December 2011 
Year 18    No.162
Special Report


Destruction, discrimination, denial of justice

AIDWA’s Convention against Communal Conflict draws attention to the recurring brutality against Muslims across India over the past six months


The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) organised a Convention against Communal Conflict in Delhi on
November 16, 2011 in an attempt to breach the silence and apathy surrounding acts of violence against the minority community that have occurred in the last six months. In four states under very different political dispensations – the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and BJP alliance in Bihar, the BJP in Uttarakhand and the Congress party in Rajasthan – incidents of police firing have taken place in which all the victims have been Muslims; shops and homes belonging only to the minority community have been looted and burnt and the overwhelming majority of those arrested have also been Muslim. In all the states, the political leaders have sought to cover up, justify or downplay the unforgivable and dangerous communal bias displayed by the police and administration.

Members of affected families from Forbesganj, Moradabad and Gopalgarh attended the convention. Unfortunately, no one from Rudrapur could attend because most of the victims are migrant workers whose families, along with thousands of other migrant families, have fled the town. While those who spoke at the convention, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, brothers and uncles who had suffered the unbearable losses of loved ones, expressed their unimaginable grief, they had come to Delhi to do more than that. They had come as part of their desperate search for justice and retribution.


In Forbesganj, in an area inhabited only by Muslims, the state government was determined to build a wall denying them access to a road that had been built and then repaired by the state government because it was their only link to the mosque, to the schools, to their workplaces. However, to facilitate the interests of a local factory owner, the son of a BJP MLC, the government decided to build the wall across the road. Naturally, there was a protest. The police version is that the protesters resorted to stone-throwing but nothing more than this is alleged. The police responded by firing. On June 3, 2011 four Muslims, including a woman and an eight-month-old infant, were killed. One of those killed was 18-year-old Mustafa. A policeman was filmed jumping on his dead body and this horrific video, taken on a cellphone, has been seen all over the country.

Mustafa’s brother, Quddus, recited a poem that he had composed at the convention: “Jo soch nahin sakti duniya, woh manzar kal dikhlaya hai, Vardi mein darinda aaya hai, vardi mein darinda aaya hai; Kya kuch maanga tha humne, haq apna maanga bas humne, Purkhon se jo chale aaye hain, woh raah maanga tha bas humne; Fariyaad meri sun ke itni, seene pe goli chalaayi hai, Vardi mein… (What we saw yesterday defies imagination, when the devil in uniform comes calling, the devil in uniform comes calling. We asked for so little, only asserting our rights, the use of a path trodden for generations. But hearing our request, they fired bullets into our chests…).”

The state government has not taken any action at all – not even the photographed constable has been punished. Only the family of the eight-month-old infant has been given compensation, since no government can claim that such a small baby is capable of stone-throwing. The other three deaths remain uncompensated. More than four and a half months later, following the intervention of the Supreme Court on October 10, a judicial inquiry which had been announced by the Bihar government within a few weeks of the incident finally limped to a start.

Uttar Pradesh

The background to the events of July 6, 2011 in Moradabad is an incident of the kind that occurs in hundreds of villages and urban areas every day: two neighbouring Muslim families in Bagha village had been engaged in a long-standing dispute over various petty matters. In the first week of July, Yusuf, son of Kamrul, is alleged to have misbehaved with his neighbour, Muslim’s mother and Muslim is alleged to have misbehaved with Yusuf’s sister. While Kamrul complained to the police against Muslim, Muslim’s family was convinced by the village pradhan (head) not to go to the police and that the matter would be sorted out amicably ‘within the village’. The result was that the police came looking for Muslim early in the morning of July 6. By then all the male members of the family had run away and only his young sister, Noorjahan (about 14 years old), was at home. They ransacked the house and abused her (there is photographic evidence of this) and apparently threw a copy of the Koran on the floor. After they left, the terrorised young girl ran into the village and told everyone about what had happened.

The news of the ‘desecration’ of the Koran spread like wildfire through nearby villages which are heavily populated by Muslims and by 9 a.m. thousands of people had started collecting on the main road and a massive road blockade had started. The local police took the help of Muslim leaders from the area, including Haji Atiq and Kamil (pradhan of Dingarpur), and the roadblock at Bagha village was soon cleared. By the time they returned to the thana (police station) at Mainethar they found that not only had a large crowd collected there but that a jeep had been set on fire. Again, with the help of local people, the crowd was dispersed.

Meanwhile, the district magistrate (DM), Raj Shekhar, and the deputy inspector-general (DIG) of police, Ashok Kumar (large districts in Uttar Pradesh have seen senior superintendents of police replaced by DIGs), had left Moradabad for the area and they had to stop at Dingarpur where a mob had collected. All these large villages are located off the main road and have taken on the attributes of small kasbahs with large markets. As a result, there are always large crowds around the main road, as people from a large catchment area come for their daily needs, for work and also to go to school and college. At Dingarpur too, the crowd was large and angry. The DIG, thinking that his personal intervention would restore peace, got out of his vehicle and went to talk to the people. At this point, quite inexplicably, the DM along with his large armed escort turned around and left the area, leaving the DIG quite alone in the middle of an angry mob. Apparently, the DIG did fire his service revolver but the situation was out of control and he was badly beaten by members of the crowd. Soon Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and police reinforcements arrived and he could be removed to hospital.

After this, it was the police that went berserk. They entered homes in Dingarpur village and beat men and women mercilessly and ransacked their homes. People were beaten and sent to jail with serious injuries. At least three minors suffered bullet injuries and among the 38 persons still in jail, there are at least a dozen minors.

One of those injured, 14-year-old Rehan, succumbed to his injuries on October 19. The district administration was interested only in his quick burial, not in his death or the reasons for it. His father is a daily labourer who sold his only possession, two bighas of land, to pay for his son’s treatment. The MLA of the area, Akbar Husain, a BSP minister, three MPs from Moradabad – Mohd Azharuddin, Rashid Alvi (Congress) and Shafiqur Rahman Barq (BSP) – have done nothing to alleviate the grievous injuries suffered by the people here.

Saimeen, wife of the Dingarpur pradhan, Kamil, told the convention angrily of the way in which the police had beaten both of them and ransacked their home. Salma, whose son Tauseef is one of the children arrested, showed the audience his school certificate and a photograph of him in his uniform. She carries these with her at all times, hoping that someone, somewhere will see them and do something.


Ten Meos belonging to Gopalgarh, Bharatpur, were killed on September 14, 2011, most of them in police firing. Ostensibly, a property dispute is responsible: a plot of land adjacent to the mosque has traditionally been used as a graveyard and was declared as such a few years earlier. Parts of it however have been encroached upon by some Gujjar farmers. A few months earlier, there was a minor clash over this. The thana and main administrative offices are very near the village and the Meos had made several applications to the administration about these developments but nothing was done. On September 14, when matters reached a flashpoint, the police called both parties to the thana. A compromise was reached according to which the land would belong to the Muslims and they in turn would withdraw all their complaints after the sarpanch apologised for the attacks and abuse that they had suffered.

This angered some members of the majority community who came in large numbers to the thana, alleging that they were being ‘massacred’ by the Muslims in the village. Senior police officers and the district magistrate reacted to this completely false statement by declaring that ‘they’ would be taught a lesson and orders for firing were given even before they reached the village. Arms from the thana were distributed to the police personnel present and, it is alleged, to some lay members of the majority community as well. All of them proceeded to the village and indiscriminate firing was resorted to. After some Meos died from bullet wounds, their bodies were badly mutilated. Shamsuddin described the death of his son, an Industrial Training Institute student aged 16 years and 6 months, who was praying next to him in the mosque: “When we heard the gunshots, we ran out of the mosque. I could hide in a nearby thicket but my son was shot in the foot. When he fell down, he was attacked with lathis and shovels. Then kerosene was poured on his body and he was set on fire. Then his charred body was thrown into a well.”

The state government of Rajasthan has made some interventions – officers have been suspended, compensation to the families of those killed has been paid but the villagers involved in killing and incitement have not been punished and the lower-ranking policemen are all still in the neighbourhood.


Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, saw a deliberate attempt to incite communal clashes. In September, pig meat wrapped in pages torn from the Koran was thrown near a temple. The police did nothing to arrest the miscreants or to prevent further trouble. On October 2, 2011 the same thing happened again, this time near a mosque. When a large number of Muslims demonstrated outside the thana in protest, they were attacked by the police and by groups of people encouraged and incited by the police. At least eight Muslims were killed. Many shops belonging only to the minority community were looted and burnt. Their homes were also attacked. The state government has made some changes in the administration but has not bothered to meet anyone from the minority community.

The central government has failed to ensure protection to whistle-blowers through appropriate legislation and as a result, in a state like Gujarat, which is witness to the complete breakdown of constitutional institutions that protect citizens and guarantee their rights, important witnesses are being killed and terrorised with impunity. Even a senior police official who has the courage to perform his constitutional duty of naming those responsible for communal carnage is rendered completely insecure.

Shweta Bhatt, wife of Sanjiv Bhatt, suspended DIG, Gujarat, was a special guest at the convention, whose presence was a source of inspiration for the victims and for all those fighting against communal violence and hatred. She spoke of her experiences and said that all those who bear witness against the perpetrators of communal violence must be prepared for the worst when they do so. Brinda Karat, MP, felicitated Shweta and said that recent events served to highlight the acts of omission and commission on the part of the central and state governments. The Whistle-blowers Protection Act and effective legislation against communal violence are nowhere in sight and central agencies display great bias in their treatment of Muslim suspects and undertrials. In a state like Gujarat, constitutional institutions are crumbling while other states vie with each other to justify administrative bias.

The following resolution was passed by the convention:

This AIDWA Convention against Communal Conflict

Expresses deep concern about the number of incidents in several states where citizens of India belonging to the minority Muslim community have been targets of violence, primarily by forces of the state. It expresses its strong solidarity with the families of the victims and especially the mothers, sisters, wives, who bear the heavy burden of loss of their innocent loved ones.

These incidents include:

Ř The police firing in Bharatpur district, Rajasthan, where 10 members of the minority community were shot dead by the police, many of them inside the masjid where they had taken shelter. This was the result of a long pending dispute on the issue of ownership of a graveyard which the administration had allowed to fester, encouraging communal elements;

Ř The police firing on villagers in Araria district, Bihar, who were protesting the forcible takeover of their land by a powerful local politician belonging to the ruling JD(U)/BJP alliance. Four Muslims, including a woman and her baby, were killed and a policeman performed the barbaric act of jumping on the dead body of a young man killed in the firing;

Ř The police firing on Muslim protesters in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, and the razing of minority-owned shops and property by communal fanatics;

Ř The police firing in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, killing a young man and then arresting several minor Muslim boys.

“In all these incidents many innocent people were injured and property of the minority community destroyed.

This convention strongly condemns the communal bias of the police and administrations reflected in all these incidents.

This convention also condemns the refusal of state governments involved to take strong action against the officers responsible. Particularly in the case of Rajasthan, the Gehlot government did everything to protect the officers involved. Similarly, the Nitish Kumar government refused to take prompt action against those responsible for the barbaric firing and no compensation has been paid to the families of those killed. This convention demands justice for the victims. It demands exemplary punishment against the police officials responsible and full compensation to the victims.

This convention expresses its strong protest against the actions of the Gujarat government in threatening and intimidating those, including senior officers, who dare to expose the role of the chief minister and his government in the Gujarat genocide. Almost 10 years after the genocide, a large number of victims are yet to get justice. Instead, activists fighting for peace and harmony are being targeted and harassed.

This convention demands justice for the Gujarat victims. It expresses its solidarity with those who are being threatened by the Modi government. It demands that the central government take action to protect witnesses who have given evidence against Modi and his government.

This convention demands legislation against communal violence and for protection of secular principles and against attacks on minority rights.

This AIDWA convention pledges to uphold the principles and values of secularism. It pledges to defend the rights of minorities against attacks by communal forces, including by administrations with a communal bias, regardless of the political party involved. It resolves to work for the unity of women and to mobilise women in the struggle against communal forces.”

After the convention, members of the victims’ families met the union home secretary, RK Singh, along with patrons and office-bearers of AIDWA: Brinda Karat, MP, Subhashini Ali, vice-president, Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary, and Sehba Farooqui, joint secretary. They gave him the following memorandum:

“We are grateful to you for having given us this appointment at such short notice. Our organisation held a Convention against Communal Conflict today in Delhi. Victims of communal violence and of police attacks and atrocities from: Forbesganj (Araria), Bihar; Gopalgarh, Rajasthan; Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh; Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, spoke about their experiences. The current situation in Gujarat where witnesses are being threatened and terrorised was also discussed. We are aware of the constitutional position regarding the federal structure. However, it is essential for the centre to intervene in the relevant states within the constitutional framework to ensure justice to the victims. We seek your intervention in the following:

1. Gujarat: In spite of Supreme Court directions for witness protection, the situation for witnesses in the state in the ongoing cases of communal genocide naming important political leaders is critical. Only recently, six witnesses have appealed for protection in the special court. In Sanjiv Bhatt’s case also, the protection is extremely inadequate. A nodal officer must be appointed and a group of senior personnel deputed for this job.

2. Bihar: Four people, including one woman and one infant, were killed in the police firing but compensation has been paid only to the family of the infant. No action has been taken against any of the police personnel involved. The judicial inquiry that was announced many months ago has only been advertised in the papers two days ago.

3. Uttar Pradesh: A 14-year-old boy succumbed to his injuries from police bullets on October 19 but no cognisance of this has been taken. Two more adolescent boys have also been similarly injured but there has been no intervention by the state government. Additionally, nearly a dozen minor boys have been arrested in connection with the incidents of July 6. Despite the fact that their school certificates have been produced before the court, neither the administration nor the courts have accepted these. These children are not being tried in the juvenile court or being kept in the juvenile home as is required by law but are locked up in jail.

4. Rajasthan: There has been some intervention by the state government. However, no action has been taken against the thana police. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has started its inquiry. Family members of the victims feel a bias in their questioning. Assurances which had been given by the government are yet to be implemented.

5. Uttarakhand: Some compensation to the families of those killed has been paid. No action has been taken against the concerned police personnel.

“These incidents show only too clearly that, most unfortunately, not only lower-ranking police personnel but senior officers display a pronounced anti-minority bias. This is certainly an area that needs your urgent attention.”

A few days after the convention, inquiries into the July 6 incidents were started in Moradabad. Saimeen and others recorded their statements before the district administration and at least three minors are being transferred to the juvenile home.

(Subhashini Ali is vice-president of AIDWA and a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.)


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