Rajat Sharma

Who’s behind Karauli violence: Ask DGP again!

rajat-sirThe violence that shook the town of Karauli in Rajasthan on April 2, when a mob stoned a bike rally taken out by Hindus during Hindu New Year celebrations and then indulged in arson and riots, has now taken an interesting turn. The Director General of Rajasthan Police M L Lather sought to give rioters a clean chit to local Congress councillor Matloob Ahmed, by saying that the incident was provoked by Hindu youths shouting inflammatory slogans. “Whatever happened on that day was due to Hindu outfits who shouted provocative slogans leading to violence”, he said.

The DGP also alleged that the Hindu outfit started playing DJ music without seeking prior permission, while passing through a Muslim locality. This, he said, led to stoning from local residents. The DGP also remarked this was a reaction to an action that had taken place.

The DGP is misleading. The FIR filed by police clearly states that police had checked the route of the bike rally, before granting permission, there were police vehicles leading the bike rally, and policemen were video recording the peaceful bike rally. There were no provocative slogans except ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, while some were shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans. The FIR states that at around 4 pm, nearly 200 bikers started the rally with a pickup vehicle in front playing DJ music.

At around 5 pm, when the rally reached a mosque in Hatwara bazaar, stones were pelted from the roof of local Congress councillor Matloob Ahmed’s house. Soon more stones were thrown from nearby buildings causing a stampede. The FIR also clearly states that nearly 100-150 people armed with lathis came out from a gym centre and nearby buildings, and in a pre-planned manner attacked the bikers.

This shows that the DGP either did not go through the FIR filed by his police or was trying to mislead. He was trying to give a clean chit to the ruling party councillor Matloob Ahmed. The DGP said, the councillor was called by police to the locality to help in restoring order. The question now arises: if police had called Matloob to help in restoring peace, why was he named in the FIR as an accused? Why is Matloob Ahmed hiding and police is on his lookout?

Our Jaipur correspondent Manish Bhattacharya had sent a report three days ago, which said, stones were collected on the roofs of Matloob’s and several other adjoining buildings in advance. Did local residents know that a bike rally would pass through their locality, that they would chant provocative slogans leading to stoning?

The DGP is misleading. The rioter was leading the mob and it is clearly established in a video that has surfaced on Friday. The video clearly shows the faces of all the rioters and they were being led by Congress councillor Matloob Ahmed. He was directing other rioters on phone and inciting them for violence. The video shows the mob ransacking shops, homes and vehicles, by carrying lathis and weapons in hand. Four main accused, named in the FIR, can be seen in this video, and they were being led by Matloob Ahmed, who is now hiding from police for the last one week.

The video shows Matloob’s brother Mushtaq arguing with police, and two others Faheem and his brother Anshi. On April 2, the bike rally began from Hathighata in Karauli, and passed through Gulab Bagh Circle, Hindaun Gate, Phoota Kot and Hatwara Bazaar, which is a densely populated area. The facts stated in the FIR have been corroborated by local residents who said, stones started raining from the roof of councillor Matloob Ahmed’s house. Stones were also thrown from the roof of the mosque. The rioters were armed with swords and lathis.

One of the injured, Keshavdas Sharma said, he was extremely sad to find his Muslim neighbours, who were his friends since childhood, were among the rioters, and they included Matloob. Another injured Anshu, a Class 10 student, who was part of the bike rally, suffered severe fracture in his hand. He described how he was attacked by youths who studied with him in school. The place where stoning and violence took place, has a mosque and a road that leads to a temple. Shops adjoining the temple belong to Hindus, who are now in fear. BJP has demanded a judicial probe into the Karauli violence.

On Friday, the Congress government directed the Home Secretary Kailash Chandra Meena to probe and submit his report within 15 days. Meanwhile, a seven-man committee led by Deputy Leader of BJP in Assembly Rajendra Rathore, has already given its report after visiting the areas for two days. Rajasthan state BJP chief Satish Punia submitted this report to party leaders in Delhi on Friday.

The report says, the riots, which were pre-planned, took place due to sheer negligence on part of police. The report also says that on April 1, a day before the riots, some local Muslim leaders had spoken about stopping the bike rally and had threatened consequences, but police did not take precautionary measures. The BJP inquiry committee report also mentioned a letter from People’s Front of India written to the Chief Minister and Director General of Police.

The report pointed out that on the day of violence, Muslims plying autos, rickshaws, and handcarts were off the roads, leading to suspicions whether people of a particular community knew about the riots taking place in advance. Congress leader Sachin Pilot promised an impartial inquiry and said, culprits will not be spared. BJP MP Kirori Lal Meena visited Karauli town on Friday, met riot victims and alleged that the Congress government was trying to shield its councillor Matloob Ahmed.

I am surprised over DGP Lather’s remarks. At a time when the inquiry is in progress, how can the state police chief disclose its conclusion? How can he say that the riots took place because of provocative slogans? How can the man who has gone underground be described as innocent by the police chief? Several questions arise about the remarks made by the police chief.

If riots take place because of provocative slogans, then why did PFI wrote a letter two days before the bike rally that the permission should be cancelled? How could the PFI write a letter in advance expressing apprehension about riots? If the remark by police chief that no permission for use of DJ music was given, that how was the police accompanying the pick-up vehicle that was blaring DJ music? Why was the DJ vehicle not stopped?

If police had called Matloob to the locality to help in restoring order, how come he suddenly went underground, and was made an accused in the FIR? I think a senior police officer holding the rank of DGP must be careful while making remarks about riots, because such remarks can have serious repercussions. Those who sow seeds of hatred in society and try to disturb peace have nothing to do with religion per se.

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