D

 Buniyaad[1]

Introduction:

According to the fact findings carried out by Alp Sankhyak Adhikar Manch[2]Gujarat witnessed 13 communal riots and 5 mob lynching in 2018. In these 13 communal riots, 3 lives were lost and 33 people injured. These figures are by no means comprehensive, given the fact that they arrive solely from the fact findings carried out by the above mentioned civil society organization. Figures from other official sources and media will be higher. However, it is important to place this narrative of communal violence in public domain since the state government claims there was not a single riot that took place in the Gujarat after 2002[3]. Denial of such incidences by the government results in providing impunity to the perpetrators of communal riots and mob lynching and thus subsequently contributing the polarization of the society.  

To substantiate the point made above about communal riots in post-2002 Gujarat, it would be relevant to analyze some figures which explain the magnitude of communal riots in Gujarat. Shams Tabrez, an RTI activist from Ghazipur (UP) asked the Union Home Ministry for information about the communal riots of Gujarat. The Home Ministry replies revealed that the year 2008 alone witnessed 79 communal riots killing five persons and injuring 228 people. In the year 2011, 47 communal riots took place, claiming lives of three persons and 144 people injured. In 2014, 74 communal incidents took place in the state, killing seven persons and injuring 215 people. In 2015, 55 communal riots took place, killing eight persons and injuring 163 people[4]. After the 2002 pogrom the communal frenzy has not stopped even after ten years the communal violence has taken rather new forms.

Methodology:

These findings in the report are based on the fact findings of communal violence directly undertaken by Alp Sankhyak Adhikar Manch working in the state of Gujarat. Data was collected through direct interactions/ discussions with survivors, the accused, political parties and the administration. The data was then corroborated with the FIR copies procured from administration.

One of the limitations of the report is that findings are based on the direct fact findings of one organization, i.e. Alp Sankhyak Adhikar Manch. Due to the constraints of resources, fact findings could be conducted in only 13 communal riots in 2018. There are many records which lead to the speculations that the number of the communal riots in the state is much extensive than the reports of these fact findings. According to the data released in parliament through the Ministry of Home Affairs on 6th February 2018, in 2017 Gujarat had ranked seventh in a maximum number of incidents of communal violence in the country with fifty communal riots[5]. The reply to the question no 6036 in LS dated April 11th, 2017 records discrepancies in the figures of communal incidents provided by the NCRB and Home Ministry. NCRB figures were more than those provided by the Home Ministry. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and Fact Checker, independent research initiative, revealed that Gujarat had reported 35,568 riots from 1998 to 2016. There were 164 communal riots and 305 victims in the state between 2014 and 2016, according to NCRB data[6].

The terms, communal violence and communal riots are often used interchangeably, but they are not one and the same. In fact, communal violence is a broader term which encompasses communal riots, mob lynching and other symbolic and structural violence[7]. For better clarity in this report which sheds more light on analysis of communal riots and mob lynching, please refer to the definitions given below:

Communal riot – 

When a mob (consisting of at least 5 persons) predominantly belonging to a religious community, gathers with the objective of inflicting collective punishment by way of causing physical injuries, death, sexual assault and/or causing damage to the properties of any or all members of another religious community only because they are perceived to belong to the targeted community, whether or not the targeted individuals are guilty of any wrongdoing and often the individuals targeted are not responsible for any wrongdoing to the knowledge of the aggressive mob, and in fact inflicts such collective punishments as they are capable of to the members of targeted religious community[8].

Mob lynching:

When a mob (consisting of at least 5 persons) assembles and physically lynches any individual or group of individual and / or causes damage to their property causing physical injury or death of the individuals lynched because the lynch mob perceives those targeted individuals of some wrong doing whether or not their perception is factual and whether or not the wrong doing they are accused of constitutes any offence or illegality[9].

Mapping of trends of communal riots in Gujarat- violence spreading to rural areas:

Out of total 13 incidents, ten incidents took place in villages of different districts of Gujarat (Table 1). In 2018, small towns, blocks and villages including Chattral,  Khambat, Himmatnagar, Idar, Kalol, Kheda, and Halwad, have been the targets of communal hatred and violence. This trend of spread of communal hatred and violence in rural area has been evident from the last couple of years and has continued in 2018. It is important to note that most of these places had not witness communal violence during the 2002 carnage. The use of social media like facebook, twitter and WhatsApp, has been a tool to spread the hatred along religious lines widely. This has led to provocative remarks and altercation sometimes leading to major conflicts. This is resulting in intolerance and polarisation along religious lines.


Figure 1 This affiche in Gujarati translate to: Welcomes you to Halwad city of Hindu Rashtra.  VishwaHinduParishad-Bajrangdal

In the year 2018, communal violence took place mainly in rural areas and small towns of Gujarat. Complex processes are at play leading to communal violence and even communal riots, particularly in rural areas. Communal riots in the past were restricted in urban areas. This trend was not restricted to Gujarat alone. Overall in India, communal riots were an urban phenomenon which is fast spreading to rural areas in the past five years which coincides with the BJP coming to power at the Centre. The resulting polarisation can be gauged from the signboards welcoming travellers into villages in Gujarat stating ‘Welcome to Hindu Rashtra’. These welcome sign boards are placed by Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Such signboards are grim reminders of similar boards which were erected during the elections of 2007 mostly at the city level in different areas of Ahmedabad, and Vadodara. However, from 2017, they are erected mostly in interior villages, block and towns of Gujarat.

Religion-wise breaks up of losses:

During communal riots in 2018, total 33 persons were injured, out of which 24 belonged Muslim community while 9 were Hindus. The total number of persons killed was 3; one was Muslim while two was from Hindu community. In terms of loss of property and vehicles in most cases, Muslim community bared the burden of substantive loss. In fact, out of 13 incidents only in one incident in Sanjeli village, Dahod there was an equal amount losses suffered by both the communities.

Religion wise distribution of number of killed and injured persons in communal riots in 2018

Source: As per the report of fact finding by AAM

Trigger Points of communal riots:

A pattern regarding emerged from the causal analysis of the communal incidences revealed that religious festivals, processions, rallies, inter-religious relationships, derogatory/controversial songs, eve- teasing and hate speeches have been trigger-points for communal riots. The festivals included Ganesh Chaturthi, Eid, Bakri Eid and Maharana Pratap Jayanti has been pints of communal tension. Out of 13 communal incidents, 7 took place during different religious festivals, processions and rallies, 2 under the pretext of inter-religious romantic relationships- One due to the alleged eve teasing of a Muslim woman and other due to inter-religious marriage between a Hindu boy with Muslim girl. While rest two communal riots were results of inter-personal petty disputes among individuals which was given a communal hue and resulted into violence between the communities.

A new phenomenon has been the use of social media as a tool to spread hatred and instigate violence in most of the incidents. Unambiguous visual presence of Hindu supremacists including RSS, Bajrang dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad has played pivotal role in spreading hate amongst Muslim and in provoking Hindus against Muslims. Religious festivals are used as arenas for political mobilization along communal lines and provocative slogans are given to foment violence and tensions. Religious festivals/ processions are used as opportunities given the large number of people gathered to instigate the other community and assertion of one community over the other with aggression and derogatory slogans. This is unfortunate because in the past, religious festivals were bonding factors where residents irrespective of religious identities participated but now these festivals are used for competitive mobilization.

Figure 2 Burnt house of Shabbir bhai at Kherda Village

The increasing conflicts due to inter-religious relationship are also rapidly growing and both, Hindus including Dalits and Muslims are aggressive in such cases. Though choosing partners in terms of romantic relationships or marriages is a basic right of the citizens and involves exercising of one’s agency, these choices are politicized in the current discourse. The propaganda of ‘love jihad’ is targeting Muslim boys who have any relationship with Hindu women, in turn demonizing the Muslim community and also undermining the agency of the women. The role played by Hindu supremacists is very important in these cases. Photo copies of notices issued in special marriage court have been made viral in various whatsapp groups which resulted either in communal riots or pressurizing the families of the couple to stop the marriage and get the girl back to her parents. Both commun ities are reacting more or less similarly. In fact, it is observed that more instances of Muslim girls being in relationship with Hindu boys and thus inciting violent and conservative reactions from the Muslim community. This is also a result of the propaganda and message spread by the Hindu supremacists that getting Hindu boys to be with Muslim women is their way of avenging against “love jihad”.

Change in nature of communal violence:

The nature of communal violence has changed after the 2002 communal carnage. While 2002 riot was large scale in terms of its geographical expanse[10] and losses in terms of property and lives, subsequent riots are sub radar having smaller scale. This change can be explained due to combination of different factors[11]. But the impact of the small scale riots is intensive achieving polarization of the society along religious lines and increasing intolerance while creating an image that communal riots are not taking place in Gujarat.

One way to explain the lower scale of communal riots in Gujarat is the changing political scenario and electoral calculations. The Congress and other opposition parties in Gujarat are completely marginalized. The Muslim vote has also rendered irrelevant bearing in local elections. But at the state level or national level elections, the combination of Darbars and Patels is very potent and powerful. The earlier formula of KHAM (Kshtriya, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims) which had emerged during 1980s, has lost its relevance and hence being replaced. There is a social hegemony of the dominant castes now including that of Darbar and Patels along with the support of Adivasis and the Kshtriyas to formulate Hindu vote bank. Due to such formulations, the Muslims are isolated and their bargaining power in terms of votes is ineffective. Thus such electoral polarization is achieved resulting in decreasing the need of communal riots on a large scale to achieve electoral gains. Instead they are replaced by low intensity riots and mob lynching to spread the religious hatred.

Violence in the nature of mob lynching

Besides communal riots, mob lynching led by cow vigilantes has emerged as a new form of communal violence in Gujarat. The menace of mob lynching is not restricted in Gujarat but is prevalent throughout India. Union minister of Home affairs Hansraj Ahir answered to a query in the Rajya Sabha on July 18, 2018[12] that National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain specific data with respect to lynching by mobs. But the data base of India Spends report reveals that on state of 2018, 27 pe rsons were killed in 66 cases of mob violence sparked specifically by rumors of child-lifting circulated on social media. This is eight times as many attacks and thrice the numbers of deaths were reported in 2017[13].Muslim community specifically has been targeted in the mob lynching. The report published in Hindustan Times[14] reveals that 86 per cent killed in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslim, 97 per cent of these attacks have taken place after BJP government came to power at the centre.  In the first six months of 2017, 20 cow-terror attacks were reported–more than 75 per cent of the 2016 figures, which was the worst year for such violence since 2010. The attacks include mob lynching, attacks by vigilantes, murder and attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gang-rape. In two attacks, the victims/survivors were chained, stripped and beaten, while in two others, the victims were hanged. These attacks – sometimes collectively referred to as gautankwad[15], a portmanteau of the Hindi words for cow and terrorism, on social media – were reported from 19 of 29 Indian states, with Uttar Pradesh (10), Haryana (9), Gujarat (6), Karnataka (6), Madhya Pradesh (4), Delhi (4) and Rajasthan (4) reporting the highest number of cases.

 

Figure 3 Zaheer Qureshi (22 years) survived after being stabbed by cow vigilantes

The number of incidents of mob lynching highlighted in this report is may be underestimated. There are more incidents reported in the media. But as pointed out above, the cases described in this report is where the fact findings are carried out or being monitored. After cow vigilantes attacked Mohommad Ayub of Ahmedabad in 2016, many other incidents taken place across Gujarat. In the year 2018, AAM have worked and monitored 5 incidents of mob lynching. These five include two related to cow vigilantism. Amongst other mob lynching cases, two are related to suspicion of theft and one related to child lifting in which Tribal, Dalit and DNT community individuals were lynched to death. In 2 cow vigilantism cases, 3 individuals belonging to Muslim community were attacked and beaten to death but fortunately they survived after long medical treatment with severe wounds.

In Gujarat the incidents of mob lynching started under the pretext of cow vigilantism but now the impunity enjoyed by these actors have given rise to a culture of violence where violence under any pretext is normalized. Thus any small reason is used as a pretext to indulge in violence and target marginalized communities like the Muslims, Dalits and NT/DNT.

Polarization and intolerance

Socio-Economic boycott is used as a potent tool for forceful displacement of Muslim from the villages in Gujarat post riots. Muslims are compelled to live as secondary citizens. They are isolated by not engaging in trade with them or by not socially interacting with them. The instances of socio-economic boycott were reported from Kherda, Sherpur, Vaktapur and Chattral where Muslim families were forcefully displaced. Out of 70 Muslims families from Vaktapur, 10 have rented houses at Himmatnagar in Muslim Ghettos. 22 families stayed in Himmatnagar for 3 months and after the tensions were diffused to some extent they returned back to the village.

40 families from Kherda village had fled away from the village after riots to Verakhadi village and lived for one month in relief camp (the camp was run through community support). Fortunately, due to relentless efforts of Alp Sankhyak Adhikar Manch (AAM), the families were able to return back to the village. Though in this case, the families were able to return in one month’s time back to Kherda, their loss in terms of children’s education, farming, livestock and mental stress was significant.  

Similarly, the only 4 families living in Sherpur were forcefully displaced and boycotted due to a Muslim boy marrying a Dalit girl. After one month, families returned back to the village with police intervention but felt very hurt about the displacement and want to move out of the village soon after their properties are sold. The loss of their livelihood and mental health is huge. This divide and mistrust run along religious lines affecting the harmony and inter-personal relationships in the villages.

Chattral is a case where Muslims were forced to close their small business, farming, auto rickshaw driving for a week and bore huge losses. They had to keep the women and children at safer places during the riots. This has damaged the social fabric at large and this damage is irreversible. The communal rift among the communities is deepening with every conflict. Nearly five to six FIRs have been filed in Chattral reporting attacks and murder.

Role of Police:

The role of the police has been discriminatory on various fronts and there have been critical lacunae apart from violations of human rights. Though the riots didn’t spread to larger areas, the Muslims have suffered double edged victimization. On one hand, they have borne the brunt of losses in terms of property and lives and at the same time, 129 Muslims were arrested compared to 62 from other communities. In the most of case getting justice is very difficult. The FIRs prominently includes the names of Muslims in the list of the accused which forces the Muslim victims to give up the pursuit of justice and move towards compromise.  In Vadali incident though arrest involved equal number of Muslims and Non-Muslims (each side 11) the police had all eleven Muslims boys to task by brutally wedging violence. The fear of further violence keeps such police brutalities unreported.

Figure 4 Screenshot of Sherpur GramPanchayat facebook page of program of felicitation of Police. The post describe that case in Sherpur is of ‘LoveJihad’ and police within few hours bring back the couple.

In some cases, police are influenced by communal groups to launch FIR and specific IPC sections against Muslims.   In the case of Sherpur village, the communal forces pressurized police to slap charges under POCSO Act 2012-The Protect ion of Children from Sexual Offences Act against the Muslim boy. After getting back the boy and girl back to the village, the village panchayat called a meeting. Members of local RSS, Bajrang dal and VHP felicitated the police for doing fabulous job in getting back the girl in this inter-religious romantic relationship. The police have participated in such meetings and their lack of investigation betrays their bias and promotes the propaganda of ‘love jihad’ thereby further demonizing the Muslim community.

While the names of the Muslims, rightly or wrongly, are mentioned on the FIRs promptly, there is a delay to file the FIR of the victims. This was particularly the case when the police refused to file the FIR when Shanti Devi from Madari community got lynched by the mob in Vadaj area of Ahmedabad on suspicion of child lifting. Only after the civil society organizations mounted pressure on the police, the police filed the FIR and investigation ensued. In Kherda, police were mere by stander. When Zaheer was attacked by cow vigilantes, he was not accompanied by the police in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

No proactive steps have been taken by police to resettle the family after forced displacement. It seems like police is either not willing to give security to victims or feel helpless in providing support to victims.

Role of Hindu Supremacists

There were some common strategies employed by the Hindu Supremacist forces to enhance the insecurities among the Muslims by revoking the shadows of 2002 Gujarat carnage. The communal riot of Chattral started after distribution of trishuls by VHP and organizing Gaurav Yatra on 6th December. Hindu supremacists foment communal violence by spreading hate propaganda against inter religion marriages by calling them love jihad. Use of social media to instigate Hindu pride has emerged a common phenomenon. They circulated images of burning religious flags and derogatory language for Muslims on social media to deepen the communal polarisation.  The sign boards of welcome to Hindu Rashtra with the names of VHP and Bajrang Dal indicate active operational presence of hate-mongering agencies at ground level which tend to enjoy the legal impunity by displaying such unconstitutional banner s. These communal outfits also use the call for bandh as a regular phenomenon to invoke fear psychosis among the Muslims, as such bandh during 2002 carnage were followed by communal violence. In the incidents of Halwad, Vadali and Chattral bandh call has given by Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Figure 5 The Notice Board at Halvad. Exhibits: Halvad Bandh, Bajrang dal member Bhaveshbhai (saurashtra prant) and Alpesh Patel (Halvad) had attacked by Muslim youth. Hence Halvad is closed for indefinite period. By –VishwaHinduParishad and Bajrangdal

The result of such strategies strengthens the social isolation and ghettoization of Musilm community. Continuously living under communal segregation impacts the community economically by limiting their mobility. The use of love jihad to spread communal hatred restricts the mobility of young girls keeping them away education and other developmental opportunities among both communities. In total small riots in rural areas has increased the level intolerance disturbing the fabric of communal harmony. These scars are hard to go. The religious identities heightened in such environment tend to bring further socio-economic marginalization of the Muslim community.

Conclusion:

Communal violence in Gujarat in 2018 has taken the form of mob lynching and gone beyond communal riots. Mob lynching is taking place without fear since it finds favor and impunity from the political class. The Hindu supremacists enjoy impunity to perpetuate violence against the marginalized groups of Muslims and Dalits. At the same time, while the communal riots are not engineered on a large scale, they have spread to newer areas- the rural areas and places unaffected by 2002 riots. This has resulted in polarization and distrust on religious lines. Overall the process of sharpening of communal identities has gained impetus. The use of social media to create communal divide has either silenced people from expressing their opinions in public forums or has triggered a factory of trolls and fake-news mongers. The impact of constant of communal violence creates further ghettoization for women in general and young girls in particular, constraining their mobility, choices and opportunities for development. It also results in deepening the distress for women with loss of livelihoods and internal displacement.

 

 

 


[1] Buniyaad an organization working for the empowerment of Muslims and for promoting conflict transformation processes among marginalized communities in Gujarat. Though Buniyaad is the author, the report is based on the fact findings conducted by Alp Sankhyak Adhikar Manch

[2] Alp sankhyank Adhikar Manch is a human rights based network of human rights activists and civil society organization.  In most of the fact findings team consists of Advocate Shamshad Pathan, Mirkhan Makrani, Khairunnisha Pathan, Samina Malek, Mohd. Sharif  Malek, Hozefa Ujjaini, Sameer Sodawalla, Kherunnisha Saiyad, Aatish Indrekar and Manish Manjulaben.

[3] The Zee News. 2018.  ‘Exclusive interview with Chief Editor-in-chief of Zee News, Sudhir Chaudhry, BJP chief Amit Shah’ November 11 –  https://youtu.be/Zhhx3cK3gPM

[4] The Milli Gazette. 2016. ‘Communal Riots Continue in Post 2002 Gujarat’, The Milli Gazzette. September 15. – http://www.milligazette.com/news/14818-communal-riots-continue-in-post-2002-gujarat

[5]Hindustantimes . (2018, February 07). ‘Incidents of communal clashes rose in 2017, maximum number recorded in UP’ from Hindustantimes.. – https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/incidents-of-communal-clashes-rose-in-2017-maximum-number-recorded-in-up/story-pw3LgrKn1zN3i4ZQcrRCQL.html

[6] Anmol Alphonso. (2018, December 01).Factchecker. ‘No riots in Gujarat, MP, UP & Chhattisgarh after our Govt. came to power: BJP chief Amit Shah. All claims false’.- https://factchecker.in/no-riots-in-gujarat-mp-up-chhattisgarh-after-our-govts-came-to-power-bjp-chief-amit-shah-all-claims-false/ (Retrieved March4, 2019)

[7]Engineer,I., Dabhade, N., Nair, S., & Pendke, S.(2019, January 01). Center for Study of Society and Secularism. Retrieved March4, 2019, ‘Locating the role of state and changing nature of violence’-https://csss-isla.com/communal-violence-2018-locating-the-role-of-state-and-changing-nature-of-violence/   

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ward Berenschot, (2011 February 02), Science direct, The spatial distribution of Riots: Patronage and the instigation of communal violence in Gujarat, India: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305750X10002019

[11] Pramit Bhattacharya, (2014 December 05), Livemint, The alchemy of Hindu-Muslim riots in India: https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/5zyfXWWbWZHDDmyCqpAuvO/The-alchemy-of-HinduMuslim-riots-in-India.html

[12] Alison Saldanha (2018 July 19) op.cit., Factchecker, ‘Minister to Parliament: No Data on Lynching. Here They are (Including Government’s own)’, https://factchecker.in/minister-to-parliament-no-data-on-lynching-here-they-are-including-governments-own/

[13] Alison Saldanha ibid, https://factchecker.in/minister-to-parliament-no-data-on-lynching-here-they-are-including-governments-own/

[14]Abraham and Rao, (2017 July 16),  Hindustantimes, 86% killed in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslim, 97% attacks after Modi govt. came to power , https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/86-killed-in-cow-related-violence-since-2010-are-muslims-97-attacks-after-modi-govt-came-to-power/story-w9CYOksvgk9joGSSaXgpLO.html

[15] The Statesman (2019 April 12), ‘Beef ban helps neither farmer nor cattle’ https://www.thestatesman.com/tag/gautankwad