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Kasganj riots: Fresh violence erupts despite curfew; police say shops, religious structure damaged to arouse hatred

Kasganj town in Uttar Pradesh, which saw rioting and vandalism following communal clashes on 26 January, remains on the boil. In a fresh outbreak of violence, a mosque was damaged, a shop was burnt, and locals got into heated altercations at different places in Kasganj district in the last 24 hours.

According to newly appointed district police chief Piyush Srivastava, a mosque was damaged by unidentified miscreants in Amapur area, around 17 kilometres from Kasganj, in the early hours of Tuesday.

 Kasganj riots: Fresh violence erupts despite curfew; police say shops, religious structure damaged to arouse hatred

The dome of a mosque was damaged by miscreants in Amapur, near kasganj. RB Dubey/ 101Reporters

“The dome of the mosque was damaged by miscreants in Amapur, which led to tension in the area. There seems to be a gang behind it as earlier incidents occurred in the city area, whereas now it’s happening on the outskirts. The situation could have deteriorated further, as people from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims) entered into heated arguments, but timely intervention by the police and the forces brought everything under control,” said Srivastava, who has been patrolling the entire city along with Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel ever since he took charge.

He said the gang hasn’t been identified yet but added that "every anti-social element would soon be put behind bars." A delegation of the local peace committee, formed in the aftermath of the riots, has been asked to stay in the area until the situation gets back to normal, he added.

Early on Wednesday morning, a wooden shop (locally called khokha or gumti) owned by a Hindu businessman was gutted in Sahawar town, 19 kilometres from Kasganj town. Two boys were taken into custody in connection with the incident, said Srivastava. Sahawar is a Muslim-dominated area with around 300 households of the community.

"The situation in Kasganj is tense, but it is under control," said Inspector General (IG), Aligarh range, Sanjeev Gupta, who is camping in Kasganj to bring the situation back to normal. He said that reinstating the confidence of both communities was the biggest challenge and that the forces were working on this.

Gupta said that three companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), one company of the RAF, and additional police forces from neighbouring districts have been deployed in Kasganj. Since the miscreants have moved away from the city, additional forces in "adequate numbers" have been deployed on the outskirts of the town as well.

Trouble started on 26 January when a Tiranga Yatra (a motorcycle rally taken out by Hindu youth to celebrate Republic Day) ran into a flag-hoisting ceremony in a Muslim-populated area. Reportedly, hateful jibes were exchanged between the two groups and the altercation spiralled into a clash. Some people pelted stones at the motorcycle rally and firing ensued, in which a Hindu youth named Abhishek Gupta alias Chandan was killed. An angry mob rioted in communally sensitive areas, resorting to arson and vandalism. Several shops and religious places were set afire by the mob and the town has remained on edge since then.

Meanwhile, the main accused in Chandan's murder, Salim Javed, has been arrested from Kasganj, Additional Director General of Police Ajay Anand told Firstpost. Anand said that acting on a tip-off, the police conducted a raid on a building on Wednesday morning and arrested Javed. The police have so far arrested 112 people for spreading violence.

Political parties to hold Tiranga Yatras in Mathura, Etah, Agra and Firozabad

Meanwhile, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal announced that they would hold motorcycle Tiranga Yatras in Mathura, Etah, Agra and Firozabad districts of the state to pay tribute to the deceased. The parties haven’t taken permission from the district administrations for the rallies.

"Although the situation in Etah is normal, I am not sure about the event. So far, no one has approached the district magistrate for permission. We are not going to let anyone disrupt the peace in this city in wake of whatever has happened and is happening in the neighbouring district," Amit Kishore, District Magistrate of Etah district said.

The Agra and Firozabad rallies were stopped midway on Wednesday afternoon by the district administrations as section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed in these places. The Etah and Mathura rallies hadn't started at the time of filing this story.

Vivek Kumar, a senior functionary of the ABVP Agra range, spoke to Firstpost on the phone before the rally was held.

"One of our brothers has sacrificed his life for the country and this Tiranga Yatra is a small tribute to him. We will chant Bharat mata ki jai and Vande Mataram in the Tiranga Yatra. Chandan, who was like my brother, died chanting Bharat mata ki jai. What is the need of permission for the Tiranga Yatra? We are not doing anything anti-national and not even taking law and order in our hands. The Tiranga Yatra will be peaceful and I assure that peace will not be hurt," he said.

Aligarh police also stopped a delegation of the All India Congress Committee led by Uttar Pradesh Congress president Raj Babbar in the city. The Congress delegation was on its way to examine the situation in the area and also to meet the victims' families.

Hate and rumour-mongering escalated tension

According to Gupta, hate and rumour-mongering have escalated tension in the area, which was otherwise slowly returning to normalcy.

“The shops in the main market are open now. Police forces have been deployed at every nook and corner of the city, while time-to-time patrolling is being done by the RAF. But there are elements on social media who are indulging in rumour-mongering. Yesterday (Tuesday), everything was normal post mid-noon, but suddenly there was a rumor that a cow has been killed in the Muslim-dominated area. The police rushed there and found nothing,” he said.

The police have identified groups and accounts of people who are posting objectionable and hateful posts and comments on social media. "Yesterday (Tuesday) four people were arrested for rumour-mongering and more will be taken in custody. We have identified them," Gupta said.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik has termed this communal clash as a blot on the state and asked the government to initiate measures to ensure such incidents did not recur.

"Whatever happened in Kasganj was not good. The incident there is a 'kalank' (blot) for UP. The government is probing the incident. It should initiate effective measures to ensure that such incidents are not repeated," Naik told reporters.

Saurabh Sharma is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.

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Updated Date: Jan 31, 2018 18:43:03 IST