Kanpur riots

Published on: April 1, 2001
While a group of Muslim extremists sparked the Kanpur riots and the notorious PAC and sections of the police force targeted the Muslim community with RSS and Bajrang Dal help, the majority of Hindus and Muslims protected each other. Report of a women’s delegation that visited Kanpur 

A joint delegation of women’s organisations visited  Kanpur on March 21 to  meet the people in the af
fected areas and to get a first hand account of the developments. The team comprised Brinda Karat and Subhashini Ali (All India Democratic Women’s Association, AIDWA) Dr. Syeda Hameed and Nahid Taban (Muslim Women’s Forum), Pranati Mukerjee (National Federation of Indian Women), Sister Mary Scaria (Justice and Peace Commission, Catholic Bishops Conference of India), Dr. Alka Srivastava (Women’s unit, Indian Social Institute). 

The team visited the following areas: Parade, Yatim Khana, Talaq Mahal, Baconganj, Choubey Gola, Shivala, Shastrinagar and Vijaynagar. The team met hundreds of people, women and men and heard their experiences. The team also met heads of the administration, namely the commissioner, Shri VK Malhotra, the IGP, Shri Arun Kumar and Shri VS Bhullar. The team gave them a memorandum. 

We give below the report of the team. It is in three parts. The first section is the summary of the main findings and recommendations. The second is the discussions with the people of both communities in the affected areas. The third is a report of the discussions with the officials. (For reasons of space, only the first two parts are reproduced below – Editors).

Main findings:

1. From March 16–19, areas of Kanpur were engulfed in violence. According to official figures, 14 people were killed; the ADM, Shri Pathak, 12 persons from the minority community who were killed in police firing and one Hindu. Scores of people, almost all from the minority community, have been injured and several are still in hospital. Unofficial figures put the tally of those killed between 18 and 20. According to the administration, 273 people have been arrested and are in jail. Again, almost all are from the minority community.

2. Contrary to official propaganda, which seeks to paint the whole minority community as aggressors, in fact it is the minority community, which has been victim of the communal violence of loot and arson perpetuated by sections of the police and the PAC.

3. Following the burning of a copy of the Koran in Delhi and the publication of the photograph on the Internet, posters came up in Kanpur, which were highly provocative. There was no organisation’s name given but (the same was published) in the name of “Muslims of Kanpur” This itself should have alerted the administration. But it completely ignored the posters and took no action to nab the culprits. The first protest demonstration on March 16 was of a few hundred young people, which started from Halim College. The police lathi–charged the protesters when they tried to burn an effigy of the Prime Minister. The trouble started soon after. Even at that stage the administration could have controlled the situation if it had the will to do so.

4. The first offensive was taken by a section of the crowd, which had joined the initial protest after the afternoon namaaz. In the first instance, four mandirs were damaged in Choubey Gola; some shops belonging to the Hindu community were also burnt. All this happened between 1pm and 5pm. Even at this stage the administration totally failed to mobilise its forces. Choubey Gola is only a few furlongs away from the Kotwali (police headquarters), but it took over two hours for a police force to arrive. In fact, we were told that the entire administration was present in the Kotwali when all this was happening. This shows the extent of the callousness.

5. The incidents in Kanpur provide a most vivid example of how fundamentalist forces of both communities have strengthened each other. Clearly in the last few years Muslim fundamentalist groups have organised sections of young men of the community on the same lines as the Bajrang Dal. The growth of both fundamentalisms is a matter of grave concern and clearly any strategy to counter such forces will have to be directed at both groups. This is where the communal politics of