If PFI and SDPI are found to be complicit in the Kanpur violence, then swift and time-bound action must be taken to ban such outfits
Kanpur is a major industrial town in Uttar Pradesh and also a prime centre of education. In its heydays, this city was known as the ‘Manchester of the East’ because of the innumerable cotton and jute factories and also the educational institutions of tremendous quality. The cosmopolitan culture was well established and a sizeable number of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and a few Parsis lived peacefully with the majority Hindu community. Because of its importance, the police administration was recently upgraded as a Police Commissionerate.
However, tension was brewing up in the area for some time, because of the alleged blasphemous statements made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma during the course of a TV programme. This, of course, cannot be ignored or condoned, but what was extremely unexpected and insidious was the fomenting of communal hatred and planning of large-scale communal violence that was instigated by some undesirable and malicious criminal elements.
It is reported that the mischievous and criminal elements conspired in a close-door meeting a few days ago that they would appeal for the closure of shops and organise protests after the Friday prayers on 3 June 2022. Hyat Zafar Hashmi, the main accused, has nine serious criminal cases against him which include cases under the Gangsters Act and the National Security Act. The criminal antecedents of this man extend to police station Chamanganj, where five cases have been registered against him, PS Kotwali has two, and PS Chakeri has one criminal case registered against him. Fiery and objectionable slogans were raised in this meeting.
On Friday, 3 June, immediately after the namaz was over, there was slogan-mongering and stone-pelting in the neighbourhood and on the police personnel, leading to panic and chaos. It is noteworthy that there are five police stations which are very sensitive, viz, Kotwali Collector Ganj, Bekanganj, Chamanganj and Bajriya in the present context. The rioters had allegedly collected and stockpiled huge stocks of brickbats well in advance; video footage of the violence clearly indicates that there was deep planning with forethought and preparation for this rioting and the youth were instigated with provocative and vitriolic slogan mongering.
The neighbourhood shops, public and police pickets were caught unawares. Police reacted swiftly and brought the situation under control, 29 arrests have since been made and the headquarters have rushed 12 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary(PAC) and three companies of the Central Paramilitary Force. The main accused, Zafar Hayat Hashmi, who owns a YouTube channel with controversial content, has been arrested, along with Javed Ahmed Khan, Mohammed Sufiyan, and Mohammed Sahil. Another accused, Nizam Qureshi, was removed as the Samajwadi Party office-bearer 15 days ago. Six mobile phones have been recovered from the accused and they are being subjected to forensic examination by a high powered special investigation team, which will investigate WhatsApp content, chats communication and other incriminating material.
The significant aspect of this violence that conclusively indicates meticulous planning and a clear roadmap, is that many stone-pelters were wearing face masks to conceal their identity; multiple cartloads of bricks could be seen; and, CCTV cameras were vandalised for the purpose of destroying crucial evidence. It is a matter of satisfaction that the police are now using drones equipped with HD cameras in the disturbed area to capture every suspicious activity and movement. It would be advisable to equip the drone cameras with facial recognition software and deep learning software.
It is not that this tension is restricted to just Kanpur; the malignant reverberations are being felt in sensitive districts like Bareilly and Agra, where similar communal exhortations came to light and police acted swiftly to contain the situation.
The BJP took stock of the situation and immediately suspended Nupur Sharma and also removed Naveen Kumar Jindal from all official responsibilities. Under these circumstances, it would have been prudent that if there was a grievance, it could have been addressed at the proper forum and complaints could have been lodged by the aggrieved.
But the communal elements, mentioned above, who are also alleged to be linked with the PFI and SDPI, in a well-planned criminal conspiracy, called for the closure of shops three days in advance of the proposed Friday prayers on 3 June 2022, which was the day earmarked for the full-scale demonstrations and protest. The advance collection of bricks and instruments of violence indicates that this call for “peaceful” agitation has much more to it than what meets the eye. The fierce attack on the police indicates the determination of the rioters, their political affiliations stand fully exposed, and the scramble for fixing an alibi is crude and unconvincing, to say the least.
It is a matter of satisfaction that the Uttar Pradesh ATS is actively involved in probing the various ramifications of the larger conspiracy to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere of the state. More so, this happened in the backdrop of the visit of the President of India; Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also in the state with other dignitaries and business investors in Lucknow, in connection with the mega event, UP Investors Summit. It is also believed that the timing of this communal disturbance was to bring a bad name to Uttar Pradesh, and malign the state government so that its reputation is compromised and investments, both national and international, are impacted.
It is to the credit of the Uttar Pradesh Police and the administration that a swift and professional response to this dastardly criminal attack was nipped in the bud, and prompt arrests were made. ATS and other reinforcements reached the epicentre of the disturbance in no time and apprehended the major trouble makers. Now, it is the time to identify the mastermind and think tank behind the criminal conspiracy, along with fund managers. Those responsible deserve exemplary punishment. They must be charged under various provisions of law, such as the National Security Act, The UP Gangsters Act and if required the UAPA. The trials may be conducted in fast-track courts, in the public interest.
Various media reports indicate that the state government may consider bulldozing the illegal constructions and encroachments belonging to the perpetrators, earned from their ill-gotten wealth. In any case, if it is proved that these structures can be demolished within the provisions of law, then so be it.
The Yogi Adityanath government has given an excellent account of itself in the past and has a declared policy of zero tolerance for such brazen attempts to vitiate public peace. However, the Kanpur violence must be taken seriously and all those involved must be thoroughly investigated and duly punished. It took the government almost five years to ban SIMI, and this was done with valuable inputs provided by Uttar Pradesh; now the financial transactions of organisations such as PFI and SDPI must be investigated professionally, and if they or anybody else is found to be complicit, then swift and timebound action must be taken to ban such outfits.
The writer is a former Director-General of Police, Uttar Pradesh. Views expressed are personal.
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