A minor road scuffle turned into a communal violence at Ratsar township in Ballia district of the eastern Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday.
A teenage boy, Arvind Rajbhar, was passing through the Muslim-majority Ratsar when his cycle collided with a motorcycle-borne man, Intekhab Alam, near Panchayat building at around 3 pm on Tuesday.
The two had a fight in which Arvind suffered injuries. After getting information about the incident, the victim’s family along with a local leader, Mukta Nand Singh, reached the spot.
Arvind was taken to a primary hospital of the area. They returned to Ratsar and informed their neighbours about the scuffle.
“Accompanied by a group of people, Arvind's family members reached Alam’s home at around 7 pm on Wednesday where a fight broke out following a verbal exchange,” Balwant Yadav, who visited the area after the incident and spoke to locals, told NewsClick.
When Arvind’s family members reached Ratsar police chowki with a written complaint, the police allegedly did not take any action.
Then, they reportedly went to Garwar police station at 10 am on Thursday. But here also the cops “refused to register an FIR”.
Meanwhile, Arvind’s condition deteriorated and he was rushed to district hospital where doctors allegedly denied admitting him and asked to take him to some major centre for proper treatment.
A rumour was spread that Arvind Rajbhar died in the hospital. It added fuel to the fire.
People in large number gathered at Gandhi chauraha and blocked the road. According to eyewitnesses, the mob turned violent and ransacked carts of fruit and vegetable vendors.
“Many shops were ransacked and looted. Four big shops (all owned by Muslims) were set ablaze by an unruly mob at Pakdi Tar market,” said Mohammad Sajid, a local of the area.
Though there is no loss of life, but properties worth lakhs of rupees were destroyed, said the locals.
The police allegedly swung into action when the situation went out of control. District Magistrate Surendra Vikram and Superintendent of Police Anil Kumar reached the spot with heavy police force to take stock of the situation.
The police arrested Alam after Arvind's family filed an FIR against him. Sixteen trouble-makers were also arrested from the spot. A total of 22 people from both sides have been taken into custody.
The Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) was also called in. Senior police officials are camping in the area. The situation is tense but under control.
The market area has been sealed off and no one is allowed to go there.
Ratsar police chowki incharge Surendra Kumar Singh has been suspended for dereliction of duty.
Communal clashes had broken out 10 days back as well when the two community members indulged into violence at Sikandarpur on the eve of Muharram.
Several suffered injuries in that incident.
Eastern UP fast emerging as Hindutva laboratory?
Organised violence against a predetermined target in eastern Uttar Pradesh began in 2005 with communal flare-up in Mau district when mosques and graveyards were attacked. This was the time when firebrand Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yogi Adityanath, who is now the chief minister of the state, started gaining ground.
He called upon the majority community to recognise Muslims as the enemy and to utilise every opportunity to attack them. He established a fringe group called Hindu Yuva Vahini, which has now presence in almost every village, small town and district headquarter of eastern UP.
The organisation comprising mostly unemployed and lumpen youth target poor youths belonging to the scheduled and backward castes who now throng to its banner in the hope of gaining status and prosperity.
Every incident that can be utilised to create communal tension is utilised by the outfit’s members allegedly with full support of Yogi.
The riots in Mau were followed by another major communal violence in Gorakhpur, where Yogi was arrested when he tried to break the prohibitory orders in Padrauna at Kushinagar in 2007.
These incidents continued and several other districts of the region also witnessed such targeted violence.
Manoj Singh, a Gorakhpur-based journalist, recalls the day when Yogi had given a call of complete shutdown in Gorakhpur to protest the Godhra incident.
“A public meeting was organised in Town Hall wherein Yogi began his speech by saying, ‘Maine Modi se baat ki hai aur unse saaf kaha hai ki ek wicket ke badle 10 wicket girne chahiye. Main yahan ke Hinduon se appeal karta hun ki woh apne gharon par bhagwa dhwaj phahra len. Jis se agar yahan Gujarat dohrana ho to vidharmiyon ko chinhit karke jawab diya ja sake (I have spoken to Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, and told him clearly that 10 wickets should fall for one. I appeal to Hindus to hoist a saffron flag on the roof of their houses so that non-Hindus can be identified in case if Gujarat incident needs to be repeated here)’,” he said.
Going by the scale of such violences, one can easily make out that the region has been witnessing small scale communal violence for a long time. These instances fail to hit headlines but the motive of polarised society is easily achieved.
The Gorakhpur MP had recently said, “There were 450 riot cases in west UP in two-and-a-half years of Samajwadi Party rule because the population of a particular community is rising manifold. Why are there no riots in eastern UP? You can easily understand. In places where there are 10-20% minority population, stray communal incidents take place. Where there are 20-35% of them, serious communal riots take place and where they are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims.”
This is not his only incendiary statement. He had earlier said in an old speech, “If they (read Muslims) convert one Hindu girl, we will convert 100 Muslim girls. If they kill one Hindu, then we will kill 100….”
Yogi is heir to the history and legacy of the Gorakhnath Peeth that has long believed in militant involvement in politics as a means to achieving its religious and ideological ends.
Rajiv Yadav of Rihai Manch, a Lucknow-based group fighting for the release of those wrongly framed in terror cases, sums up Yogi’s popularity in these words, “Yogi gave the concept of ‘United Hindutva’ to fight a common enemy – Muslims. He took few sections of Dalits and OBC in his fold that helped him penetrate in rural UP.”
Interestingly, the slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ earlier used during communal violence in the country has now been changed with ‘Har Har Mahadev’, which – according to mythology - is a call of war.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.