim. A man named Salim has been accused of firing the shot that killed Gupta and was arrested by the police on February 1.
According to the team that visited Kasganj, no one around the alleged site of shooting was able to confirm if Gupta was shot in that area. “There is no clarity about the spot or the actual incident. And there has been no evidence cited till this date about the role of Saleem, or, if the bullets matched the alleged inherited licensed guns (that were discovered from his home),” a report released by the team said. It also claimed that there was no sign of physical confrontation, blood marks, bullet marks or police markings in the area where Gupta is supposed to have died or hit. Sengupta said that there is also a possibility that Gupta could have been shot somewhere else. Another activist said that the black mark around the bullet wound suggests that he could have also been shot at close range.
Social activist Nadeem Khan said that the police’s statement in the media about how the attack took place and where the bullet entered Gupta’s body is at variance with the pictures of the deceased.
The main accused
Local people of Kasganj have claimed that Salim was not present at the site of the original confrontation and therefore, had no run-in with Gupta and the group because as soon as news of the clashes came at Abdul Hamid Chowk, he left from there to get his kids from school. The fact-finding team also found photos of Salim participating in a Republic Day celebration at 9.30 am in Ch. Mehdi Hasan School on Mulka Road.
Loss of property
While reports in most newspapers vaguely referred to the burning of two places of worship during the violence, the report released by the team of activists and journalists claimed that both these places are masjids and all of the 27 shops burnt during violence were owned by Muslims. “From our conversations with people both Hindu and Muslim communities, we have found that no temple or any property owned by a Hindu has been damaged. In fact, a few Muslim shops that stand cheek in jowl with Hindu properties or with the kotwali have also been spared,” said Hasanul Banna, a journalist who visited the town on February 2.
“There is no clarity about the spot or the actual incident. And there has been no evidence cited till this date about the role of Saleem, or, if the bullets matched the alleged inherited licensed guns (that were discovered from his home),” a report released by the team said
The role of the police
According to the findings of the report, the police’s conduct during the entire incident shows a clear bias and prejudice towards the perpetrators. Social activist Nadeem pointed out, “On January 27, the day when Gupta’s funeral took place, there was heavy police deployment. But despite the presence of the police, a mob managed to ransack Muslim shops and property in an area which is about 3 km away from the cremation ground.”
The team alleged that the FIR filed by the police in the aftermath of the incident makes no mention of the places of worship that were vandalised, which is a serious crime under CrPC punishable with one-year imprisonment. The FIR mentions four Muslims (Mohsin, Bablu Sheikh, Nasim and Saleem) but not a single Hindu, despite the fact that it says both the communities were involved in the clashes.
The videos of the incident have gone viral, yet no attempt has been made by the police to track the people who are seen firing from country-made guns. Banna said that all the Hindus arrested so far have been charged with breach of peace.
The team also said that a senior police official, Sunil Singh (SP of Kasganj), who locals claimed was quick to move against the perpetrators and arrange a peace meeting on January 28 during which he also warned the Hindu community against creating trouble, was transferred on January 29.
The report said that even though there is scattered talk of an imaginary ‘border’ between Muslims and Hindus, there is also immense and widespread respect and concern amidst Hindus for the loss of property endured by the other community. “While very few FIRs have been filed by the Muslim community, most of the community is scared to step out and register complaints about the loss they incurred as a result of the violence. It has also horrified the Hindu community equally and they are not willing to stick their necks out and go against these fringe elements,” said Rakhi Sehgal.