19 March 2018 08:07 PM



Kasganj: Sankalp Foundation and the Politics of Hate

Facebook used to incite hatred

Ten days after communal clashes in Kasganj, a district in western Uttar Pradesh, the police – which have arrested 123 people and claimed to have cracked most of the cases related to the violence – is yet to take any action against Sankalp Foundation that is said to have carried out the “unauthorised” Tiranga Yatra, triggering the violence. Meanwhile, members of this foundation which was founded last year continue to spread hatred and tension through its Facebook posts, even threatening to take actions of revenge against Muslims.

Anukalp Vijay Chandra Chouhan, president of the non-governmental organisation (NGO, wrote a long post on Facebook warning the Muslim community to face dire consequences over the death of Chandan Gupta, one of the founding members of the foundation who died of a gun shot during the controversial motorbike rally taken out on January 26 to mark Republic Day from a Muslim-concentrated Baddu Nagar triggering the strife.

Several shops belonging to the Muslim community were torched and mosque were either turned into ashes or ransacked following the violence that continued till January 29 despite heavy presence of the security forces.

Chauhan is not alone in spreading venom in the name of nationalism in the communally torn Kasganj. Another office bearer of the organisation, Ayush Sharma who also identifies himself as Pandit Ji, called for a boycott of the Muslim community.

In his Facebook post Sharma writes, “Today, I want to ask you: will we have to face bullet and acid thrown at us for chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Matram’? What kind is developing and why is the administration not taking any action despite lodging the complaints?”

“Our brother (Chandan Gupta) sacrificed his life in the riots. The struggle for your pride and freedom of speech must get justice. Merely shouting and writing ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ will not serve any purpose. Now, this struggle is a fight for our love for the nation,” he adds.

These sentiments fly in the face of what actually happened on 26 January. Chandan Gupta was part of the procession where saffron flags and firearms were openly flaunted along with the tricolour. The participants of the bike rally insisted on passing through a narrow lane of Baddu Nagar, a Muslim-majority locality near Balran Gate, where preparations for flag-hoisting ceremony by local residents were already underway. The street was decorated with balloons and national flags and chairs were put for people to sit with a flag mast erected at a trisection known as Veer Abdul Hamid Tiraha.

The locals asked the bikers to join them but the latter insisted that they be given a passage and began chanting objectionable slogans. It resulted in an altercation. The police intervened and the youth were forced to run away from the area leaving their bikes lying in the area. This can be authenticated with CCTV footage and other videos accessed by Newsclick.

While the murder of Chandan Gupta by unknown gunman firing from rooftops remains a condemnable incident it is clear that right wing fanatics are trying to milk it for their own agenda, glossing over their own provocative actions. This is clear from the escalation that Sharma is still urging through his vitriolic Facebook posts.

“Come, we together will boycott this (Muslim) community. We should not do any business, nor do friendship with people of such ideology. Do this boycott sharing the pain of the mother (Chandan’s mother) who has lost her son. Think about the father (the deceased father Sushil Gupta) whose support old age was snatched just because of chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Matram’. This is your decision but mind you tomorrow it might be we, our sons or brothers. My patriot brothers, I bow before your sacrifices. It will not go in vain. If I manage to add even a single individual in this campaign, then I consider it a great success.”

A total of 11 First Information Reports (FIRs) have been lodged and the police have so far arrested 125 people, majority of them allegedly belong to a particular community. But those who took out the controversial ‘Tiranga Yatra’ without the permission of the police are yet to be taken into custody.

In addition to Sankalp Foundation, the role of Baba Shernath temple appears to be suspicious, according to Rajeev Yadav, a human rights activist associated with Lucknow-based Rihai Manch who had gone to Kasganj for a fact finding mission soon after the violence. He said the temple is linked with the Nath community traditions. Its chief patron is none other than UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

“The temple’s incumbent priest Somnath was appointed by chief minister’s order. After the new priest took over, Sankalp Foundation began organising ‘maha aarti’ every Monday in the temple. The ‘mahant’ was warmly welcomed by the office bearers of Sankalp who had organised a massive procession that had passed from across the city in his welcome,” Yadav told Newsclick.

The Facebook page of the NGO corroborates the fact.