Message from Kasganj: Muslims, damned if they unfurl the tricolour, damned if they don’t

The Republic Day programme of Kasganj Muslims clashed with the sangh parivar’s projection of Indian Muslims as pro-Pakistani, anti-national 

kasganj Riots
Image: NDTV

Imagine the scene. Its January 26, Republic Day. In a Muslim neighbourbood of some small town, residents are setting up chairs at a chowk named after Veer Abdul Hamid, in preparation of hoisting the national flag. It was Havildar Abdul Hamid, remember, whose act of extraordinary courage and sacrifice gave the Indian army a crucial edge during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. For this he was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest military honour any Indian can aspire for.

Imagine the symbolism embedded in this scenario. Away from the media gaze, Indian Muslims are quietly displaying their respect for the national tricolor, recalling with pride the sacrifice for the country of a fellow Muslim. What more “proof” does one need of Muslims’ love for their motherland?

This, however, does not fit the image of the Indian Muslim that the RSS has been projecting before the nation for nearly a century now. Hindus alone are the legitimate inhabitants of India, wrote the most revered Guru of the sangh parivar, MS Golwalkar in his We, or Our Nationhood Defined in the late 1930s. Some two decades later in his Bunch of Thoughts, he warned Hindus to beware of Indian Muslims, their “enemy number one”. The internal enemy, he pointed out, was worse than any external enemy. For the sangh parivar the Indian Muslim remains a “Pakistani within” whose patriotism is forever suspect.

On a separate note, as is well-known Golwalkar and the entire sangh parivar were staunchly opposed to the national tricolor. “Indian tricolor will never be respected and owned by the Hindus”, Golwalkar wrote in the RSS mouthpiece Organiser in 1947. “The word three in itself is an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country”, he added. Golwalkar also hated the Indian Constitution.

Accordingly, the RSS refused to unfurl, pay respects to the tricolor for decades after independence. In recent years, however, political expediency has dictated that the sangh parivar “respect” and “own” the tricolor. And now that it “owns” the national flag, how can it tolerate the sight of Muslims affirming their “co-ownership” of the same?   

Understand this and you have a clue to the likely perpetrators and their motive in triggering the communal clash that erupted last Friday – Republic Day — in Kasganj town of UP. 

Even as Kasganj struggles to return to normal one thing appears certain: There was nothing spontaneous in the flare-up on January 26 in a town with no history of Hindu-Muslim conflict. It was a riot by design, a pre-meditated act with deliberate intent to provoke Muslims.

Consider this. On the morning of Republic Day, Muslims from Badu Nagar (a Muslim-predominant neighbourhood) in Kasganj are lining up chairs at the Veer Abdul Hamid chowk, in preparation of hoisting the national flag. Out of nowhere, a “tiranga rally” with activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) riding motor-cycles descend on Badu Nagar. Police say no permission was asked or given for the rally.  

The bikers demanded that the chairs be removed for them to pass through. The Muslims instead invited them to join the locals in the hoisting of the flag. The bikers then resorted to raising provocative slogans which have been videographed: “Hindi-Hindu Hindustan!Katwe bhago Pakistan!”, “Jai Shri Ram!”! “Hindustan mein rehna hoga toh Vande Matram kehna hoga!” (India is for Hindus! Muslims go to Pakistan! Jai Sri Ram! Chant Vande Mataram if you wish to stay in India).

Some news reports have quoted the VHP-ABVP activists as alleging that Muslims raised pro-Pakistan slogans. The Muslims say this is an outright lie adding it even defies common sense to suggest they would raise pro-Pakistan slogans at a function they themselves have organized to salute the national tricolour.
On Friday morning the provocation had its intended effect. In the heated argument that followed, finding themselves outnumbered the VHP, ABVP activists left the scene. Reportedly the bikers who were then joined by others descended on Bilram Gate area about a kilometer away from Badu Nagar. It is here that reportedly both Hindus and Muslims resorted to firing in which two persons – Chandan Gupta and Naushad — received bullet injuries. While Gupta died in the hospital, Naushad was moved to a hospital in Aligarh where he is undergoing treatment.   

The situation took a turn for the worse on Saturday morning following a highly provocative speech during the cremation of Gupta by Rajveer Singh, BJP’s MP from the Etah constituency. Immediately after Gupta’s cremation, mobs selectively set Muslim shops and vehicles on fire. By Saturday evening, just when the administration claimed the situation was under control three more vehicles were torched.

On Sunday, the Yogi Adityanath government announced compensation of Rs. 20 lakh to be paid to the parents of Chandan Gupta. No compensation has been declared for Naushad or for others injured or for those whose property has been destroyed.

The UP police meanwhile have formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter. An impartial probe into a criminal incident requires that the crime be explored from all possible angles. Here are two possible motives that the SIT should consider exploring. One, the “Hindu nationalists” deliberately disrupted the flag unfurling ceremony by Muslims as it does not sit well with their agenda of constantly demonizing Indian Muslims, projecting them as pro-Pakistani, anti-nationals. Two, could the communal conflict be part of the sangh parivar’s rehearsal for the 2019 polls?

Looking at how the incident is now being exploited to the hilt by Hindutva’s hate-mongers on the social media, it seems clear that the Kasganj flare-up has served the intended purpose. Twisting the tale hyperactive trolls are busy peddling their propaganda that Muslims opposed a “Tiranga Rally”, refused to sing Vande Matram, raised pro-Pakistan slogans and therefore their nationalism is suspect.  



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