“I am little scared but I will go to my shop. My boss is a Hindu and I do not know how he will behave with me now. Ammi jaan to sheher se jaane ko bol rahi hai lekin sab kuch mera yahi hai aur mai yaha se nahi jaunga,” said Salim Khan a motor mechanic in Kasganj.
Although the markets in the riot-torn Kasganj have now opened, the fear amongst people on both sides is palpable. Khan said that his mother was now insisting on leaving Kasganj and and go back to their native place in Pilibhit.
Sunil Singh, who owned a shop at the Bilram Gate area, said that the administration must provide security to him for opening his shop so that he felt safe.
“I am scared. What if someone also torches my shop. I have two small kids. The government should give us security,” he told this reporter.
Peace has partially been restored in Kasganj in western Uttar Pradesh, albeit with an uneasy calm. People from both the communities are afraid to talk to each other while visits by politicians have only added fuel to fire.
The visit by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) from Kasganj Etah seat, Rajveer Singh, according to locals, increased the anger amongst the Hindu community after a hate speech by one of his close aides, who, while visiting the deceased Chandan Gupta’s family, said, “One of our boys has been killed for chanting Vande Mataram. He chose to die but he did not raise slogans for Pakistan.”
The message was loud and clear. Chandan’s body was wrapped in tricolour (violation of Indian flag code) and made ready for the funeral. As expected, no sooner was Chandan’s pyre lit by his father, did the outraged mob start torching shops, public properties while going on a rampage for about more than three hours with the police allegedly remaining mute spectators.
The BJP MP also said that the government was with the victim’s family and he would not let Chandan’s ‘sacrifice’ go in vain. Influenced by his speech, the majority community began demanding the status of “martyr” for Chandan. Even his bereaving father demanded a compensation of Rs 50 lakh, a government job and martyr’s status for his son before appealing for peace and harmony in the city.
Chandan was killed in indiscriminate firing at Gappu Chauraha while the members of the Tiranga Yatra were creating a ruckus at the intersection after being stopped by the Muslim community, who had gathered to mark Republic Day at the Veer Abdul Hamid Tiraha.
According to Babban Ullah, a shoe shop owner and the resident of Tirchalla, who witnessed the violence, said that Tiranga Yatra was stopped only when the boys started chanting objectionable slogans.
“I am 60 year old man and still I do need to prove my nationalism for the country. My father and uncle were in army and sacrificed their lives for the nation. These were young boys and looked like they were incited by someone,” said Ullah adding that the boys also refused to participate in the flag hoisting programme that was being organised by the Muslim community.
Sadhvi Prachi was stopped at the Aligarh-Kasganj border by the police in view of the increasing tension but she used the video calling feature on Whatsapp to address a group of Hindu community in Kasganj. In her address using the mobile phone of one Deepak Sharma, Prachi said that it was no crime to chant Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
“Ab kya Bharat mata ke liye naare lagane par goliya chalengi? Sarkaar hamari hai aur ham is sahadat ka badla jaroor lenge. Unhe bhi pata chalana chahiye ki Bharat me rehna hai to Vande Mataram kehna hai aur jinhe apatti hai wo Pakistan chale jaye (Now will bullets be fired for chanting slogans for mother India? The government (in the state) is ours now and we will avenge the killing. They must be told that you have to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai if you have to live in India. Those who have objections should go to Pakistan),” said the Hindu leader.
Sadhvi was escorted by Deepak Sharma, notorious for his hate speech against Muslims on Facebook. The social media giant had recently deactivated his Facebook account for posting hate speeches against Muslims. Sharma too had managed to enter Kasganj, but was detained and sent back to Aligarh after being identified. But, it was too late as his hate speech in the area also contributed to further inflaming an already volatile situation.
Later that night, the internet services were shut down on government orders. Soon after Sharma’s speech, the news of more shops being set on fire came in.
Kasganj, which was earlier known for its communal harmony, was now gripped by communal hatred leading to distrust between the communities. Hindus are referring to the area, where the scuffle took place on 26 January, as Pakistan, while Muslims are blaming the Hindu community for orchestrating the deadly communal clashes.
BJP MLA, Devendra Rajput told this reporter that it all happened when the people of Muslim community pelted stones on people carrying out the ‘Tiranga yatra.’
He said that to celebrate the national festival there was no requirement of the permission from the district administration adding that there was no crime in raising slogans for the country. Rajput added that he tried his best to calm down the situation after talking to the people from both the community but people, in a fit of rage, did things that they should not have done.
“Hindus do not like Muslims and Muslims do not like us. God knows whether they were celebrating Republic Day or it was pre-planned to create this scene,” said this MLA.
(Saurabh Sharma award-winning journalist and is a core team member of 101 Reporter, the largest group of grassroots reporters in India.)