Kasganj ground zero: Trouble was brewing in the area, police slow to respond
On the evening of August 15 last year, a few months after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in Uttar Pradesh, a group of Muslim residents of Baddu Nagar — a Muslim majority area in Soron, Kasganj, around 70 km from Aligarh — approached the police and complained about the “rowdy behaviour of bikers” who passed through the area earlier that day as part of Tiranga Yatra.
“At least 12 young men on motorbikes passed through the area. A couple of them had the tricolour tied to their bikes while the rest had saffron flags,” recalled Rehan Shah, one of the complainants.
“Though they were carrying the national flag, they were shouting objectionable slogans,” he added.
The then in charge of the Soron police post, Narendra Kumar Gaur, overlooked the complaint. Five months later, on Republic Day this year, a much bigger group of young men attempted a similar rally through Baddu Nagar. The result was a tragedy that rapidly spiralled out of control.
According to witnesses, the group was stopped at Baddu Nagar by Muslim residents who had blocked the road for a flag hoisting ceremony.
“The bikers demanded they be allowed to pass but the others refused. This led to a skirmish and escalated into a communal clash,” they said.
This was the first communal clash in Kasganj since 1992.
Abhishek Gupta aka Chandan, 23, was killed in the clash and miscreants destroyed property worth lakhs of rupees. The city remained shut for three days.
“There was anger on both the sides due to which violence flared up so quickly,” said Rakesh Singh, a resident of Chamunda area.
A video clip of the incident, which is being probed by investigators, shows the young men on bikes shouting “rally yahin se nikalenge” (the rally will pass through here), “Vande Matram” and “Hindustan main rehna ho to...Vande Matram kehna hoga” (if you want to live in India, you will have to chant Vande Mataram).
Hardly half a km from Baddu Nagar is the “Badi Masjid” — the biggest mosque in Kasganj. Sitting on a wooden bed near the mosque, Mohd Aftab, a retired teacher, said: “The country is above all but one must not mix the two. I will hoist the tricolour with pride but why should I raise a saffron flag.”
“The men on the motorcycles forced us to hoist saffron flag, instead of the tricolour. They called us Pakistani, desh drohi (traitors) and what not. Jhagda to hona hi tha (violence had to happen),” said a middle-aged man of the area, on condition of anonymity.
“Why do they need a proof of our patriotism? Who are they to ask for it and that too in such a way,” the man lamented.
“The bikers shouted provocative slogans, which might have led to the clashes. Our teams are also looking at this,” said Kasganj superintendent of police Sunil Kumar Singh who has since been transferred.
Initial police response ‘slow’
A senior police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that the police were slow to respond.
Most of them were participating in Republic Day celebrations at the Police Lines about 10 km away from Kasganj.
Assistant sub-inspector Harish Chandra Yadav, posted at Soron Gate police station, was the first to respond.
“We got information about violence around 9 am. We went to Baddu Nagar and informed senior officials about the incident,” Yadav said.
According to police officials, the Tiranga Yatra started at Nadrai gate and moved towards Bilram gate.
“If they were taking out Tiranga Yatra, they should have taken the main road. What was the purpose of entering the narrow lanes of Baddu Nagar?” asked a Muslim resident.
Following the clashes at Baddu Nagar, the group abandoned their motorcycles and fled towards Kotwali where they allegedly damaged some shops.
Action after governor’s rap
Three days after the incident, the state government transferred district police chief Singh even as the director general of police (DGP) OP Singh shot off directives asking the police to deal firmly with troublemakers.
The police action came only after UP governor Ram Naik described the Kasganj clashes as a ‘kalank’ (blot) on the state and asked the state government to ensure there was no recurrence.
The state government also constituted a special investigation team (SIT) under the assistant superintendent of police (crime) Etah to probe the violence. The police arrested 125 persons after violence, a home department officer said on condition of anonymity.
He added that the SIT would probe the failure of the district administration to check communal violence and also identify the people involved in the clashes.
DGP Singh said no permission was required for the ‘Tiranga Yatra’, “Republic Day is a national festival and no permission is required.”
According to him: “Some anti-social elements started pelting stones which resulted in the death of a man and injury to another. Police immediately reached the spot and controlled the situation.”
Interestingly, the investigators are yet to determine the organisation that took out Tiranga Yatra in Baddu Nagar.
“It appears to be a mixed group of people from different organisations,” said the inspector general of police, Aligarh, Sanjeev Gupta.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced a compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the family of Chandan who was shot dead in the communal violence.
Chandan’s father Sushil Gupta, 51, demanded that his son be declared a martyr. “Some people have suggested that a crossing should be named after him in Kasganj. I am not averse to the idea,” he said.
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