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PUCL April, 2003

Summary Report of PUCL, Rajasthan

Distribution of arms in the State of Rajasthan
Immediate need to ban the VHP dagger alias the trishul in the state
February 2003

Tables:
Forthcoming trishul distribution ceremonies
Year and district-wise distribution of trishuls
List of some trishul distribution ceremonies in last 3 years
Communal Incident/Riots & Communal Tension


After the successful victory of the VHP brand of the BJP in Gujarat the next target is Rajasthan. Facts related to distribution of trishuls not only show that after the carnage in Gujarat in 2002 more than six thousand trishuls were distributed in the State but after the victory in Gujarat the pace of arming people has increased. In less than thirty five days of the year 2003 more than 2600 people were armed with trishuls. In the next twenty days, nine ceremonies have been planned which are expected to arm about five thousand people with more than a thousand only in Dausa district.

The VHP was earlier moving with a strategy of arming people in those areas which have competitive communalism like Ajmer. All three religions the Hindus, Muslims and the Christians have a strong presence in this region and have been competing with each other for more than seventy five years. The VHP also selected areas where the RSS or Banvasi Kalyan Parshad have had a base for many years like in the districts of southern Rajasthan or the districts of Kota, Baran in East Rajasthan. The VHP also moved with trishuls after a riot happened in order to assert hindutva by arming a group of hindus. But now it has decided to spread its net of trishuls in the entire State. This year, it is moving westwards to areas like Sikar, Nagaur and Bikaner where the hindutva forces are weak. Todate trishul distribution has happened in 13 districts of the States but in the next twenty days they will have moved to four new districts and subsequently the rest of the State.

While the VHP states that more than seventy thousand trishuls have been distributed in last five years, according to Government sources the distribution totals to about ten thousand since 1998 till February, 2003. In the first week of February during the distribution ceremony in Sikar district, the VHP announced that they would arm 3 lac people in the State and only in Alwar and the Meo belt they would be arming a lac people. The VHP is known for its exaggerated statements but they cannot be ignored anymore as 2003 is the election year in the State and the Ayodhya movement is simmering again in the country. With little or no presence or opposition by Congress cadres at the grassroots, the NGOs having not woken up with a strategy to counter the VHP initiative of distributing Trishuls and the Government not taking any legal action against, the VHP may try to repeat in Gujarat in Rajasthanas an act of desperation.

The immediate need is bringing the trishul under the Arms Act in Rajasthan and prevent any further distribution of this arm in the State.

Some highlights of the trishul programme in the state
Facts of the last five years show that the VHP launched its programme of trishul distribution in 1998 targeting the districts of Rajsamand and Kishangarh and Ajmer, where 304 trishuls were distributed. In the year1999 only Tonk district was a target where 27 trishuls were distributed. In year 2000 there were no distribution of trishuls. In 2001 about 1126 trishuls were distributed in the five districts of Ajmer, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Banswara with more than 800 trishuls distributed only in Ajmer and 195 in Bhilwara. It is the year 2002 which has sent alarm bells ringing through the State where in only one day in October more than 2000 trishuls were distributed in Jhalarapatan in Jhalawar. In the month of December, when all eyes were glued to Gujarat, Togadia and other senior VHP leaders distributed 2580 trishuls in Rajasthan. The break up of this distribution was as follows: 300 in Chittor on 7th Dec., 1100 in Sawai Madhopur on 14th Dec, 580 in Jaipur on 15th Dec and 600 in Bharatpur on 16th Dec.

These developments in Rajasthan become particularly alarming when viewed in the light of the Gujarat experience. It may be recalled that the regions where trishuls were distributed in large numbers in Gujarat saw the worst killings. The year 2002 saw 21 incidents of communal violence and riots in Rajasthan as compared to 5 in the earlier year. The timing and selection of place by VHP for trishul distribution in 2001 & 2002 has had a relationship with communal incidents/ tensions in the area.

For instance Gangapur city ( Sawai Madhopur) is an example where in the wake of Godhra in 2002 March three persons were killed in police firing when a big crowd of people prevented the tazia processions during Muharram from being taken out in the city. Both the BJP and the VHP have periodically being holding programmes of spreading hate and finally on the 14th of December 1100 trishuls were distributed. Togadia himself came to distribute these trishuls and in his hate speech declared that now that the hindus had been armed the muslims could be taught a lesson.

In September 2001, Togadia himself undertook the journey to Asind in Bhilwara to distribute trishuls and honour the youth who broke the Kalindri masjid in the Sawai Bhoj premises at Asind. About 150 trishuls were distributed to young village youth from closeby areas. Following the US attack on Afghanistan the poor mulsims of that area were called Osama Bin Laden supporters in a public meeting of Sadhvi Rithambara at Asind. Towards end December Daulatgarh, a village in the vicinity of Asind had its first communal tension where fingers were pointed at muslims that had were associated with Bin Laden. According to the villagers the young men who returned after the trishul ceremony spread hate against the muslims in the village.

Similarly on the 5th of April, 2001 a big trishul distribution ceremony took place on Muharram on the outskirts of Beawar. In less than a week's time an altercation happened between villagers and the administration over the construction of a masjid few kms. outside Beawar. Capitalising on this incident on the 16th of April, 2001 a serious incident of communal violence took place when a VHP rally pouting hate speech right at the entrance of a muslim mohalla was attacked resulting in loot, arson and injuring several people.

That the eyes of the VHP is on the dalits can be clearly seen through the trishul distribution event in Phagi, Jaipur district, held on the 5th of January, 2002. It was organised to crush the emergence of the dalit identity in the area who were demanding rights to equal citizenship after the Chakwara incident of dalits being prevented bathing rights in the village pond. The banners pasted all over the pandaal said "all hindus are one". The VHP tried killing two birds with one stone, they not only made the "untouchables" feel important that day but the Manuwadi hindu big brothers armed them, a right traditionally not possessed by them. It may be recalled that in Gujarat the VHP army were the dalits.

Proscribing the trishul under the arms act
To prevent Gujarat from being repeated one of the immediate tasks needed is to prevent people the arming of people. There is an urgent need to ban trishul distribution in the state. Madhya Pradesh government has shown the way by proscribing the VHP trishuls under the Arms Act. The Rajasthan government just needs to include by a notification trishuls in the list of weapons under the relevant provision of the Act. At present, the VHP trishuls defy the Arms Act on just a technical count. The Arms Act, as in force, proscribes a weapon with a sharp blade of 10.5 cms length. Though the VHP trishul has a blade length of 13.5 cms, the sharpened part has been deliberately kept slightly shorter with a length of 8 cms only. But this is just an eyewash as the remainder can be sharpened anytime by the neighbourhood blacksmith at the behest of the person holding the trishul. Hence a fresh notification is required to bring these trishuls under the ambit of the Arms Act. The sooner this is done the better. The traditional trishul displayed in temples could be excluded from this as two of its arms are blunt and turned sideways and the middle arm is pointed but not sharp.

It may be recalled that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot urged the Prime Minister to restrain the VHP from distributing trishuls as the resultant panic among muslims would polarise the communal situation in the state. Also, any violence that this would generate would merely push the muslims to the arms of fundamentalists and possibly Pakistan in this border state. It is therefore that an urgent action needs to be taken in this regard.

The PUCL team was unable to get information as to where these trishuls are being manufactured. Officials in Rajasthan have informed us that they are not manufactured in the State and they come from outside. Finding the location of factories is important in the long run.

The People's Union for Civil Liberties appeals to all groups and citizens to help put pressure on the Government and get the trishul proscribed under the arms act by bringing in a fresh notification.

Kavita Srivastava & Prem Krishna Sharma

For More Information Contact:

People's Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan
49, Vivek Nagar, Station Road, Jaipur-302006

phone: 0141/2206139 (Prem Krishna Sharma) , 2591408, 2706483 ( Kavita Srivastava) e.mail: kavisriv@yahoo.com


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