Kanpur, May 2, 2001
Warm greetings from Sakhi Kendra, India! You might be aware of the violence that broke out in Kanpur during the month of March 2001.
Actually, for three–four months before the out–break of violence, there was some tension in the city but the administration and police chose to ignore the developments. Just one day before the outbreak of violence i.e. on March 15, 2001, a few hooligans made an attempt to burn an effigy as a protest against rumours of the burning of the Quran in Delhi, when the police stopped them. To enforce their will, a bomb was flung on inspector Suresh Chandra Badhauria of Beconganj police station. One week before this incident, volunteers of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) plastered posters and leaflets regarding the incident of the burning of the Quran, in Anwarganj, Chamanganj, Beconganj, Bajariya, Meston Road and other sensitive areas of Kanpur. This created tension and inflamed sentiments but the police and administration chose not to pay attention and not to intervene.
It was only when this procession reached the Shikshak Park, Naveen Market and tried to burn an effigy of the Prime Minister that the police intervened… As is usual during communal riots, the police gave a go–by to lawful conduct and instead of first scattering the mob with the use of tear gas, began indiscriminately firing.
According to official figures, 25 were killed, 8 are missing and 50 persons are injured. Unofficial investigations reveal that 100-200 persons have sustained bullet injuries and with as many as ninety per cent of those injured having injuries above the waist.
Though fundamentalists from the Hindu community also tried to give communal flare to this incident, they were utterly unsuccessful.
The police supported the communal criminals (belonging to the majority community) and there is evidence of this: The bangles’ market and shoe markets, where a majority of the shops are owned by Muslims was gutted down and though the these markets are located just behind the kotwali (the main police station of the city/control room) where a large police force is available all the time, the destruction was neither averted nor stopped. Incidentally these areas have never been targeted before during previous riots; they cannot therefore be categorised as communally sensitive localities.In order to raise issues related to the welfare of the victims of violence, we have formed the Kanpur Citizen’s Council. Members of this council met the police commissioner on April 3, 2001 and put our concerns before the administration. These are:
- Those students who have missed their examinations because of the imposition of curfew should be allowed to give their examinations;
- An accurate assessment of losses incurred should be made and reparation and compensation paid in accordance with the loss.
- A regular occurrence during communal violence is that the police fails in its primary duty towards citizens by failing to register complaints. Hence the Kanpur Citizen’s Council has taken the initiative of visiting various areas, establishing complaint complaint camps in different localities to collect complaints. The police commissioner has assured us that the district magistrate or the ADM will be present at these camps and that these complaints will be registered and treated as an FIR. Already, on April 5 and 7, two complaint camps were held at which nearly 100 complaints were registered. Most of these complaints were not registered by the police. Others were complaints, which had been registered but had no action taken by the police or the administration. The KCC is following up each of these complaints with the police.
- We have asked the administration to gather the complete records of persons missing, injured and killed during violence.
- Members of the KCC have decided to hold survey on the basis of government survey in order to get an accurate picture of the violence.
- During the violence, many innocent people have been indiscriminately arrested and hence the KCC has placed it’s demand with the administration that these people should be released forthwith We also took out a peace march under the banner of Manav Sadbhavana Abhiyan (a combined platform of activists and organizations of Kanpur) to convey a message of peace, solidarity and harmony.
Thanks to some of these combined interventions by the citizens of Kanpur, the administration has admitted that the violence was not communal violence but occurred because of the failure or the lack of desire to intervene. This admission itself is a victory for secular forces.
Sakhi Kendra, Kanpur, (India).
Archived from Communalism Combat, May 2001 Year 8 No. 69, Open Letter