The violence happened on a day when President Ram Nath Kovind, PM Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath were in Kanpur (rural), just 100 km away, for an official function in the native village of the President reflecting shocking intelligence failure, writes Mudit Mathur
The claims of self-sycophant state police were demolished during the high alert visit of top constitutional heads of nation and the state when communal riots broke out in the Kanpur district of the Uttar Pradesh. It happened when President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Governor Anandi Ben Patel and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were present in a function in Kanpur (Rural), which is less than 100 kilometres away from the violence spot and state capital was busy hosting mega ground breaking ceremony to attract investments from top industrialists claiming a congenial atmosphere after it had bulldozed crime and criminals.
The well-defined security and intelligence protocols in the rule books start operating weeks before presidential and prime ministerial visits in a state. Despite that such communal clashes reflect shocking intelligence failure of policing networks which resulted in such a big fiasco in Kanpur.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s hate campaign backfired as it was adversely affecting India’s ties with the Islamic world that PM Modi had forged with lot of labour and diplomatic moves. Days after controversial remark, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran summoned Indian diplomats over the comments made by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal. Several other Islamic countries including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Maldives, Oman and Afghanistan also denounced the comments while some of them welcomed BJP’s punitive action against the duo.
The ground strategy suddenly changed on the back of outrage from West Asian countries including Kuwait, Qatar, Iran and other Gulf nations conveyed their displeasure to Indian envoys or issued statements condemning the disparaging comments of BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma about Prophet Muhammad.
Initially, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed unmoved by the growing turmoil but quickly realised targeting Indian Muslims may provoke the broader Muslim world at large and democracies in particular. The anticipated repercussions of threat to Indian exports to the region including the well-being of Indians working there in huge numbers, apparently, forced him to dilute tough stand for a while. The outcome was obvious with the decision of the BJP suspending spokesperson Nupur Sharma from the party and expelled another leader, Delhi media head Naveen Kumar Jindal claiming that BJP respects for all religions.
Meanwhile, the suspension of Nupur Sharma and the expulsion of Naveen Kumar Jindal also drew angry reactions from BJP’s faithful army of cyber supporters on social media platforms. Reflecting their dissension over the decision of the BJP leadership, they expressed solidarity and sympathy with Nupur Sharma, who was unceremoniously removed to pacify angry Gulf countries. They wrote on social media that the BJP has let down the Hindus by buckling under pressure from Muslims.
The action precipitated keeping in view the conciliatory advice of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat addressing his cadre, “There was no need to find a “Shivling” in every mosque.” While recognizing that the Gyanvapi dispute involves the issue of faith, he stressed, “The court’s decision on it should be accepted by all and we should go for amicable resolution of disputes.” He sought to distance his organisation from high-pitched and confrontational religious rhetoric, even as it has brought to fore conflict within its wide spectrum of ideological support.
In view of such circumstances at domestic front and as well as international outrage over the controversy, the red-faced Yogi government removed Kanpur DM Neha Sharma after the riots. She became the first scapegoat in an aftermath of communal riots, though gathering intelligence and leading policing operations comes under the exclusive domain of Kanpur Police Commissionerate. Special Secretary and a close aide to the chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Vishakh G (2011 batch IAS) has replaced her and assumed the charge of DM Kanpur where he had served earlier in the same position. He has begun peace initiatives by involving respectable people from both the communities through meetings of peace committee.
Police has arrested around 55 persons in connection with violence and for inciting hatred besides FIR against eight twitter handles including some media persons. Police released a poster of 40 suspects involved in the Kanpur violence on June 3 containing all the Muslim faces which further evoked severe criticism by the community leaders alleging partisan approach of the administration. But now in a damage control exercise, the police has arrested some BJP functionaries and Hindu outfit leaders as well. The administration has invoked orders under Section 144 CrPC in view of prevailing tension in the sensitive areas. The section 144 of CrPC restricts the assembly of more than four persons.
In terms of the security situation, personnel from Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Quick Response Team have been deployed in Muslim-dominated pockets.
According to the officials, Kanpur district magistrate Vishak G and police commissioner Vijay Singh Meena also held a meeting with religious leaders, including Muslim clerics and Hindu priests, to take them into confidence.
Earlier, communal riots broke out in Kanpur on June 3 after Friday prayers when row erupted over the closure of shops during a bandh call given by Muslims to protest against BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her alleged derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad during a TV debate on ‘Times Now’ over ongoing sub judice matter in the courts about Gyanvapi mosque of Kashi (Varanasi). Several people were injured during the clashes as mobs hurled bombs and pelted each other with stones and damaged vehicles.
The violence erupted after a group of protesters forced the closure of shops in the Beconganj area but the shopkeepers refused to close their business for the day. The altercation turned into brawl between the protesters and the business community. A few videos of the incident show that members of the Hindutva groups also participated in the clashes but administration largely booked Muslims in the FIRs filed by police.
It is being revealed that initially the local police had controlled the situation by baton-charging the protesters. Later, the situation escalated when some unknown persons fired two shots in the air, and soon, people started hurling bricks and stones at each other. In the stone-pelting incident, at least six people were gravely injured. Some vehicles were also damaged during the clashes. However, police commissioner Vijay Singh Meena denied the incident of firing and hurling of petrol bombs.
Meena said that the accused were being identified on the basis of over 20 viral videos of the clashes which broke out in Parade, NaiSadak and Yateemkhana areas. After getting footage from CCTV cameras installed inside shops, action will be taken against all accused. The situation had returned to normal and all shops will be duly opened, the police commissioner added.
Earlier on June 2, Thursday, posters were put up in town to close the market in protest against remarks made by BJP leader Nupur Sharma. Markets at Talaq Mahal, Colonelganj, Hiraman Purwa, Chamanganj, Beganganj, Dalel Purwa, Meston Road, Babu Purwa, Rawatpur and Jajmau were shut since Friday morning. According to the sources, some local leaders had given a call for a bandh. Maulana Mohammed Ali (MMA) Jauhar Fans Association chief, Hayat Zafar Hashmi, supported the bandh.
MMA is nearly a decade old Kanpur-based NGO that has a very limited influence in the community. It runs many humanitarian programmes relating to health and education, and has been involved in various social movements such as atrocities against women, etc.
The police on June 4 registered three FIRs against more than 1,000 unknown persons, out of which 55 people have been named as accused, all of whom are Muslims. The FIRs were filed against them in connection with the violence which erupted on June 3. Police has arrested 55 persons so far and looking out for more who were shown in different video footages.
Police are identifying more accused with the help of video footage. They have warned that action will be taken against them under the Gangster Act. The senior police officials have also allegedly planned to seize and demolish the properties of the accused.
Additional Director General (law and order) Prashant Kumar told media through a video massage, “Those involved in the violence are being identified with the help of video footage of the incident.” “The accused and the conspirators of the violence will be booked under the Gangster Act and their properties will be seized or demolished,” Kumar added,
Taking cognizance of a video, the police registered an FIR and arrested the accused identified as Tushar Shukla who was caught harassing an old Muslim shopkeeper under Govind Nagar police station. Police also arrested BJP youth wing functionary Harshit Srivastava for his inflammatory tweet on Kanpur riots.
UP’s Saharanpur-based Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband condemned the remarks made by Nupur Sharma and demanded strict action against her. Deoband Vice-Chancellor Maulana Mufti Abul QasimNomani said, “Any gustakhi (disrespect) in the glory of Prophet Hazrat Mohammad is absolutely unbearable on which it is not possible to remain silent.” “India is a secular country which provides security to all religions. But, in the past few years it has become common practice among the communal elements to hurt religious sentiments and the pride of eminent personalities,” Nomani said in a media interaction.
Demanding immediate arrest of BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, the Samajwadi Party chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav took a dig at the state government, saying that the Kanpur violence is a “failure of intelligence”. He appealed to the people to “maintain the peace and harmony.
The UP Police had put Samajwadi Party national spokesperson Sumaiya Rana under house arrest on June 4 in Lucknow. Rana had announced to protest over the objectionable comments of Nupur Sharmaa bout Prophet Muhammad on 5th June, Saturday at the 1090 crossing of Gomtinagar area. “Heavy police force has been deployed outside her residence in the Qaiserbagh locality,” she alleged.
“The ruling BJP planned such incidents to divert the minds of the public from the real issues of unemployment, agrarian distress, inflation, etc.,” the Congress MLC Deepak Singh said. “The violence in Kanpur occurred at a time when the president, prime minister and the chief minister were present there, which showed the failure of the law-and-order situation in the state,” he asserted.
The All India Mohammadi Mission condemned the violence and appealed for peace. Syed Mohammad Ahmad Mia, president of the youth wing of the mission, asked, “Why has the government not yet arrested BJP leader Nupur Sharma, despite evidence against her blasphemous comments about the prophet?”
Subhashni Ali, a former member of parliament from Kanpur and politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), demanded legal action against Sharma as well as the TV channel and its news anchor, who allowed them to broadcast “blasphemous comments” about the revered Islamic figure.
Violent protests in many states for Nupur-Jindal arrests
The protests also turned violent in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, Ranchi in Jharkhand and West Bengal’s Howrah. The protests in other parts of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Bihar and Maharashtra were by and large peaceful even as a shutdown was observed in Srinagar demanding arrest of Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.
After last Friday in Kanpur this Friday, June 10 Prayagraj saw protests also turning out of control, where heavy brickbat hurling resulted in minor injuries to several police personnel. Taking stock of the situation, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed senior officials to take the “strictest action against those involved in incidents of violence and unlawful protests in the state.” Yogi also asked officials to initiate recovery proceedings where damage was done to public or private property.
In Prayagraj, the violence broke out in Khuldabad police station area when youths gathered on the streets long after the afternoon prayers were over. “There were many minors among them. We used light force to disperse them. Even after this, people kept coming out in lanes and raising slogans. Some minor injuries have been sustained by the forces. The situation is under control,” SSP Ajay Kumar said. “One rickshaw’s tyre was set on fire but it was doused. There was also an attempt to set a PAC vehicle on fire. The Rapid Action Force and four companies of PAC have been deployed,” he added.
The UP Police said that a total of 136 people were arrested over the protests, including 45 in Saharanpur, 37 in Prayagraj, 23 in Ambedkar Nagar, 20 in Hathras, seven in Moradabad and four in Firozabad. The Lucknow Police Commissioner Dhruv Kant Thakur worked day and night to manage peace and harmony working with Muslim religious leaders. Kanpur, Bareilly, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, Hapur, Bagpat, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar remained peaceful which are considered as communally sensitive districts.
In Ranchi, one of the protesters died of a bullet injury in police firing to control unruly mob and twelve others sustained injuries due to stone-pelting as well as pellets. Injured have been admitted to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences.
Violence broke out in Ranchi on Friday June 10, during a protest march when the agitators indulged in stone pelting over comments made by now suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma. The protestors were marching on the Main Road area of Ranchi between 2.30 pm and 3 pm when the violence broke out and the police were unable to control them. The police had to resort to firing in the air to disperse the crowd. A Station House Officer (SHO) and a few other police personnel were also injured along with protestors.
In West Bengal’s Howrah, prohibitory orders were imposed in several areas after protesters attacked a police station and also set fire to a few kiosks, and several two-wheelers and vehicles. Officials said at least 12 policemen were injured.
In Dhulagarh, the police used batons and fired tear gas shells to disperse a mob that had blocked a national highway. The protesters attacked and vandalised a police station in Domjur. “There was damage to property but no serious injuries were reported.
In Kolkata, protesters blocked the Park Circus seven-point crossing for over two hours demanding the arrest of Nupur Sharma. State Transport Minister and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said: “What Nupur Sharma said is highly condemnable. But that does not mean you come out on the roads and agitate. There is no place for hooliganism.”
Earlier, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted, “Expect CM Smt. Mamata Banerjee to sternly warn law violators — they will not be spared.” Dhankhar also summoned the state’s chief secretary H K Dwivedi even as the opposition BJP alleged that its offices were targeted in the Uluberia and Panchla areas.
In Maharashtra, peaceful protests were held in 14 districts, with large gatherings reported from Solapur, Navi Mumbai, Nandurbar, Aurangabad, Parbhani and Jalna.
In J&K, all business establishments remained shut in Srinagar while authorities snapped mobile internet services for most of the day before restoring them late in the evening. The protests came a day after an indefinite curfew was imposed in Kishtwar district and Bhaderwah town in Doda district while prohibitory orders were imposed in the rest of the Chenab Valley.
In Hyderabad, people protested in front of Makka Masjid against utterances of BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. Police removed protesters and heavy police force including CRPF was been deployed in the area.
In Delhi, the police said almost 1,500 people had gathered at Jama Masjid for Friday prayers after which nearly 300 staged a protest. The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid said Masjid has not issued any call for protests.
Neanwhile Former BJP national spokesperson Nupur Sharma has finally issued an apology. She unconditionally withdrew her statement noting that it was never her intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings. Right after the BJP expelled its Delhi media head Naveen Kumar Jindal from the party over alleged controversial remarks against minorities, he clarified that he respects people of all faiths.
After the BJP suspended Nupur Sharma over her remarks on Prophet Muhammad during a TV debate on Times Now, she took to Twitter to issue an apology. She wrote, “If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement. It was never my intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings.”
She said, “I have been attending TV debates for the past many days where our Mahadev was being insulted and disrespected continuously. It was mockingly being said that it is not Shivling [at Gyanvapi mosque] but a fountain. The Shivling was also being ridiculed by comparing it to roadside signs and poles in Delhi.” “I could not tolerate this continuous insult and disrespect towards our Mahadev and I said some things in response to it,” Sharma said.
The suspension of these leaders being seen as an attempt to rein in big mouth spokespersons who violate Bharatiya Janata Party’s official line on sensitive matters. The strict action against the two leaders came as an attempt to prevent any further damage to the party’s image over their controversial remarks.
Nupur Sharma further tweeted: “I request all media houses and everybody else not to make my address public. There is a security threat to my family.”
Delhi Police book Nupur-Naveen-Owaisi and others for hate messages on social media
Deputy Commissioner of Police Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operation (IFSO), KPS Malhotra said cutting across religious leanings, the Delhi Police on Wednesday June 8, has registered FIRs against several individuals and some people who are allegedly spreading messages of hate, inciting various groups and creating situations which is detrimental for the maintenance of public tranquillity.
Among those named in the FIRs include suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, Naveen Kumar Jindal, the expelled head of Delhi BJP’s media unit, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, Peace Party chief spokesperson Shadab Chauhan, Hindu Mahasabha office bearer Pooja Shakun Pandey, Maulana Mufti Nadeem and journalist Saba Naqvi.
The unit will investigate the roles of various social media entities in promoting false and wrong information with an intention to create unrest on the cyber space and that have ramifications on the physical space thereby compromising with the social fabric of the country, Malhotra said.
Earlier, Mumbra police in Thane district and the Pydonie police in Mumbai had already registered FIRs against Nupur Sharma,who was recently embroiled in a controversy over the objectionable comments she had made on Prophet Mohammad during a television debate on May 28.
Maulana Mufti Nadeem, named in IFSO’s FIR, is from Rajasthan’s Bundi and featured in a viral video where he can purportedly be heard threatening violence against those who will speak against the Prophet.
Hindu Mahasabha office bearer Pooja Shakun Pandey faces an FIR by Aligarh police over objectionable remarks against Friday namaz made on social media. The 41-year-old national secretary of Hindu Mahasabha was also arrested in 2019 along with her husband and national spokesperson of Hindu Mahasabha, Ashok Pandey, for allegedly recreating the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on his death anniversary.
“I have been selectively targeted”: Saba Naqvi
“I am committed to the secular and liberal ethos of India and stand against any fundamentalism, hate speech and injustice,” said journalist Saba Naqvi who has been recently named in a case of spreading hate online by Delhi Police. “Currently I am abroad and will comply with due process on my return in mid-July,” she told.
In a statement, Naqvi also said: “I am a journalist and tasked with speaking truth to power. Social media and news sites suggest the FIR has been filed because of a whatsapp forward that I shared only to delete it a few hours later. Many others also shared the same image yet I have been selectively targeted in the FIR”.
The Press Club of India (PCI) demanded immediate withdrawal of FIR against senior journalist and columnist Saba Naqvi, and all on-going enquiries against her be stopped forthwith.
In a tweet, PCI vehemently condemned the lopsided and highhanded manner of Delhi Police in lodging FIR against Saba Naqvi. “The whimsical way of Delhi Police in reaching out to her posts reflects Delhi Police’s more-than-eagerness to make her posts blasphemous thereby registering her as accused for a crime which she has not committed at all,” it added.
Kanpur clashes main accuse under SIT scanner
The UP Police have launched a probe into the possibilities of foreign funding to prime accused Hayat Zafar Hashmi, following revelations that he had received a total of Rs 3.54 crore into one of his four bank account since July 2019. So far, details of one of his accounts at a private bank in Babupurwa area of Kanpur reveal that a transaction of Rs 3.54 crore was made in his account on July 30, 2019.
An amount of Rs 98 lakh was similarly withdrawn from the same account in September 2021, said an official of the special investigation team. At present, Rs 1.27 crore are left in this account. Hayat owns a fair price shop. “First, we are looking into the sources of money and then the purpose for which it was being used. Later, we will ascertain if the transactions were legal,” the SIT official said.
Police official said that Hayat has two more bank accounts. Transactions have also been made from these bank accounts. “Till now, transactions worth Rs 47.6 crore have been made from the other three accounts in the last three years. Now, the accounts show a balance of just Rs 11 lakh. ED teams may also interrogate him and his associates regarding the foreign funding if any,” the SIT official said.
However, the family of Hashmi alleged that he was being falsely implicated, and he had taken back the bandh call in front of police officers. Police arrested him from Hazratganj area of Lucknow and taken in for questioning. Hashmi is accused of calling for a “jail bharo movement” through a Facebook post and for demanding that markets should be closed down, police said. He also allegedly put-up posters in and around Kanpur.