Communal Riot in Mau: A Report
By Roop Rekha Verma & Nasiruddin Haider Khan
29 October, 2005
On behalf of "Saajhi Duniya" the undersigned tried to understand the reality of riot-hit Mau and visit this city on October 20, 2005. We saw those areas in Mau which were affected by violence; we talked to some people who had witnessed the violence. We also looked into the local news papers. We tried to know what the immediate cause of the riot was ; what the role of Mukhtar Ansari (identified as the main culprit by all variety of the media) was ; whether there was any role of any other individual or organization in the riots; whether Hindus had really been massacred en mass and they have lost everything; what the role of the administration was and whether this riot could have been averted.
After having returned to Lucknow we thought it necessary to share the facts collected by us with wider public, and prepared this report. But it should not be taken as the report of an inquiry. It is only an effort to connect scattered facts and an attempt to make a passage to find out further facts.
Moreover we have given community -based analysis despite the fact that for us dividing the statistics of loot and murder on the basis of religion is inhuman, because the media has mostly presented religion-based statistics and we did not find the one -sided picture given by media as correct. The account of what we saw, heard, understood and felt, is given below.
Beginning of Tension
In Mau Bharat Milap (enactment of a scene from Ramayan) has always been very important and sensitive occasion. The traditional cite of Bharat Milap is adjacent to the Shahi Katra Mosque. For a long time Bharat Milap ceremony is held on this cite. Some years ago during the renovation of the mosque a controversy arose that a gate of the mosque had occupied about one foot more space than it should have. This controversy reached the court. Later the prominent persons of both the communities reached an agreement that the gate of the mosque may remain as such and when the chariot in Bharat Milap turns around near this gate, the chariot can touch the gate thrice. Now it has become part of the ritual that during Bharat Milap the chariot strike at the mosque gate thrice. This practice does not cause any tension now. The Bharat Milap event has, for a long time, been treated as very sensitive by the administration and they have been deploying heavy police force around this occasion.
This year Bharat Milap coincided with Ramzan. On the 13th October 2005 when the loudspeakers were blowing on the Bharat Milap cite, it was time for Taravih in the mosque and people in the mosque objected to the blowing of the loudspeakers. When an elderly person objected, loudspeakers stopped blowing but after a short while they again started blowing. On this, it is reported, some young boys snatched away the wires of the loudspeakers. The police beat them up and locked them up in the police thana. Later the boys were released under pressure. This angered the Ramlila Committee. During all this episode the administrative and police arrangement at the cite was not as it used to be the previous years ; it was much lesser this year. After some time members of Ramlila Committee, BJP MLC Ramji Singh, other leaders of BJP and people in administration reached Shahi Katra. After discussion it was decided to postpone Bharat Milap to October, 29, 2005. This seemed to be the end of the whole controversy.
But this was not to be. The next day morning the workers of Hindu Yuva Vahini and Hindu Mahasabha, under the leadership of Ajit Singh Chandel, Punit Singh Chandel, Sujit Kumar Singh & others, jammed the traffic at Mata Pokhra and at the Sanskrit Pathshala Trisection near Shahi Katra Mosque in protest against the postponement of Bharat Milap. The residence of Chandel is also situated on this spot. This place is supposed to be very sensitive. The space around the trisection is very narrow too. The demonstrators were raising provocative slogans. They were also against Ramlila Committee and local BJP leaders. The demonstrators alleged that these leaders and committee-members had shown cowardice by postponing Bharat Milap. On this occasion too the police presence was meager and the administration was lax. During the demonstration chaos prevailed. Police warned of firing, stone-throwing started and Ajit Singh Chandel started firing from his rifle, injuring several persons who are still in hospital. In fact, violence started from this incident.
People with whom we talked belonged to both Hindu and Muslim community and they said that Mukhtar Ansari was seen on the streets some hours after violence had started. Although none of the persons we talked to could quote any provocative pronouncement by him, they all maintained that his mere presence was sufficient to encourage lumpen elements.
Violence and Loot
After the abovementioned incident near Sanskrit Pathshala about a dozen shops at Sadar Chowk, Rauza, Kaudi Building and Sindhi Colony were looted. Among these shops were Jaiswal Vastralaya, Sindhi Bidi, Metro Sareewala, Deenanath Agarwal Cloth shop, saree shop of Ramgopal, Jugal Prsad Vishwanath Prasad Saree wholesale, Gopal Traders of electronic goods, Barnwal stores etc. All the shops looted in this area belonged to Hindus. Some of these shops were quite big and old. The estimated loss runs in lakhs. Three of the looted shops looked entirely burnt and destroyed. Dozen other shops of Hindus near these looted shops were safe and intact. Some damaged shops, people say, had long-standing tenancy disputes. It is likely that taking advantage of chaos and violence some people adopted this method of resolving the disputes. As per the information gathered till now maximum damage to Hindu population was done in this area. In this area a godown of soaps belonging to a Muslim and housed in Goenka Bhavan behind Mr. Chandel's hose was looted. Further ahead in Bal Niketan area which is inhabited mainly by Hindus, everything looked safe and intact excepting burning down of a kiosk of a Muslim.
In Sahadatpur area the Muslim-owned shops in Ali Building were looted and burnt. The damage is estimated in crores. The adjacent shops of Hindus were intact. Two purely vegetarian restaurants owned by Muslims, Girhast Plaza and Paris Plaza on the Ghazipur Trisection were victims of heavy damage and loot. Further up on the bypass road Habib Hospital of Dr. Asghar Ali Ansari was damaged and his new Scorpio Jeep and motorcycle were completely burnt down. Dr. Ali escaped to Ghazipur. Further on the same road in Brahmsthan area a big trading complex housing Ahmad Beej Bhandar was totally looted and burnt. Even after 5 days we saw smoke still blowing from this building. On Salahbad turning Shimla Saree, a famous factory owned by a muslim, was looted. The estimate is that about 16 thousand sarees, 3 electronic machines and computer were looted. After this loot a big crowd of Muslims from a nearby place indulged in rampage and loot for two-three hours and no administrative intervention was visible. Here, people say, Mukhtar Ansari was called by some persons to intervene and in his presence firing was done by someone, killing one person.
As a reaction to this, it is said, the colony of Muslim weavers in Alinagar was attacked and about 100 houses were looted and then burnt. All the power looms were destroyed in the arson. Due to rains, absence of proper road and late night we could not go to this place despite our strong desire. People told us that nothing was left in this colony; it was totally deserted. Some other establishments which suffered loot and/or arson were mobile oil shop and junk dealers store on bypass, Kanpur Machinery Store ( engine, motor, thrasher, etc.) , Airlite machinery near old government hospital, dying factory in Ranvirpura, retail sellers on Bhiti and Azamgarh Trisection, school of municipal chairman in Matlupur, some shops in Ratanpura. They all belonged to Muslims. These establishments included the tent-house which used to provide tents, etc. free of cost for Durga puja every year. Some of the adjacent villagers like Faidullapur and Kurthi Jafarpur also suffered violence.
According to the administration nine persons were killed in this riot whereas the newspapers have reported the number as fourteen to seventeen. Among these five Hindus have been identified. Mehtab, a Muslim, died in police firing. Five charred bodies were found in the burnt colony of Alinagar. Since this colony was inhabited by Muslim weavers only, the surmise is that five burnt bodies were of Muslims.
Shining examples of humanity in the midst of Barbarism.
Mau has not one but several exceptional persons who helped restore our faith in humanity in the midst of brutality and violence. On the one hand there were Haji Vakil, Abdul Sattar, Abdul Samad who challenged rioters in Sindhi colony or Salim Ansari, Kamaruzzaman and Haji Irfan who stopped the fanatic elements from indulging in violence. On the other hand there were Ashok Singh who saved the plaza from arson, Anil Rai who stopped rioters from looting a furniture shop, Ramchandra Singh who saved Noorkamal near Ali Building, Dr. Udai Narain Singh who saved two lives or Ashok Gupta who sheltered nine Muslims. In Indaara a Muslim sheltered some Hindus to save them from a frenzied mob and had his fingers chopped off while he was closing the doors of his house.
i) It is clear that the picture presented by most of the media, that the aggressors were mainly Muslims and mainly Hindus were the sufferers is not correct. Muslims have heavily suffered in terms of life and property.
ii) The role of Hindu Yuva Vahini and Hindu Mahasabha has been almost missing in the media whereas they played crucial role in the beginning of the riots and in worsening the situation.
iii) The statements of exaggerated and exclusive losses of Hindus, by some BJP leaders and leaders of Hindu Yuva Vahini like Yogi Adityanath have been partial and provocative.
Roop Rekha Verma Nasiruddin Haider Khan
Secretary Saajhi Duniya
M-1/14, Sector- B,
Lucknow - 226 024.