If a major communal flare up could be prevented last week by the combined efforts of the police and community leaders and the administration, in the Hauz Qazi locality of Old Delhi, then these queries hit: why is rioting not prevented by the administration in other sensitive locales of the country? Why is rioting ‘allowed’ to take place and then made to continue, till hundreds are rendered homeless and limbless? Why are innocent men and women and even children from the socially- economically marginalized sections, targeted ever so brutally as rioting continues under the watchful eyes of the police, who stand there as mute spectators or even play a partisan role?
In fact, whilst keying in, I’m reminded of what Gujarat’s first whistle blower cop, R.B. Sreekumar, had told me during the course of an interview: if the police and the politicians genuinely and earnestly want, then rioting cannot take place and even if it does take off, then it can be controlled and contained within two hours. Perhaps, to elaborate this, he had detailed that even whilst the 2002 pogrom was peaking in Ahmedabad, the then DGP of Gujarat was helpless. To quote from Sreekumar’s book - Gujarat: Behind The Curtain “In the afternoon (of 28 February 2002), I met DGP K Chakravorti in his chamber. I found him quite perturbed, helpless and stress-ridden about widespread mass violence in the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and many rural areas. He lamented that things were taking a bad shape and activists of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP were leading armed crowds, and police officers, at a decisive level on the ground, were not intervening effectively as they were keen on avoiding crossing swords with supporters of the ruling party...”
Its obvious that if political and administrative rulers want, then the riots can be prevented and stopped. In the case of HauzQazi it got apparent that Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP government in Delhi genuinely wanted the communal surcharge to be contained as swiftly and prudently as possible. And so sanity cum calm cum peace prevailed in that locality.
But sadly in a majority of cases in the other towns and cities of the country, rioting has been made to continue by the political rulers, till hundreds and thousands were left dead or severely affected...perhaps for generations to come. In fact, whilst reading Harsh Mander’s book – ‘Fatal Accidents of Birth : Stories of Suffering, Oppression and Resistance’ what caught my attention was this particular chapter ’Life Among the Graves’. It focuses on a survivor of Gujarat pogrom of 2002, Khalid Noor Mohammad, who talks “ about the seventy -five years of his life , as though its significant landmarks were all major communal riots. He spoke of them the way other people talk of life events- births , deaths , weddings. The Partition riots of 1947 in which he lost his father , the Ahmedabad riots of 1969 which broke a long interlude of peace , the Jagananth riots of 1985, the sectarian violence that followed in the wake of the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992 , and now the carnage of 2002 … ‘. I have seen many riots ,’Khalid said, ‘ and each time we have moved on. But this hullad was completely different. My body may still have some strength, but this riot has just broken my spirit. Earlier, they killed our men and attacked our homes and shops. But women and children were mostly spared. Never before this merciless burning of our people, even of infants and small children. Never before this mass rape and humiliation of our women. Never before have so many of us been rendered completely homeless.’ ”
In fact, if one were to study the riots and rioting patterns in the country, the one big factor that hits almost immediately is this -the biased role of the cops under the direct control of the political rulers. In this context, the Iqbal Ansari-edited volume –‘Communal Riots - The state and law in India’- is of immense significance. It carries reports by IPS officers: Padam Rosha , KF Rustamji, CV Narasimhan, VN Rai. Also by civil servant, NCSaxena. And also by the well-known names of the judiciary: Justice Hosbet Suresh , Justice VR Krishna Iyer, VM Tarkunde. And also by academics of the calibre of Professor Mushirul Hasan and several others… And those reports raise pointers to the administration’s biased role and also that of the police.
Space constraints will not permit me to quote from these very detailed reports contained in this volume but if any planner or ruler genuinely wants to study the destructive forces behind rioting in this country and the deadly aftermath of the biased role of the police on the already marginalized, then this volume holds out much in terms of the ground realities.