'Heinous Conspiracy' Behind Bulandshahr Violence, 11 Year Old Named in FIR
CPI(M) fact finding report
BULANDSHAHR: Comrade Brinda Karat and I were part of a CPI(M) delegation that visited some villages in the Syana block of Bulandshahr district on January 5, along with party district leaders Surinder Singh and Jagdish Bhatti.
A month after the extremely disturbing events of December 3, 2018 we wanted to discover for ourselves what had transpired and why.
We went straight to Naya Baas village, to which Yogesh Raj the district convenor of the Bajrang Dal belongs.
Sharfuddin, who is one of the people accused of cowslaughter in the FIR lodged by Yogesh Raj on December 3, told us that he was one of 7 people named in the FIR. We sat in Sharfuddin’s house and many people gathered to speak to us. They told us that in the FIR Yogesh Raj states that he witnessed the killing of the animals on the night of the 2nd (a patently false statement) and said that 7 people belonging to his own village (which is more than 5 km from Mahav) were the culprits.
Other than Sharfuddin, the people named were Ilyas 1 and Ilyas 2, who have both been living in Delhi for many years and have not been arrested; Sajid who left the village 12 years ago and lives in Faridabad, but was arrested; Muqir; two minors, Sajid and Anas; and Sudaif Chowdhry who lives in Syana town.
Sharfuddin told us that an Ijtema – a Muslim religious congregation – had been organised from November 30 to December 3. He, along with most of the Muslim men in the village, was there throughout. In fact he was a volunteer in charge of parking arrangements.
He said there was a history of animosity between Yogesh Raj and his family, and the Muslims in the area. Yogesh Raj was constantly stirring up communal feelings and friction. In addition to this, in 1977 when the Muslim residents were constructing a mosque in the village, it was stopped by Yogesh Raj’s grandfather Rambali Singh, who was the Pradhan at the time.
The mosque was being built after all the formalities had been completed, and because the construction was opposed by some Hindus, it was being carried out under police protection. Rambali mobilised a large crowd, mostly of outsiders, to attack those building the mosque, and in the police firing that followed two people were killed.
The construction was stopped. Then Chief Minister Banarsi Das came to the village and tried to effect a compromise, but Rambali and his supporters were adamant. So the CM gave instructions for another piece of land to be used for the mosque. After this the mosque was used for daily prayers and Eid prayers. It had a loudspeaker. Children went there after school for religious instruction and there was no opposition to any of this.
Meanwhile, the case relating to the earlier site of mosque construction was also being fought. In 1984 the Muslim side won the case in the lower court and in 1987 this was reversed by the sessions court. After that an appeal was filed in the Allahabad High Court but not a single hearing has taken place.
In 2017, after the Yogi government came to power, Yogesh Raj filed a complaint with the police stating that the loudspeaker should be removed and that the mosque should not be used as a ‘madarsa’.
Both demands were met and since then the children have been going to classes in a regular madarsa in another part of the village.
Sharfuddin told us that Muqir had been named by Yogesh Raj because of an altercation that took place in the village between Muqir’s children and the children of a neighbour, Rishi, who is a Dalit.
A case under the SC/ST Act had been registered against Muqir and Yogesh was demanding Rs 50,000 to have it withdrawn. Rishi worked in Faridabad for a Muslim contractor also from the village and he was able to get the case withdrawn. Yogesh had nursed a grudge ever since.
Sudaif Chowdhry is a social worker who promotes communal harmony. On January 26, 2018 Yogesh Raj and his supporters organised a ‘Tiranga Yatra’ (Tricolour Odyssey) in Syana. The participants rode their motorbikes through Muslim areas shouting provocative slogans and looted and damaged some shops belonging to Muslims.
In the evening Sudaif organised a huge procession of Muslims and Hindus who went around the town shouting ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ carrying tricolour flags. People were very impressed by this and Yogesh felt he had been humiliated.
Two others were also arrested: Banne from Khelia village and Arif from Aurangabad, Bulandshahr who has been in Bombay for the last 4 years. Some years ago a van belonging to him was stopped with cows inside it. He had not even tried to get it back. Both were released along with Sarfuddin and others on December 20.
An interesting comment was made by Sharfuddin’s uncle to illustrate the kind of fear that the ‘cow issue’ has created in the minds of Muslims in the area:
He told us that he had a few milk-producing cows, one of which he had bought for Rs 35,000. Suddenly he was overcome by the fear that if one of these died naturally in his home, he and his family would face dire consequences. As a result, he gifted the cows to a poor Brahmin widow.
We were joined by Premjit Singh, former Pradhan of Mahav village where the carcasses or portions of carcasses of some cows were found in a field belonging to his cousin, Rajkumar, on the morning of the 3rd. Singh said that Rajkumar informed him of this and he told him to immediately inform the police, which Rajkumar did, and soon two constables arrived.
They were planning to dig a ditch and bury the carcasses, which has now become the practice in the area where hundreds of stray cattle wander around the fields and roads. Many are found dead and their carcasses are disposed of in this way.
However, the arrival of Yogesh Raj who had already filed a FIR in Syana stating he was witness to the killing of cows in the field on the night of the 2nd and naming the ‘culprits’, changed the situation.
A crowd collected, and Inspector Subodh Singh and the subdivisional magistrate and tehsildar, who had also arrived there, could not prevent the carcasses being loaded into Rajkumar’s trolley and taken to the main road in front of Chindraoti Chowki which was then blocked.
Premjit Singh told us that although it was Rajkumar who informed the police in the first place, he too was named in the case filed by police against those allegedly responsible for stone-throwing and rioting.
The following night (December 4) the police entered Rajkumar’s house and destroyed many household articles like their fridge, TV, etc. and also beat his wife, Preeti. No woman constable or police personnel was present. Singh said that Rajkumar has run away from his home.
He also told us that another very old man from his village, also a former Pradhan, Chandrapal Singh who had taken his grandson to buy him clothes had also stopped by the site of the roadblock. The officials present requested him to pacify the crowd and he tried his best – we were shown a video of this.
Later, Chandrapal Singh too was made an accused by the police. He was arrested and is in jail.
By this time the entire attention of the Special Investigation Team was centred on the ‘cow killing’, and the police arrested four more Muslims and a Hindu for cowslaughter on December 25 itself. They were: Mahboob Ali, Nadeem, Kaale, Haroon and Arvind Sharma.
Mahboob Ali is a very popular Samajwadi Party leader active in social causes. He is fond of shikar (hunting) and runs a transport business. He has no criminal record. Arvind Sharma is his inseparable friend, also involved in organising the marriages of poor girls and joint celebrations of festivals. He is a property dealer and a devout Hindu, sporting a very long chutayya (braid). His father is president of the district Brahman Samaj.
Nadeem is also fond of shikar - he is a national level, award-winning shooter who was given government permission to import a rifle. The police, in their report, stated that Nadeem’s Gypsy had been used to transport the dead animals, but Nadeem had said the Gypsy has not been in use for over six months. Other people who spoke to us confirmed this, and said the Gypsy had to be towed away from Nadeem’s house because it would not start.
Haroon used to manufacture bone-meal fertiliser. All of them, except Sharma, owned licensed arms. None of them has a criminal record. All of them are between 30 and 45 years old and are well-educated.
Kaale is a butcher by profession and had been arrested for transporting cows several months ago. He was out on bail when he was arrested in this case.
Arvind Sharma’s father Khemchand Sharma and his cousin Sanjay also came to the Naya Bas house to meet us. Khemchand is an ex-serviceman and he is still in shock about his son’s arrest. Sanjay told us that while people are supporting them they are too frightened to say anything publicly.
We also went to Chingraoti village and met the family of Sumit, who along with Inspector Subodh Singh was killed on December 3. His father Amarjit told us his son had accompanied a friend there who came and picked him up from the house that morning.
He said it was Subodh Singh who had shot his son and then, because of the mob fury that this invoked, killed himself. This is exactly the story that is being put out by RSS sources and the administration now.
After unconscionable delays the prime accused, Yogesh Raj and Shikhar Agarwal, have now been arrested. Two more persons have also been arrested and accused of the murders of people.
It seems that deliberate attempts are being made to ensure that the guilty get off scot free and that the image of a brave policeman is tarnished.
There is no doubt in our minds that the events of December 3 were well planned, and part of a conspiracy to engineer horrific riots in the area. This conclusion is strengthened by two facts that are now sought to be ‘erased’:
In his statement carried by the Hindustan Times on December 4, Tehsildar Rajkumar Bhaskar says clearly that ‘I was the first to reach the field in Mahav. I was amazed by the scene I saw there, because the so-called pieces of cow meat were tied hanging from trees and from the tops of the sugarcane bundles. This is a deep conspiracy. Because cow killers always put the cow meat away as soon as possible. Will they advertise what they have done by hanging the meat from the trees?’
‘It is also true that Mahav and other villages in the area are Hindu-dominated. It is inconceivable that any Muslims would have come here to slaughter cows. In any case, farmers in the area and their employees are out guarding their fields at night and outsiders would not have dared to come and slaughter cows in someone else’s field in another village.’
This statement is no longer being referred to or quoted.
A video shot during the roadblock has the following sequence: two young village boys who are standing near the tractor-trolley are asked ‘Where is this from?’ and they reply ‘Mahav’. Then they are asked ‘Do you know who killed the cows’ and they reply very simply ‘Kundan’.
Why has no enquiry been conducted to trace this ‘Kundan’?
The CPI(M) demands a judicial enquiry into the events leading up to the horrific crimes committed on December 3 so that a heinous conspiracy is exposed, and recurrence in future prevented.
The riots of 2012-13 are still fresh in our memories, the wounds they left in their wake have not yet disappeared.
Deep fissures have been created by them in an area which was free of rioting for decades.
Everything must be done to see that the days leading up to the general elections are not, once again, witness to bloody violence and greater tragedies.
Subhashini Ali is a member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau.
(Cover Photograph: The mother of 11 year old Anas named in the FIR.)