The Town of Kandhla and the Issue of Train Assault

By Syed Mansoor Agha

Last Friday, on May the 1st, during a journey on Saharanpur Janata Express an untoward incident took place and the reaction and counter reaction increased its bitterness even more. It made the whole atmosphere tense, depressing and riot-ridden.

Photo courtesy scroll.in
Photo courtesy scroll.in

This is how it happened: a passenger named Farrukh Ali Khan from Chakhli, District Buldhana, Maharashtra, was manhandled in the Saharanpur Janata Express and his beard was pulled as well. Farrukh Khan had come, along with his four friends, to join the Tableeghi Jamat. But before going to the centre in Nizamuddin they changed their route to see a scholar in Saharanpur. When Farrukh Khan wanted to go to the toilet in the train some people blocked the passage and he was roughed up. The assailants were probably drunk.

When the incident took place his other four friends were in another part of the train compartment. It was only Farrukh Khan who was beaten up. Passing through Baraut at about 6.30pm the train reached Kandhla at 7.00pm. This is the usual time when daily commuters return home and it is believed that the perpetrators were commuters.

The perpetrators got off the train in Baraut and these five friends reached Kandhla so that the incident could be reported to the police.

Protesters in Kandhla
Protesters in Kandhla

The police station is in the town at a distance of about 2 km from the railway station. Kandhla has a sizeable population associated with Tableeghi Jamat. The founder of Tableeghi Jamat, Maulvi Ilyas was from this town. The news of a Tableeghi Jamat volunteer having been beaten up spread like a wild fire. Coincidentally the incident had occurred at a time when for the last few days some people had been picketing outside the police station and the atmosphere of the town was already tense as some mentally sick waivered elements had abducted a Muslim girl. On the face of it, it looked like a rape case. She was found half naked on the farm in the vicinity but the police was not taking any action against the perpetrators of such a serious crime. Therefore BSP leader and former Chairman Haji Islam and some others had started a protest to put pressure on the police to take action. It is alleged that the police has been avoiding acting against the alleged perpetrators.

Because of the ongoing picketing outside the police station

Farrukh Khan filing a complaint at the Kandhla police station: Photo courtesy scroll.in
Farrukh Khan filing a complaint at the Kandhla police station: Photo courtesy scroll.in

atmosphere in the town was already tense. Usually when such an incident occurs the news travels from one person to the other and usually gets distorted and exaggerated. And this is exactly what had happened here.

Next morning thousands of people assembled at Budhana Road Crossing. Samajwadi Party MLA Nahid Hasan from Kerana and Haji Islam from Kandhla along with few other well-known persons also reached there. District Magistrate and higher police authorities also arrived at the scene immediately. The demonstrators demanded action against the perpetrators.

District authorities promised to take action within ten days but when pressurised by the public it conceded to do so within next two days. After this the mob got dispersed. However thanks to the persuasion of some short-sighted elements some 40-50 people stayed there insisting on their demand of immediate action. These were the people who stopped and jammed the train, pelted stones at it and damaged railway property. It is said that one person even raised his hand to hit the collector (but did not hit) at which administration lost their cool. They lathi [baton] charged and fired at the demonstrators injuring a youth. Rumour spread in the town that 2-3 youths were killed in the firing. As a result thousands gathered outside the police station. Some miscreants damaged the vehicles parked there.

The result of the strife is that the real issue has gone on the back burner and the police has registered a case against five identified and two thousand unidentified persons for rioting and damaging government property. The fear is that now the police will be able to detain anyone it wills, beat him up and demand bribery. In order to settle scores among them, brothers in the community will report against each other and thus get arrested among themselves.

In addition to Nahid Hasan MLA, former Chairman Haji Islam the police has named Meer Jang, Naseer and Saleem the father of the victim girl.  The reason of registering a case against Saleem (and Naseer) is obvious: put pressure on them so that out of fear they zip their lips and say nothing with regard to the rape of the girl and the perpetrators can roam around puffed up.

Commuters’ Excesses:

Surely whatever happened with Farrukh Khan – his beard, his cap and the attire and more than anything else, the [anti-Muslim] hatred that is being raging in the masses must have played some part in it. Such impropriate activities have been witnessed in the trains on this route in the past as well. However, this is also a fact that when the violators of decency and civility resort to committing excesses they do not spare their own co-religionists either. Usually such crimes are committed by daily commuters who travel as groups. They force other passengers to leave their seats, sit in groups and play cards. In some of the trains they travel with drums, jhanjan, and bells and sing hymns in loud chorus. Very few of them buy tickets and majority travels without tickets. There is no checking on the trains. The younger generation has come to regard noise making and violence as bravado and an act of chivalry. The main reason of Muslims being targeted to such excesses is the polarisation created by Sanghi movement.

Another Aspect

No doubt this is an undesirable situation. Although the unthoughtful reaction resulting in the protest by thousands of people is being seen from a communal angle and is being given a communal colour, but there are some important aspects of it. This is not merely a question of the absence of communal harmony or simply a case of poor law and order atmosphere but is an issue related to government’s collective inefficiency and short sightedness.

Under the government’s patronage injustice is being practiced openly. The government is said to represent the public but with regard to the complaints of the public it has become so insensitive that until and unless there is some turmoil it remains unmoved. No sooner a turmoil subsides than all the promises to identify its causes are forgotten. In general terms all of the oppressed communities in the country are the victims of injustices but when it comes to Muslims and Christians these injustices get muddled with religious acrimony and hatred too. This is the reason why these two communities feel insecure across the country. Incidents like these, under the governmental patronage, keep on happening and thus a sense of insecurity keeps on increasing. The recent reaction seen in Kandhla is the expression of this sense of insecurity. As the old saying goes Marta kia na karta [a desperate man will do anything to save himself].

To the Government enforcement of law and transparency have no meaning. Even those who are elected and come to form governments on this basis have no regard for law and its enforcement. The use of police and administration to make money has become a common practice so common and brazen that no party is free from this menace. The example of this are the wholesale incidents of fake encounters. Even without small evidences arrests are made for alleged terrorism. Anyone can be arrested at will and be forced to languish in jails for years. So far lives of thousands of educated youths have been destroyed. On the other hand lawbreakers in the name of religion are rewarded with honours and designations. If law was enforced and injustice was not prevalent reaction like these would not have been there.

The Game of Communalists

No sooner had this incident taken place than the game of communalism started being played. Social media is being used to spread lies and misguide the public. Rumours are being circulated on WhatsApp and Twitter. Leaders are issuing statements. In order to polarise the atmosphere in the communally peaceful Kandhla series of visits of leaders have started. Careless reports are appearing in newspapers. Muslims are being alleged to be trying to create Godhra-like atmosphere. Lies are being circulated on WhatsApp that Muslims have manhandled Hindu passengers. No passenger has been misbehaved though. But the national secretary of Sanghi organisation Akhil Bhariya Vidhiarthi Parishad Rohit Chahal has written on WhatsApp, ‘Why is the media silent on Shamli incident? Are they waiting for an incident like Godhra?’ Meaning, why are the TV channels broadcasting stories to their [Parishad’s] liking? Why is everyone focussing on Nepal earthquake? A WhatsApp message read, ‘Thousands of Muslims stopped the Bikaneer-Haridwar Express. Many Hindus have been stopped and detained. Where are the media and political leadership?’  Another one wrote, ‘Muslims are looting trains on Delhi-Saharanpur route.’ (All of the quotations have been translated from Urdu:—UMM) In a statement BJP’s senior leader Virendra Singh put all the blame on Muslims and said, ‘at Kandhla Train Station Muslims committed excesses upon Hindus and upon the instructions of state government police has maintained its silence. If you want justice with the Jama-aties then arrest those who have committed excesses on Hindus.’

The statement makes it clear that the loafers who had assaulted the passenger [Tableeghi Jama-at volunteer] are being assured and encouraged that BJP is on their side.

Inciting the Hindus, especially Jats Virendra Singh said, ‘The state government was siding with Muslims and is being unfair to Hindus. This will enrage Hindus against Muslims and if their anger crosses the limits of tolerance it will manifest itself in massive revenge.’

This is an open ultimatum to unleash violence against Muslims. In Mail Today Sanjeev Sriwastava concocted a baseless filler alleging that, ‘The Tableeghi workers were beaten at Kandhla station because they were engaged in open preaching.’

The incident took place inside the train before Barout and not in Kandhla and that the Tableeghi Jama-at does not preach non-Muslims is a common knowledge all around the world. This is a reformation movement and is confined to Deobandi Muslims only.

According to an information the man who gained notoriety due to his role in Muzaffarnagar riots, BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan, Suresh Rana, toured Kandhla. An indoor meeting was held there in the Jain Dharamshala of Asthanic. Some information about it has been seen on WhatsApp from which it becomes clear that a conspiracy is being hatched to throw region in the flames of communalism.

These details have been given here so that the readers of this daily may know that the impact of an unpleasant incident with a stranger passenger on a train and its resultant reaction and the effort to politicise the situation may be understood.

Our problem is that our decisions are made on the streets. If serious consultation had been done before going to the police station, the matter had been inquired into and a well thought out action had been taken the communalists would not have gotten the opportunity to poison the atmosphere. If our respectable brother from Tableeghi Jama-at had practiced restrain and had acted calmly—and that was also the motto of his belief for which he had left his home and went on his mission thinking that the satan is deviating him from the noble task— it would have stopped the spread of resulting tension, poisonous and riotous situation.  But who can change what has been destined?

FIR has been registered against the five unidentified persons for assaulting Farrukh Khan in Barout. The first thing is that thousands of excuses will be given for not being able to arrest them and political considerations will create obstructions [in law enforcement]. Therefore it cannot be expected that any serious attempt will be made to make progress in this case.  Even if formality is fulfilled, few arrests are made and a case is registered the question still remains: will it be easy for these gentlemen to travel all the way from Maharashtra to be present in court proceedings and if they come, will they be able to protect themselves from the local elements? And if somehow it becomes possible then will anyone under the present system be punished and if they do get punished for how much? Under a system in which Hashimpura accused have been acquitted who can expect that under that system someone will be punished for a petty assault on a person from another state? There are several questions that elicit answers.

Only two years ago in this region under a big conspiracy political chessboard was set by inciting majority Hindu Jat population against Muslim minority labourers of which BJP took full benefit in the elections. Again assembly elections are at hand. Political analysts are saying that during the last year BJP has lost its attraction. This very seat that was occupied by BJP’s senior leader Hakam Singh since 1986 was won in a by-election by Samajwadi Party’s Nahid Hasan. This seat was vacated by Hakam Singh after being elected as MP and the ticket for assembly was given to one of his close associates. Therefore by using this incident an attempt is being made to create the same atmosphere that [had benefited BJP in Parliamentary elections] and BJP can win [the coming] assembly elections.

I reiterate that the train passenger from another state was mistreated and his complaint is justified. However, the method adopted to address this in which two politicians belonging to Samajwadi Party and Bahaman Samajwadi Party appear to be at daggers drawn to gain prominence its result will not be what they are expecting for. Our emotions boil like milk and then quickly settle down. The whole situation need to be reassessed and good elements from the society need to be taken on board [to combat with this menace]. The first initiative was taken by Jami-at-ul-Ulema-i-Hind but it could not carry it with the strength that was needed.  In view of this incident we should demand that the unruliness of daily commuters be strictly dealt with. For this in addition to Railway’s efficiency police’s impartiality and political will is also required.  No doubt Mr Modi had come to power with promises to eradicate corruption but during the past one year he has not taken even a single step in this regard. And how can he take such a step when the mass he is made of is a concoction of political, social, religious and all kinds of corruption.

Translated from daily Sahafat, 8 May 2015, by Urdu Media Monitor.Com

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