Kachchh, the biggest district of Gujarat, was once known for communal harmony. It was spared the anti-Muslim pogroms that some rural and urban areas in Gujarat experienced in the year 2002. The communal elements could manage only a minor riot in Anjar town in 2002. On Monday, 1st April 2002 some shops were set on fire by a mob at night in Anjar town. Clashes between two communities were also reported from Hajipur and Gandhidham towns of Kutch district. (Rediff.com, 2002). However, post 2002, the Sangh Parivar used multiple strategies to communally polarize Kachchh and pursued these strategies doggedly. One of the strategies that we are going to discuss in this article is getting newspapers to regularly report that Muslims were caught taking cows to slaughter house.
Take for example, the report published in World Hindu News portal which reports, “Over 13000 cows have been captured by Gaurakshaks (Cow protection unit) on Monday yesterday from Paatan district near Kutch, Gujarat. The Gouvansh was brought from Sirohi district in Rajasthan and taken into Kutch district in guise of grass eating. These cattles have never returne[d] from [Ku]tch. Then a certain group of Gaurakshaks made an operation then it was found that these cattles were taken to Pakistan for slaughtering. 80% of these Cattles mainly consisted of Nandi bulls and 20 % were cows.
These cows are owned by Muslim dealers from and they take them even using sea routes.” (WHN Reporter, 2013) Kutch Mitra and other dailies regularly publish such news.
A familiar pattern was followed. This time in Kutch it is cow slaughter, but the same method was followed in Gujarat and in fact all over India exploiting the natural righteous anger against terrorism. Newspapers in Gujarat and in fact even national media would regularly report that some Pakistan trained terrorists entered Gujarat with evil design to kill Narendra Modi. However, efficient and brave Gujarat Police under good governance of Modi confronted them and they were all killed in an encounter. Their photos and videos were clicked and the story was good enough for the front page with banner headlines even in national media. National media spending thousands of crores of rupees for news gathering bought the fiction that Narendra Modi – the Hindu hriday samrat (hero) was target of evil people – the Muslims. Justice Markandey Katju, the PCI Chairperson accused that most media personnel had than average IQ. However, Sohrabuddin’s brother exposed the hoax by knocking the doors of Supreme Court and rest is history they say. Suddenly, after getting a few cops behind bars, in the case of Sohrabuddin, Tulsiram Prajapati and Ishrat Jehan case, the “encounters” stopped completely. Killing a few Muslim youth regularly and stigmatizing them terrorist as was a calculated strategy to implicate Pakistan as well as Indian Muslims in the manufactured fiction of terrorism. By regularly killing Muslim youth and declaring them to be terrorists, the spin doctors of Narendra Modi projected him to be tough with “terrorists”.
The image of “tough on terrorists” dried up. However, with gullible newspapers in tow and pliant police personnel, and with person heading good governance in Gujarat, there are ample issues to be exploited. This time it is manipulating people’s faith. Regular news about “Muslims caught while taking the cows to slaughter house” continue to be reported.
Rafiq Ramju and Hashim Hussain’s case:
On request of Sarpanch of Mokha village, Rafiq and Hashim arrived in that village with their tempo and jeep and loaded 11 and 9 cattle respectively. The cattle that were loafing around and destroying crops in the village were to be transported to a panjrapole (charity organizations that take care of old cattle) near Anjar town. They were handed over a letter to that effect by the sarpanch. A copy of sarpanch’s letter is with us. The village sarpanch also asked Karsan Sumar, a dalit from shepherd caste, to accompany the cattle to panjrapole.
Hashim and Rafiq’s vehicles were stopped at Vavar Patiya at about 7.30 pm by a group of 15 Bajrang Dal vigilantes who were waiting there with (illegal) blockade on the road. They were probably tipped off by somebody from Mokha Village. They pulled out Rafiq and Hashim from their vehicles and started beating them with sticks accusing them of taking the cattles to slaughter house. Later, they were joined by other 40-50 people. They were there with video cameras and tried to force Rafiq and Hashim to confess that they were going to sell the cattle for Rs. 10,000/- to slaughterhouse. Both of them showed the sarpanch’s letter. Karsan Sumar accompanying them did not suit the story so he was allowed to escape. Before beating Hashim and Rafiq, the clothes of the two were stripped (perhaps to ensure that they were Muslims) and the leaders of the crowd were threatening to cut what remained of the circumcised penis. They were armed with petrol which they were applying on their wounds so that it burnt them even more. Both of them received injuries all over their bodies, particularly near ear and on stomach. Applying petrol seemed to be part of their training. The wind screen and window glasses of their vehicles were smashed and bonnet dented and damaged.
Police van reached the spot at about 9.30 pm. Till then, they were continuously hammered with stick and petrol. There were three policemen. They were hammered in front of the policemen too. The police then took the two of them in their van to Mundra police station after promising the mob that their in-charge would beat them even more severely in during their custody. The police merely watched the mob beating Hashim and Rafiq which is a criminal offence. Hashim fainted in the police van. However, instead of taking them to hospital, they were taken to the police station. On PSI’s instructions, they were taken first to a general hospital in Mundra where some primary treatment was given to them, and then they were transferred to Bhuj Civil Hospital as their condition was serious. After treatment in Civli Hospital for six days, they were shifted to a private Hospital by the PSI. They were in private hospital for another two days before being discharged. On being discharged, they were given police remand by Judicial Magistrate First Class on 9th or 10th August. Finally they were bailed out on 21st August 2013. Karsan Sumar was also charged for abetting the “crime”. A complaint was registered against the three as I CR No. 114/13, u/s IPC 307 (attempt to murder), 506 (2) (criminal intimidation to cause death or grievous hurt) and S. 11 (d), (e) and (f) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. U/s 11 of the 1960 Act, any person commits cruelty on an animal, which is an offence, if s/he –
(d) conveys or carries, whether in or upon any vehicle or not, any animal in such a manner or position as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering; or
(e) keeps or confines any animal in any -cage or other receptacle which does not measure sufficiently in height, length and breadth to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for movement; or
(f) keeps for an unreasonable time any animal chained or tethered upon an unreasonably short or unreasonably heavy chain or cord;
The reason for thrashing Rafiq and Hashim was completely different than the offence for which they were booked! They were not booked under the stringent anti cow slaughter legislation for taking the animals to slaughter house, something that the press reported widely. Secondly, with the medical certificates on record, it is clear that Rafiq and Hashim were thrashed badly, that too in front of the police personnel after stripping their clothes. The press published their naked photographs after blackening the portion near their private parts. Their medical report and the photographs published in the press point out that they (only two of them) were victims rather than persons in a position to commit offence of attempt to murder or even issue threats to kill anyone from the mob of 50 people.
Perusing the charge sheet issued to the accused Rafiq and Hashim, there is no panchnama of the vehicle in which the cattle were being transported, nor of the cattle. How will the cruelty to the animals be proved? Meanwhile their vehicles were confiscated for over a month and lost their source of livelihood with huge expenses on medical bills and in meeting legal expenses. Ever since the incident, not only Rafiq and Hashim, but every Muslim driver or owner of transport vehicle would not transport any cattle – even goats and sheeps.
Rafiq and Hashim also filed a complaint registered as I CR No. 116/2013 u/s IPC 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 149 (making all members of the unlawful assembly liable for any offence committed by any member of the unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 395 (dacoity – the mob had looted about Rs. 11,500/- and mobile from them) and 504 (insult intended to provoke breach of peace). The accused in this case, Himmat Singh have approached Rafiq and Hashim time and again to settle the case with both cases being withdrawn but they have refused to settle. It is Rafiq’s and Hashim’s righteous anger that is making them to pursue both cases doggedly, whereas Himmat Singh and others know they are not fighting for any cause and want to settle the matter.
As false cases of encounter were used to create stigmatize Muslims as terrorists and object of hate, so are regular false reports of cases of cow slaughter are being employed by the Hindutva followers to stigmatize the Muslim community and communalize the peaceful Kachchhi society. The Gujarati media is valorizing its CM and keeps the communal pot boiling. This in turn is leading to increasing exclusion of Muslims from the Kachchhi society. Bureaucrats see them as potential Pakistani agents in this border district, particularly in Khawada area and every Muslim has to carry his identity all the time, visitors in the villages too have to carry their identity or viewed suspiciously and the host is subject numerous harassments. When religious priests come to village, they are looked upon with suspicion by the authorities as potential Pakistan agents and cannot spend night in the village.
Muslims are discriminated in housing and other Govt. schemes and even in giving any ID documents, including ration cards. For all practical purposes, they live life of second class citizens. Sneh Samuday is collecting data to find out if there is discrimination and in what manner. Will keep everybody updated with the information.