LUCKNOW: For Ismail Ahmad of Amanpur area in Kasganj, the signs were ominous. Ahmad and his Muslim neighbours saw trouble coming during Independence Day celebrations last year. And, when the “winds of hatred which started blowing on Independence Day eve turned into a storm on Republic Day”, as Ahmad puts it, Kasganj was left in the grip of an undefined fear.
It is anybody’s guess whether the communal fabric of this otherwise peaceful town has been torn irreparably. Hindus comprise 65% and Muslims 35% of the little over 10 lakh population of Kasganj, the birthplace of celebrated poet Amir Khusrau.
The Uttar Pradesh Police was busy with the Republic Day duties in adjoining Etah, leaving Kasganj vulnerable. But, a few residents, especially Muslims of the worst-hit Baddu Nagar, had complained at the Soron police station last year about a few boisterous bikers crossing the locality while taking out a ‘Tiranga Yatra’on the eve of Independence Day. The then in-charge of Soron police station allegedly had not pay much heed.
“Over a dozen rowdy youths were there back then… This time, the size of the ral ly was much bigger, with over three dozen bikes each carrying three-four youths,” Ahmad recollects. Prior to the January 26 riots, which claimed one life, Kasganj had not witnessed a single communal clash even after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.
Notably, the ‘Tiranga Yatra’ on the Republic Day was taken out through Muslim majority localities without any prior permission from the administration. “In such a volatile scenario, the administration’s responsibility increases manifold,” political commentator Ashutosh Mishra says. He blames the police, district administration and intelligence agencies for failing to gauge the underlying tension.
Some refuse to accept the episode as communal violence and downplay the conflagration as a clash limited to a few members from two communities.
The likes of Vinay Katiyar and Sakshi Maharaj are helping the situation by making irresponsible statements. BJP MP Rajveer Singh, who rushed to the trouble-torn district, claimed the riots were a “pre-planned conspiracy” to defame the Adityanath government.
The ongoing probe by intelligence agencies and the home department has hinted covert involvement of a leading political figure in patronising the killers of Gupta and fomenting trouble between the two communities.
Locals claim incendiary comments were being circulated through social media in the week ahead of Republic Day.
But Mishra finds the ‘conspiracy theory’ far-fetched. “It was more of a spontaneous social unrest which is quite normal in a huge state like UP. Such clashes were common in the past and will keep happening in future too given the religious and cultural diversity of our society.”
The opposition parties consider the riots as yet another ploy of the BJP to polarise voters ahead of the 2019 general election. One thing is clear. A bit of alertness by those helming the administration and law would have averted the clashes and protected the mutual trust between Hindus and Muslims in Kasganj.