Kanpur Violence: Muslims Allege Police Action is Biased, Eerie Silence in the City
Lucknow: Tension prevailed in Kanpur town on Friday evening after a communal clash broke out, leaving at least 40 people, including police personnel, injured.
The violence broke out in Pared, Nai Sadak and Yateemkhana areas of the city after Friday namaz. As per the police account, it occurred when "some people tried to force shopkeepers to down shutters" over allegedly insulting remarks made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma against Prophet Mohammed during a TV debate recently. Members of the Muslim community have refuted this account.
An eerie silence prevailed in the city, barely 95 km from the state capital Lucknow. The hamlets, inhabited by the minority community, were deserted. Only a handful of the elderly was huddled in their houses to tell the frightening tale to the visiting police officials, politicians, and media.
Hayat Zafar Hashmi, the national president of the Maulana Muhammad Jauhar Ali Fans Association, called for the market shutdown to protest against the alleged blasphemous statement made against Prophet Mohammad by Sharma.
The police alleged that Hashmi incited the people, which led to stone-pelting and clashes between two groups that left more than 30, including police personnel, injured. He has been detained and taken in for questioning.
On Saturday morning, the Uttar Pradesh Police booked 500 people for rioting.
Meanwhile, locals dubbed the police action "biased" and "one-sided". They said it was carried out without any investigation.
"Working on the tune of their political masters, who are leaving no stone unturned to oppress Muslims, the police are acting like a prosecution," they alleged.
"About a week ago, Hashmi had called for market closure on June 3. Posters were also put about this in Muslim majority areas, appealing to them to shut down their shops in protest against the BJP spokesperson. But it was postponed when the district administration informed the organiser that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and chief minister Yogi Adityanath would be in the district on the same date. Hashmi had taken back the bandh call in front of the officer at Anwarganj police station. He has also given a written assurance of cancelling the event," Abid Raza (name changed), a local barely 500 meters from where the incident took place, told NewsClick.
He further said that despite no official announcement regarding market closure, most Muslim community shop owners chose to close their shops.
As per the locals, soon after Juma (Friday) prayers, a group of young Muslim lads were politely requesting everybody in the market to show solidarity while closing their shops which had opened. However, when they reached Chandeshwar Hata, a hamlet of around 500 Hindu households allegedly refused to shut down their shops.
"A heated argument was exchanged between the two groups, and from there, incidents of communal clash flared up. Residents of Chandeshwar Hata pelted stones from the roof at Muslim boys. A video of throwing stones has gone viral on social media platforms. Unfortunately, police are targeting only young Muslim boys and their family members despite a group of Hindus leaving no stone unturned to injure Muslims," he claimed.
Maulana Abdul Quddos Hadi, head Qazi of Kanpur, has alleged that the violence was initiated by the other community, and appropriate action should be taken against them too.
"Statement made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma was intolerable to the entire Muslim community. We will tell the police commissioner that one-sided action should not be taken. FIR should also be registered against people of other communities, who started the violence," he said.
Along with his son Abu Bakar Hadi, he reached the spot to pacify the crowd. The son was then allegedly maltreated by the members of the other community in the presence of police officials, and they also snatched his phone.
"We went there to meet the police commissioner, but the other community maltreated us in police presence, slapped me and stanched my father's cellophane; they triggered after seeing us in kurta pyjamas and skull caps. Despite my father's three hours efforts to calm down the crowd from our community, we were treated like we had committed some crime," he told NewsClick.
Maulana Abdul Quddos Hadi, too, emphasised that the organiser had called for a bandh on June 3, and it had undoubtedly gone viral on social media. It was cancelled a day earlier after pressure from the administration. Though some people protested and closed their shops.
"We believe that our people must have made some mistake, but they have not pelted stones. I want to draw attention to why such communal clashes always occur in Chandeshwar Hata. During the CAA/NRC movement, the Hindu community from the same area pelted stones at Muslims and went out of control. The people of the area play a major role in any violence against Muslims," he said.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and order) Anand Prakash Tiwari said 18 people had been arrested so far over the Friday incident, and some others are detained for questioning.
"The area is peaceful, and we are maintaining a round-the-clock vigil," he said, adding some suspects were detained overnight by different police teams.
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