Kasganj violence: Anger and hostility between citizens palpable; city remains tense, but peaceful
This reporter encountered seething anger and hostility in Hindu colonies whereas the dominant feeling in Muslim-populated areas was of fear and apprehension.
Kasganj: After witnessing riots and arson following a communal clash, Uttar Pradesh's Kasganj town is limping back to normalcy. However, even as police action has checked vandalism, there is a simmering anger and tension that refuses to defuse.
The 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. The altercation spiralled into a clash and some people pelted stones at the motorcycle rally. Firing also ensued, in which a Hindu youth lost his life. This became the tipping point and violence gripped the nondescript town for a couple of days.
Markets started opening only on Sunday evening after a peace meeting, which was attended by members of both the communities and senior government officers such as inspector general, police commissioner and district magistrate.
Owing to the death of a Hindu youth, the local community is outraged. Anshu Gupta, a resident of Shivalay Gali in Nadari Gate, was one of the many who had assembled outside the house of the deceased youth to offer condolences. Making no effort to conceal his anger and contempt, he confronted this reporter and thundered: "Ab agar iss desh me Vande Mataram kehne par goli maari jaayegi to sabse pehle mujhe goli maar do. Unhone toh uss taraf Pakistan bana hi rakha hai. Hamein bhi marva do aur bana do isse bhi Pakistan!"
(If saying Vande Mataram means taking a bullet in this country, then shoot me first. They have reduced that side to Pakistan as it is. Have us killed too and turn this into Pakistan as well).
This reporter encountered seething anger and hostility in Hindu colonies whereas the dominant feeling in Muslim-populated areas was of fear and apprehension. In Bilgram Gate area, where mostly Muslim families live, people were scared of stepping out of their houses. Windows were firmly closed and doors tightly shut.
Babban Khan, a resident of the area, said he is now scared to open his meat shop. He said he has two daughters and an unmarried sister and he is now worried for their safety. He said his wife has proposed that they go back to their village in Aligarh.
Gupta too shared this fear for his children's safety. He said his daughters study in the government degree college, the route to which goes through Bilgram Gate. "If they can pump bullets in the chest of one of our community members in broad daylight, then they can do anything,” said the chemist.
UP government has announced a compensation package of Rs 20 lakh for the family of the deceased, but the father of the deceased youth has been demanding Rs 50 lakh, martyr's status for him and a government job for his surviving son.
BJP MLA from Kasganj, Devendra Rajput, said the Muslims have proved themselves to be Pakistanis with this incident. "Pehle aghoshit Pakistan tha lekin ab sab jaan gaye hain," he said. (Previously, it was undeclared Pakistan but now everyone knows better.)
He said they were aggrieved over the death of one of their own but nothing can be done now. He appealed to members of both the communities to help maintain law and order in the area.
Meanwhile, in an official statement, Uttar Pradesh Police said they have arrested 112 persons, of which 31 were identified as accused and 81 were taken into preventive custody. Although five cases have been registered, the police did not disclose the identity of any of the accused.
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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