Communal Violence in Chhapra & Maker: A Fact Finding Report

Published on: October 19, 2016

Chapra Riots

Findings and Conclusions:

1)        The Act of posting derogatory image outraging the religious feelings of Hindus must be condemned at the outset and the guilty person must be punished in accordance with law.

2)        What we found disturbing was that even in state of Bihar where the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance Government is in power, communal violence can be orchestrated with ease by members of Sangh Parivar. The riots did not happen overnight. They were planned and mobilization was undertaken for days if not months. Though the Muslims firmly believed that Mubarak had posted derogatory image outraging the feelings of Hindu community within a closed WhatsApp group of the area consisting of mixed religions, that was in response to a another derogatory post outraging the feelings of Muslims. However, the derogatory post could not be verified by us and the DM too did not verify existence of any such message. However, the Muslims were strongly condemning the act of Mubarak posting any derogatory image and were supporting the demand of strictest action within the law.

3)        Mubarak’s post was extensively circulated by the members of Sangh Parivar with the intention of outraging the religious feelings of Hindus and mobilizing them into their fold. A Hindu would not want the post to be circulated. S/he would straight head to police station to lodge a complaint and get the guilty punished and the image deleted. Ashutosh Kumar, a member of the WhatsApp group has been arrested for circulating the derogatory post of Mubarak. The post was getting viral and the administration could (or should) not have been unaware. Be as it may, the post was made viral and misused to mobilize Hindus. In the mob of about 5,000 that gathered on 5th August in Maker was not spontaneous in response to something that happened on the night of 4thAugust or the morning of 5th August. This indicates that they had been mobilized on an appointed day and time. Some people who had gathered in Rajendra Vidyalay returned as they did not want to indulge in violence. The mob marched towards Mubarak’s house accompanied by scanty police force. The mob was led by BJP MLA Satwant Tiwari also known as Chokar Baba. Nandu Tiwari of Bajrang Dal too was there. The DM told us in his narrative that on 6th August, bandh call was given by the Bajrang Dal. In spite of assurance of peaceful bandh on 6th, the mobs started attacking Muslim shops. The hand of the Hindu Nationalists in the communal violence is evident.

4)        Social media is being extensively misused to promote hatred against other communities and for communal mobilization. Communal riots need elaborate planning and mobilization of resources – lethal weapons and massive mobs. Social media has made mobilization of people easier. Though the Indian state has extensively misused S. 66 of IT Act to muzzle any criticism of the Government and any opposition denying freedom of expression, the section is nevertheless underutilized as far as hate propaganda, particularly against minorities is concerned. Social media is increasingly being misuse to make a post (propagating hate) viral and to spread rumours of an impending attack by the members of “other” community.

5)        Inaction of the officials of the State of Bihar is evident in this particular case. The culture of police officials behaving as lords and rule unto themselves doesn’t go well with the rule of law promised by the Mahagathbandhan. How the intelligence officials missed the mobilization that was going on using the objectionable post is difficult to understand. Even more difficult to understand is the gross delay in communicating with the DM regarding the outbreak of communal violence in Maker. Timely intervention and deployment of security forces could have deterred subsequent attacks and greater damage. Timely arrest of Mubarak for the post would have pre-empted the excuse available to the rioters in Chhapra and Maker.

6)        Strictest action should be taken against Sanjay Gupta, SHO of Maker, for his failure to register an FIR of the offensive post and not making adequate security arrangements in Maker where the family of Mubarak resided and the community therein was the likely target. The DM said they received information of the riots only at 10.00 am whereas the mob had gathered in Rajendra Vidyalay at 6.00 am and by 6.30 am riots had started in Maker. The mob attacked Mubarak’s house and dispersed, was emboldened to return after sometime to attack other houses and mosques and Sanjay Gupta informs the DM only at 10.00 am!

7)        The SP and DM called peace committee meeting in Chhapra on the evening of 5th August and despite knowing that the situation was volatile permitted the bandh and rally on 6th August. The DM was either naïve to believe in the assurance of the Sangh Parivar members that the rally would be peaceful when the atmosphere was communally volatile or intimidated by the overbearing threats of communal elements within the peace committee!

8)        The DM also had his own biases against the minorities. When we informed him that the minorities were still feeling insecure, he promptly replied that minorities in Pakistan too were insecure! We reminded him that Pakistan was not secular and had limited democracy intermittently whereas India was secular and democratic wherein all the citizens of the country had been guaranteed equality and security by the Constitution. Such prejudices may have influenced the decisions takenand coloured the judgment of the officials concerned. Anti-minority bias among the bureaucracy needs to be addressed and responded to. Otherwise it will affect the efficacy of the rule of law and ultimately the secular character of the state – the plank on which the Mahagathbandhan won the state elections.

9)        The political response to the communal violence in Chhapra and Maker, to the increasing insecurity among the minority, communal discourse and polarization has been very weak. The secular civil society did not act promptly and effectively. We feel that countering the communal discourse and polarization is ardent and long drawn task which should be undertaken if we do not want our democracy to be undermined.