“Hum pakistan toh nahi jaa sakte, ye mulq humara bhi hai”: Cries of victims who are left with nothing but ashes.
Reportedly 40 Muslims shop, 10 Muslim street vendor's cart and 7 Hindu shops have been torched, vandalized and looted by the mob on 2nd April rally in Karauli, Rajasthan.
The week when India was discussing whether the meat ban in Delhi was a move against one religion or respecting one’s faith, one more attack on Muslims added to the series of violence and call for genocide against the community.
On 2nd April, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and Youth groups of right-wing took out a rally organized a bike rally. They called it Shobha Yatra, to celebrate Chaitra Pratipada Nav Samvatsar, which is considered to be the Hindu New Year. After getting approval from the District administration, the bike rally with approximately 200 motorcycles and 400 men, donning saffron scarves, was taken out in Karauli.
Soon the rally turned into a riot-like situation when they were allegedly stone pelted by some people near the mosque in Hatwara, while some alleged that hateful slogans and songs like “Topi Wala bhi sur jhuka kar, Jai Shree Ram bolega” was played much before the stone-pelting even started.
And within no time, the exchange of songs and stone-pelting led to full-fledged violence, and then Karauli was BURNING.
Drugs, failure of law, and pre-planned target
Abrar, a local activist, in a sit-down interview opened some uncomfortable truth with me. He suggested that it was a proper failure of law and order along with the government's silence on the issue.
“I am saying it is a targeted attack or pre-planned violence because of what we witnessed 2 days ahead of the rally. 2 days ahead of the rally, we saw Hindu shops being marked with the bhagwa(orange) flag. We couldn’t have raised any question or suspicion on that because it’s their belief but now it all makes sense as to why they were being marked”, said Abrar.
Denying any involvement of locals, Abrar commented how he thinks that most of the people present in the rally were outsiders and not locals of Karauli.
“According to 90% of the people who participated in the rally were on drugs because they were not locals. Karauli is known for its brotherhood and communal harmony, there’s no way the people who have looted and vandalized the shops are locals and reside in our area. All those you see in the video are outsiders and have been drugged. Drug addiction is the new problem of Karauli”
It’s a custom in Karauli that ahead of any festival or rally, both the communities sit for a peace meeting and discuss the process, route, and everything around the event in the presence of the police.
On 29th April, said the meeting took place in a town hall with members of both the communities with no senior citizen representing either of the communities. According to Abrar, in all the meetings, it was a compulsion to have the presence of some police officials to confirm the routes of the rally but there were no police in the rally, there was some messenger of the police who conveyed all that was discussed in the meeting.
“There was absolutely no police presence in the meeting when they should have been there because we all knew something wrong would happen on the day. When the routes of the rally were being finalized, we all questioned why to take out the rally from a Muslim area, but there was no authority to back us, so that route was finalized and now we know what happened. It is a failure of law and order for sure”
47:7 - Communities face the brunt, the trauma which will stay forever.
Since the violence on 2nd April, the city has witnessed a stringent curfew, section 144 in place, suspension of internet, no public gathering, barricades all over, and no coming out of the houses is what the village is experiencing like never before.
Every day until the 11th of April, the curfew used to lift for 2 hours and that’s when people bought their groceries and other items.
“The violence has jolted us all. The police who are now showing up should have taken chargeback then to avoid this situation of chaos and fuss now”, a trader in the market who now have to walk to the bus station because of the curfew.
A total of 37 Muslim shops have been either burnt, vandalized, or looted in the violence by the mob, 10 street vendors’ carts have been burnt and 7 Hindu shops have also been torched.
Crying faces, people sitting outside their burnt houses, stocks lying broken all over the roads and shutters half-drawn, and few people in the market: the description of Kasauli bazaar after 7-8 days of total curfew and no opening of shops.
Nazamuddin, a 75-year-old man sat outside his fully burnt shop of dry fruits & spices at Boora Batasha Gali. On the evening of 2nd April, when Nazmuddin heard cries in the market of violence being broken out, he closed his shop and rushed towards his house.
“There were people running here and there shouting of violence in the city and hence, I closed my shop and ran. It was my neighbor, a Hindu shop owner who saw the mob breaking the locks of my shop. When I reached to check, everything was burnt to ashes, they looted my entire shop and then burnt the whole stocked shop”, he added.
Taking a toll on the police and the security personnel, Nazmuddin said, “I ran, if not, they would have killed me too and nobody would have come to save me. The policeman was standing and watching, they did absolutely nothing. It is all the fault of the police because they were with them and supported the mob entirely”
Apart from Nazmuddin’s shop, there were more than 4-5 shops that were burnt and vandalise and all of them belonged to the Muslim community. A garment shop owned by a Hindu man talked to me on the condition of anonymity and confirmed the presence of men with bhagwa shawls wrapped around their heads torching Nazmuddin’s shop.
“While we too closed our shop, I saw a bunch of men wearing bhagwa shawls around their necks covering their mouths and nose breaking the locks of his shop. I, then ran to his house to warn him and when he came to check, everything was burnt and looted”, the Hindu shop owner confirmed.
Samriddhi spoke to Shahina Praveen, who owned a bangle shop that was charred in communal violence on 2nd April.
“You can see from this end to that very end of the lane, there is so many bangle shop but only Muslim shops have been targeted, why? I have suffered a loss of more than 10Lakh. I restocked the shop because of Ramzan and coming eid, the shop had stock worth 7lakh and cash 3 lakh”.
Depicting the scenario which led to the sudden closure of the market, she iterated “ At around 5, we heard people shouting of the riot-like situation and like everybody even we closed our shop and ran to save our lives. I don’t know what happened after that. The neighbors must have seen something but are not agreeing to talk”
Shahina Praveen and her husband were so scared that it took them 2 days to gather the courage to get out of the house and check their store.
“We got so scared for our lives that we didn’t even get out of our houses for food or to check the condition of our shop. I just need one answer: How am I going to feed my children now?”
The reports suggest that more than close 47 Muslim families have been affected by the violence, while 7 Hindu shops have been torched in the violence. The fear that the Muslims had before the rally, came true. Muslims became the target and were targeted so badly that they people incurred losses of lakhs and lakhs of money and now stare at a bleak future.
Faqrudding Anjum sat inside his garment shop crying, not much for his shop as much as he feels the pain of being the target in the country.
“Hum Pakistan toh nahi jaa sakte, ye desh humara hai, ye mulq humara hai. Hum jaan de denge lekin yahi rahenge. Hum koi naye to aaye nahi hai, humare dada log yaha rahe hai, lade hai iss desh ke liye”, said Anjum with tears in his eyes.
Anjum incurred a loss of 35 lakhs after he re-stocked his shop in view of Ramzan and approached Eid.
While the reporter of this report was tracking down the number of shops Muslim shops that are burnt and vandalized, the locals informed us that 7 Hindu shops have also been torched down by the mob.
The reporter spoke to Puspendra Kashyap, the Hindu owner of a Grocery shop who at the time of violence was not present in the house or the shop.
“I was at my farming area with my family and somebody informed us about my house and it is being burnt. I along with my family ran to see what is the situation and upon my arrival, everything was burnt”
When asked if his shop was the only burnt in the area, Pushpendra and other villagers said how the mob was stone-pelting at other houses as well. The condition got so worse that people had to run from their houses in view of saving their kids and themselves from getting killed.
Blaming the police, another villager said “The police did absolutely nothing. They stood and just watched the mob destroying everything. I can show you the video and you be the judge of what the police was doing”
One of the villagers even showed his suspicion of the Muslim community behind the violence in Hindu shops.
As much as almost all the victims have complained/blamed the police for being a mute spectator and not taking charge rather than entertaining the mob, the victims also talk about the police brutality against them. The police have been calling the victims or the relatives of the shop owners whose shops/houses have been vandalized and burnt.
Not so astonishingly, while the mob targeted majorly the Muslims in the area, seems like the police meted out the same behavior to Muslims. The victims have complained of being harassed by the police post-violence and the FIR registration.
Irfan, who owns 4 shops of garments and clothes told the reporter how he has incurred a total loss of 35-40 lakhs, and even after the loss, it’s his brother who is being harassed by the police.
“They burnt my entire showroom, see there’s nothing left except for black pieces of clothes. After I registered the FIR, they(police) came and asked for my brother and took him to the PS. He is a 21-year-old kid and was tortured very badly. He was not beaten but was kept for 12-13 hours in the police station”
Irfan’s brother is a 21-year-old who at the time of the violence was not even at the shop, according to Irfan. His brother was interrogated for 12 hours and was shown pictures of men for identification.
“They have taken his(brother) iPhone and haven’t returned it, it has been 4-5 days that they have seized the phone. What are they even looking at?”, added Irfan.
“Tu Miya hai, Pakistan see Aaya hai”, these were alleged words of the police officials when Irfan went to ask the policemen why aren’t checking the CCTV footage of the cameras on the street.
The victims feel a sense of hate from the side of the police and partiality too. The police, instead of checking the footage from the CCTV camera have been going around interrogating the victims.
According to Abrar, the local activist, more than 500 Muslims to date have been interrogated after the 2nd April violence.
Samriddhi, the reporter spoke to another Muslim family who lives near the Wazirpur Gate, an 18-year-old Danish was allegedly arrested and beaten up by the police.
“He was fast asleep and the police personnel came and started to wake him up. I requested them but they kept repeating that it will take him just 2 hours to interrogate”, her mother noted.
“The police even asked him as to what is stopping him from chatting Jai Shree Ram and that he and his family should go to Pakistan”, Danish’s mother noted.
The Wire reported another incident of police brutality on a 14-year-old Muslim boy. “Police arrested my son and beat him the whole night. You have facial hair and you don’t look like 14 and pulled his facial hair. ,” Pappu, the father of the boy, said.
While the reporter landed Karauli went to take permission from DM because of the curfew. In a casual interaction with the PRO, the reporter asked about the news of police brutality on the victims to which the PRO very casually said
“ab ye sab to ho jata hai interrogation mai. Badmaash ke chakkar mai inncoents phans jaate hai”
I contacted Shailendra, SP of Karauli on the issue of police brutality.
"This is all wrong, these are false allegations against us. We are arresting people and taking preventive measures. It's our work to interrogate people that including the victims. We haven't manhandled anybody. This is all wrong information."
No history of violence, but the violence seems to have left a scar on the communities’ harmony
It is worth noting that Karauli is a very peace-loving and tranquil city with absolutely no history of religious conflict. The city has seen minor fights but none that has fabricated their communal harmony. However, this occurrence may have altered that.
Even if the rallies have been put on hold for the time being, a lingering hostility has infiltrated Hindu-Muslim ties in the region.
“Karauli has seen fights, fights on the basis of religion but nobody and no situation have ever overpowered its hate. But seems like this riot-like situation and so much damage, which is being targetted mostly on Muslims will leave a black mark in the history of Karauli”, said an old Muslim trader.
The number of damage, the Muslim community has faced and experienced against the Hindu community is far more deadly and heart-wrenching. News9 met approximately 11 Muslim shop owners and 3 Hindu shop owners. The only difference one could make out was a scar on the history of brotherhood.
While meeting different victims, the Muslim shopkeepers were adamant about the fact that all the damage to them has been done by the outsiders and not any locals or their neighbors. But, the Hindu shopkeepers painted a very different perspective.
“Madam, look there that’s a Muslim area, not any Muslim area but extremists reside in that area. And, our area which is just adjacent to their area has been torched. I have my doubts here”, said a Hindu local man.