An All India Students Association team visited Bawana on Sunday (November 2, 2014), met local people, witnessed the Mahapanchayat and the developments around it. This report is based on that visit.
Long standing communal tension in Bawana (at the outskirts of Delhi) took a vicious inflammatory turn, when a Mahapanchayat was called on 2nd November to provoke hatred against the Taziya (Moharram procession) in Bawana. Since Bakrid, the blatant lie of ‘cow slaughter’ in the JJ Colony (nearby Bawana) was used as a pretext to mobilize the whole Hindu community against Muslims. India’s ruling party BJP, as well as an entire battery of RSS backed Hindutva outfits were involved in the campaign to divide Hindus and Muslims of the poorest classes.
Our observations about the Mahapanchayat are as follows :
• People were mobilized from Bawana and many places close to Bawana, from both Haryana and Delhi.
• The agenda of Mahapanchayat was to prevent the Taziya procession in Bawana. But residents of the JJ Colony told us that the Muslims of the colony had already agreed, in a meeting on 28th October where leaders from both communities and the ACP were present, to limit their procession to the JJ Colony itself. If the issue of the route of the Taziya procession had already been settled, why did the police even allow the mahapanchayat to be held?
• During the Mahapanchayat again and again leaders and speakers addressed to ACP and DCP (present at the occasion) and warned them of dire consequences if the Taziya procession took place. Why did the police remain meek and mute spectators to these threats?
• At the Mahapanchayat, many leaders made provocative speeches full of communal hatred against Muslims. Many speeches declared that the Muslims’ homeland is Pakistan, that Hindus are the ‘Mulnivasi’ (original inhabitants) of this land therefore Hindus would dictate terms to those who want to live here. Speeches were made openly threatening violence:
ham taziya nahi nikalane denge, khuli chunauti dete hain. Hamne 3000 signature karake acp ko diye hain aur ab abhi agar Taziya niklta hai to jo bhi maar kaat hogi uske jimeedaar ham nahi honge. Ham kamjor nahi hain, hamare sath jo bhi chal raha hai wo galat hai. Ham is soch ko mita denge. Ham dekh lenge (We won’t allow the Taziya procession to be held, we openly challenge anyone to hold it. We have collected 3000 signatures and submitted to the ACP, that if the Taziya is held, there will be bloodshed, and we won’t be responsible for this. We are not weak, what is being done to us is wrong. We will wipe out this thought. We’ll see…)
• Many media persons as well as senior police officers were present and they all witnessed these speeches. We too have video and audio recordings of these speeches. Why has the police not yet filed cases against all those who made these openly provocative speeches?
• A large number of young men from Bawana and nearby places were present there. Not surprisingly, many leaders of ABVP were present at this Mahapanchayat.
• The Mahapanchayat was glaringly free of the presence of women. Among the thousands present, there was not a single woman!
• Gugan Singh Ranga, MLA of the Bawana constituency from BJP, who also made speeches instigating and threatening violence, repeatedly declared, ‘ab modi sarkaar aa gayi hai’ (Now the Modi government is in power). Clearly, the fact of the Modi government was seen as a victory for the Hindu majoritarian fundamentalists, not only over the minority community but over all citizens wishing for peace and mutual respect among communities. A Congress Councillor was also present at the Mahapanchayat.
• Some of the leaders present there were Ganesh ji, and Dharmendra from Kathawala, leader of the Rohini Dharmik aur Sanskritik Sabha, Kuldeep Dalkaar, Jitender Rana and Kishen ji.
• The Mahapanchayat leaders felt no hesitation to openly issue threats of violence – from the dais as well as in face-to-face interaction – to the media. There were repeated appeals to the youth and the people present there to be ready for violent actions through whatever means. A diary was circulated among attendees, taking their contact numbers, and it was stated from the dais that the leaders would “secretly inform everyone about the action that needs to be taken on 4th November.” When plans for ‘secret’ mobilizations of communal violence are openly announced on a public dais in presence of senior police officers, why is no action being taken to punish the organizers and prevent the violence?
• The deployment of police at the Mahapanchayat was very weak. Knowing that Mahapanchayats were followed by communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, why was the police presence so weak?
• We visited the JJ Colony (the site of tension during Bakrid). There was palpable fear there. People of the JJ Colony are mostly workers who work in the industrial belt of Narela. Police patrolling was visible there. People were busy in their routine work.
• The JJ Colony residents told us that they had agreed to curtail the Taziya route in the interests of ‘aman chain’ (peace and harmony). But the question came to our mind: why is it that the police used the Muslims’ fear of violence to ‘advice’ them to curtail the route of their procession that they have held peacefully for years? Why, in a democracy, can the police in India’s national capital not ensure that the minority can safely hold their Taziya procession? Why were those threatening violence against the Taziya procession not arrested?
• JJ Colony residents asked, “We agreed to curtail the route of the Taziya. But we don’t know why the administration has allowed the Mahapanchayat where seeds of hatred have been sowed. At the time of Bakrid, and now again near Moharram, we are living in fear of violence.” Many local youths told us stories of fraternity between both the communities in the JJ Colony, lamenting that political forces were sowing seeds of hatred to destroy this fraternity.