Rajat Sharma

Clerics like Kanpur Qazi must refrain from making provocative remarks

rajat-sir Some Islamic clerics gave a clear warning to the administration and police on Tuesday warning of consequences if action is taken against stone pelters in Kanpur. The City Qazi of Kanpur Abdul Quddus warned that if actions continue against Muslims, then they will be forced to come out on streets for a ‘do-or-die’ battle (sar par kafan bandh kar nikalengey).

Before I go into his detailed statement, let me point out that he is not an ordinary Muslim or a family member of a stone pelter. Their anger could be justified or, at best, ignored, but if the City Qazi, who looks after the family matters of Muslims, makes such a provocative remark, then it is surely cause for concern.

The Qazi had objections on three points: One, he alleged that innocent Muslim youths are being arrested, Two, only Muslim youths are being sent to jail and the Kanpur police is taking one-sided action, and Three: if the administration uses bulldozer to raze the properties of rioters, then Muslims will come out on streets to fight do-or-die battles. The Qazi also alleged that 95 per cent action by police is being taken against Muslims, and only a minimal two or three per cent actions are being taken against Hindus. “Muslims will not sit and watch silently”, he warned.

On June 3, when the President and Prime Minister along with UP Governor and chief minister were visiting the President’s village near Kanpur to take part in some events, some pro-jihadi elements indulged in violence in Kanpur city soon after Friday prayers. These jihadi elements had secret meetings a few days ago, and they had given a call for closing down of shops, to condemn the remarks made by a BJP spokesperson against Prophet Mohammad.

Hayat Zafar Hashmi, said to be the mastermind behind this violence, has nine criminal cases against him under National Security Act and Gangsters Act. He runs a YouTube channel which peddles hate speeches and toxic content. The rioters had collected huge piles of stones and bricks, which were used during the violence.

CCTV videos clearly show there was planning behind this violence and the stone pelters were being instigated with provocative and vitriolic hate slogans. The violence soon spread to areas under five police stations, Kotwali, Collector Ganj, Becon Ganj, Chaman Ganj and Bajariya. The stone pelters targeted shops, vehicles, police and homes. Till now, more than 50 arrests have been made and the local police has pasted posters of 40 accused persons throughout the city. Main accused Zafar Hayat Hashmi, Javed Ahmed Khan, Mohammad Sufiyan, and Mohammed Sahil have been arrested. Several persons named in the police poster have surrendered and the local administration has said, it will collect fines from the rioters.

Our reporter Pawan Nara spoke to City Qazi Abdul Quddus and asked him why he made such an inciting remark. The Qazi said, he made this statement after thinking over all aspects. He said, “if government demolishes our homes by using bulldozers and arrests innocent people, there is no other way except to come out on the streets wearing ‘kafan’ (shroud). If police starts committing excesses, then we will have to voice our anger.”

By alleging that only Muslims are being targeted by police, the Qazi is himself becoming prosecutor and judge. The violence that took place in Kanpur on June 3 was not an isolated incident. The President and Prime Minister were in the city, and a conspiracy was hatched to foment violence. More than 16,000 toxic messages were forwarded to members of a particular community from six cell phones. There was a plot to spread communal fire across the city. But the Qazi says, it was only a stoning incident and not a major act of communal violence.

Kanpur Police is rounding up people based on their faces appearing in CCTV videos. Still images of accused have been taken out from these videos and the posters have been pasted by police across the city. Witnesses are being traced and accused persons are being rounded up.

To allege that only Muslims are being persecuted is false. Does the Qazi want the police to round up Hindus on false charges, because they did not take part in stoning?

I have spoken to top UP police officials and most of them said that the police is trying its best to ensure that innocents are not arrested. Kanpur police says, all those arrested till now were seen stoning in CCTV videos. When India TV reporter Pawan Nara pointed this out to the Qazi, he said, “they are after all young people, they may commit mistakes. Their acts should be pardoned.”

Stone pelters indulging in arson and violence cannot be pardoned. They were part of a conspiracy to foment communal riot. According to police, some of the rioters bought petrol from local petrol pumps to make ‘bombs’. How can the City Qazi say that these youths did not know what they were doing?

The Qazi may be saying this because Kanpur police took timely action and prevented a major communal conflagration. No one was killed or injured. But it cannot be ignored that the main conspiracy was to foment communal riots. Had there been communal violence, the Qazi would have blamed the police for not taking timely action.

The Qazi may claim that he is trying to persuade Muslims to calm down, but in reality, his remarks about ‘sar par kafan’ are nothing but provocative. In Bajariya locality, when local police went to a home to pick up an accused, there was strong protest from local Muslim residents.

Joint Police Commissioner of Kanpur Anand Prakash Tiwari said, police officers working in the field have been directed to exercise maximum restraint and not let the situation go out of control. The Police Commissioner of Kanpur Vijay Meena told India TV reporter Vishal Pratap Singh that all the arrests are being made only on the basis of evidence, and the police is following legal methods.

Police is acting impartially. The owner of Roma Graphic Printing Press, Shankar Prasad, who has been arrested for printing pamphlets calling for closure of shops, is a Hindu. The bandh call was given by Hayat Zafar Hashmi, and his bandh call posters were printed in Shankar Prasad’s printing press. The owner had not informed the police in advance, and he has been arrested because of this. Shankar Prasad says, he is innocent, he had taken Rs 200 to print only ten posters, and he had no idea about a bandh call being given on these posters.

The Qazi could have made his provocative remark because he was fearing that bulldozers may be used to demolish properties of rioters. Additional Director General of UP Police Prashant Kumar has said, the local administration is making preparations for collecting fines from rioters, and illegal properties of rioters are being identified. Till now, 147 illegal properties of those accused have been identified, and legal action will be taken, he said.

Former UP minister and BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh said, properties of rioters should be demolished by using bulldozers. He said the City Qazi should speak about ensuring peace and not give threats to the police.

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s track record is quite clear. People know his style of working. His directions to police is: do not harass innocent people, but at the same time, do not spare the guilty. Similar stoning and arson incidents had taken place during anti-CAA protests in Lucknow. Yogi’s government published posters of those guilty, arrests were made, properties seized and illegal properties were demolished with the help of bulldozers. Since then, it has become a trend.

Similar punitive action is taken against criminal mafia gangsters and rioters. This has brought about a sea change in the law and order situation in UP. Police is vigilant, criminals are being caught and rioters are being booked. If law is enforced with a strong hand, the criminals will lose their confidence. Both Hindus and Muslims can live a life of peace, and everybody will be safe.

To give a religious colour to such issues is not justified. At least religious figures like the City Qazi of Kanpur should exercise restraint before making such objectionable remark. Such remarks incite anti-social elements. This tendency should be curbed, by religious figures themselves.

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