Aurangabad riots: Fact-finding report alleges targeted attack against the specific community

About a week after the riots in Aurangabad district, a fact-finding team comprised of Rameshbhai Khandagale, Vira Sathidar, Ravi Gaikwad, Gautam Kamble, Pramod Mandade, Sudhir Dhavle, Sadiq Qureshi, Rashtrapal Gavai, Yusuf Khan, Pratik Nandgaonkar, and Divesh Kumar visited the affected area to find out the responsible people and causes behind the violence which left two people dead. The riot left about 60 people injured including 31 policemen.

The fact-finding team, formed under the banner of Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan, Maharashtra, visited the area on May 19 and 20. The committee met with the victims, eyewitnesses, local people, police, administration, political leaders and social activists. Based on those meetings, the fact-finding committee observed that the riots started on May 11, 2018, Friday at midnight, But several people in Moti-Karanja, Shahganj, Nawabpura, Rajabazar, and Gulmandi revealed that preparations for the riot had been underway since almost a month.

The fact that Petrol, Kerosene, Stones, Catapult etc. were used during the riots were collected and stored on the terrace of the multi-storied buildings, is also evidence to its pre-planned nature.

As many as 21 Hindu and Muslim shopkeepers of Shahganj Vyapari Sangh had filed a complaint with the City police chowk on May 7 against Lacchu Pahelwan and his hooligan collaborators for beating, threatening and trying to instigate the communal riot. They had also demanded security from Lacchu Pahelwan and his collaborators. Even after their complaint, no stop was put to their activities.

Therefore on May 8 and 9, the shopkeepers met with S.P Kodekar and Police officer Kadam to demand justice from the harassment of Lacchu Pahelwan and even submitted a written memorandum regarding the same. Many people witnessed that on May 11 the same S.P Kodekar and P.O. Kadam walked along with Lacchu Pahelwan from the site of violence. The people indicated this also as an evidence of the pre-planned nature of the violence.

Fact-finding team has also reported that electricity in Moti-Karanja had been cut off from night 10 p.m. that day and also the electricity in other places went off in many places during the riot. Many transformers were destroyed. CCTV cameras were shut down earlier to save the rioters. All these again clearly points out that the rioters were prepared well in advance.

At the site of violence, people witnessed some armed political leaders walking along with the police. According to the report, All those leaders were Shiv Sena’s leaders. A local member of parliament, Chandrakant Khaire is visible in many video clips. MP Chandrakant Khaire openly admitted to journalists that due to Shiv Sena corporator Rajendra Janjal, his son and ex-MLA Pradeep Jaiswal’s son were rescued from the place of the incident. It is a clear admission to the fact that many Sena leader’s sons also participated in the attack. Hence both Police and local Shiv Sena leaders colluded in this attack is openly visible.

It is being propagated that the immediate trigger for the riot was the removal of illegal water connections. But people in that area said that illegal water connections were not the reason behind the violence. There are more than 35,000 illegal water connections between Kranti chowk to Shahganj area and in the whole city near about 1 lakh, 20 thousand illegal water connections are there. On May 9, the Municipal Corporation did not start their action either from Kranti chowk or Shahganj but started removing illegal water connections randomly in Moti-Karanja Chowk. They removed only four illegal water connection and all of them were Muslims. Farid Iqbal and his colleague, a resident of that area (Moti Karanja) had long before itself submitted a memorandum to the Municipal Corporation regarding the removal of illegal water connections. It is quite clear that the violence had nothing to do with the issue of removal of illegal water connections.

Another reason given for the trigger to the riot is the mango buying incident, there is no substance in this claim either. There was an altercation between a mango seller and his customer. That conflict was resolved and both of them had even embraced each other. But soon nephew of Lacchu Pahelwan came with 8-10 people and started beating that mango seller. People gathered there to save mango seller and they forced Lacchu Pahelwan’s nephew to leave that place. After that Lacchu Pahelwan came and publicly threatened to burn down shops and on May 11, he acted upon his threat and those shops were burnt down.

Shiv Sena holds the Mayor post in the Municipal Corporation. Lacchu Pahelwan’s daughter is an independent corporator but Lacchu Pahelwan controls the actual power. A month back, he joined Shiv Sena and demanded removal of encroachment and hawkers from Shahganj and Meena Bazar area. On May 9, Municipal Corporation sent an anti-encroachment force. Anti-encroachment force removed the encroachments in the Shahganj Chowk (mostly Muslim shops) but when they started removing encroachments of Sindhi shops they received a call from BJP district president Kishanchand Tanwani. And those shop owners told that Anti-encroachment drive had been stopped due to Tanwani’s phone call.

It is clear that Municipal Corporation also functioned with evident bias. 

Every time during the Ramzan period a market called the Meena bazar is held in Shahganj area. 12 years before, the Bhaji market was its place. But for redevelopment, Bhaji market was demolished and all shopkeepers came on the road. They started putting their shops on roads. Two years back, Municipal corporation allocated Aamkhas ground for Meena Bazar but no arrangements were made in the following years. So all shopkeepers again started opening their shops around Shahgunj road. Recently, Shiv Sena demanded the removal of Meena Bazar. All the vendors went to high court. High court ordered that these vendors should not be removed as their right to life cannot be snatched from them. Therefore, on May 11, Lacchu Pahelwan intentionally burnt down the shops of those vendors.

The whole site of violence is a Muslim majority area. Lacchu was trying to establish his dominance in that area. He used to collect ransom from this area. He used to beat up people if they refused to pay the money. Whole area has been afraid of Lacchu. Lacchu was miffed because, on May 8 in Mango buying issue, people forced his nephew to leave the area. Hawkers and riot victims told that, on 11 May, only those shops were burnt who were not supporting Lacchu’s demand of removal of hawkers.
It is important to note that when the shops were being burnt on May 11, Hindu shops and houses located in the Muslim majority area were not burnt or plundered. It also indicates that people just resisted attacks, it was not a riot where attacks happened from both the sides. Shopkeepers of Shahaganj, Nawabpura, and Moti Karanja also said the same thing.

Attackers burnt down a 100-year-old building located at Shahganj-Rajabazar chowk. It was attacked because the owner of that building was a Muslim. In that building one Hindu family was residing and there were three other shops. All of them were tenants. None of the government representatives visited or helped them. Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) extended financial support to only Hindu tenants. BJP has not offered an help to Muslim tenants.

Extreme hatred towards Muslims was clearly visible in the Haris Qadri’s case. Haris left home in search of his younger brother on Friday midnight. Around 2:30 am, the family members came to know that he was injured. They brought him back. Haris was still alive so they took him to the hospital. He was injured because of the bullet. But soon he died in the hospital. On next day, around 11 am, SRP jawans broke down the doors of Haris’s house. They went to the terrace of three-floor building and beat Haris’s uncle.

Their Hindu neighbor asked the SRP Jawans not to trouble Haris’s family and they also told that Haris was seriously injured. But SRP Jawan beat even women of Haris’s family. SRP Jawan conducted combing operation only in the Muslim houses. Combing operation was conducted in the Nawabpura, Baijipura, Kiradpura, Ramanspura, Chelipura, Gincy, Roshangate etc. Muslim majority area. Even now combing operation is going on. Till now, neither the Collector, Police administration, Home Minister, or Chief minister have visited this area.
A number of Muslims have been seriously injured in the police firing. They are under treatment in various hospitals. No one from state, police and administration visited them. Police did not even noted their injuries and registered FIRs. It is evident that police are not recording this information because they wanted to portray lessened intensity of the violence and safeguard themselves against any actions for misuse of power. During the riot, only one community faced the police bullets. Combing operation was also targeted against Muslims. The number of injured is more in the same community. Even the number of arrest is higher among Muslims. Compared to Muslims, the number of arrests or injured among the Hindus are very less. This also then raises a question on whether this is a riot or a planned attack?

On May 11, people chased Lacchu Pahelwan’s gang after they started fighting. So Lacchu’s people gathered near Hanuman temple of Gandhi Nagar and started throwing stones towards Moti Karanja Chowk. Muslim community also gathered at Moti Karanja Chowk to oppose stone pelters march which was trying to enter in the Muslim area. Some attackers took an opportunity of that chaos and from the different route, and they entered the Muslim majority area such as Shahaganj, Raja Bazar etc. This was a method employed for the attack.
MP Khaire said that his commitment is to save only Hindu community. This is an anti-constitutional statement by an elected member of the parliament. Insecurity among Hindus was systematically constructed with spreading of false propaganda such as Muslim population is increasing, Muslims are snatching away the opportunities of the Hindus etc. Shiv Sena wants to polarise the Hindu community by creating anti-muslim sentiment among the Hindus. During the violence, Shiv Sena leaders were walking with Police. Police conducted combing operation in the house of the boy who died in police firing. All those events expose the nature of government.

The institution of the state is much bigger than the handful of thugs and local leaders. The state could have controlled those attacks with short time span but the government wanted those attacks to happen. Hence at the place of the riot, police and Shiv Sena leaders were all found together.

The fact-finding team has concluded that this was not a riot but pre-planned attack on one community and police, local administration as well as political leaders participated in this attack.

Harsh Mander, former IAS, said that any riot which continues for more than four hours is a state-sponsored riot. In Aurangabad, the attack continued from night 10 to morning 7. This attack would not have been possible and continued for so long period without state participation.
Team has also alleged that the attack was entirely a political attack. Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire directly participated in that attack. It is an attempt to construct fear and hatred of another religion and consolidate vote of a community by polarising people on religious grounds.

“The intention of attack is to teach a lesson to the opponent and to create terror among Muslims,” said the report.

The team has demanded that the “mastermind of attack” Chandrakant Khaire should be arrested immediately, along with the Police officers.

The Government of Maharashtra not only failed in maintaining peace and security but also allowed four riots (attacks) to happen in the last five months. And in every place police took a biased stand with the Hindutva rioters. Hence action should be taken against Home minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis as he should be made responsible for those riots, demanded the team.

Team has also demanded that the action should be taken against municipal corporation officers for their suspicious functioning along with the immediate stoppage over combing operations with the release of all the innocent people from custody.

“Rs. 50 lakh compensation should be given to two families who lost their family members in this attack, Rs. 5 lakh assistance should be given to people who were injured in police firing and other injured should be given 2 lakh rupees assistance. Adequate compensation should be given to the people who lost their property in this attack,” demanded the team through the report along with the demand of the inquiry of the incident through the one sitting judge of the high court.

Courtesy: Two Circles



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