PUCL Bulletin, November 2001

Rajasthan: Report by Ajmer PUCL:
Communal incidences in Nasirabad Town

It was in the midnight of April 4, 2001 that some anti social elements after the religious and customary rituals were over threw stones and damaged the godly idles installed outside the Laxminarayan temple in Nasirabad Town. Not only the idols were damaged but also the bulbs broken to pieces and the vehicles parked outside the houses and in the street were also damaged.

The matter is stated to have been reporting to the Police at about 7.00A.M. on 5th April and the people are stated to have reminded the police authorities at Nasirabad until 10.00 A.M. when one A.S.I Shri Shravan Singh with 2-3 Constables led by Shri Nilamber Singh arrived at the scene. They shouted at the public. All this was happening before the house of Shri A.K. Airen, Advocate who immediately telephoned to Smt. Usha Sharma, Collector at Ajmer. The police and the district administration used his premises and informed the happenings to the higher authorities from there.

On the same day i.e., on 5th April 2001 it is alleged that without any communal tension and without any rhyme or reason the curfew was imposed. On 6th April Shri Dinesh Mehra, an Advocate who was in the midst of a birthday function of his son in a Dharamshala was dragged out by the S.D.M. Shri Shahin Ali and Shri Sunil Bhatia, another advocate living opposite his house was dragged out at the instance of Shri Shahin Ali by policemen. He was beaten and put in the lock-up. Shri Bhatia was produced before the acting magistrate in the same night but he refused to listen and ordered that since Shri Bhatia was arrested on the very day hence he be produced before him the next day. The police officer Shri Nilember Singh and other police officers are alleged to have meted out to him the inhuman treatment. During Curfew the Court Staff having curfew passes were beaten by police. The district administration who made endeavours to restore peace through the public men of eminence by inviting them to a discussion implicated them in criminal cases.

The main FIRs related to the following:
(i) Damaging the godly idols: Cases under IPC sections 147, 148, 149, 427, 436, 292 and 294 were registered against unknown persons.
(ii) Putting Tazia to fire: Another case was registered against Shri Satish Parcha, Ramesh Harijan's son, son of Shri Ramesh Airman and some other people/persons for assaulting, pushing and inflicting fire to the Tazia and injuring grievously the communal sentiments. The IPC sections under which the cases were instituted were as Sections 1476, 148, 292, 294, 436/511.
(iii) Against the rioters: On the reports of Thana Incharge Shri Nilember Singh cases against the rioters who pelted stones on police, had obstructed the performance of official duties damaging public property, throwing lives of the people to danger damaging the godly idols, burning of Tazias, provoking the religious sentiments were registered under IPC Sections 147, 148, 149, 436, 353, 332, 292 and under section 3 of PPDP Act.

While the investigations were on and the judicial process had started the Ajmer Unit of PUCL visited different sites, met a good number of citizens of Nasirabad town and interviewed the involved persons on May 12, 2001. The report of the same runs as under:

The team interviewed Shri Ashok Airan first. Shri Ashok Airan, the Advocate deposed as under:

"In Nasirabad for the last 4-5 years during Tazia processions youths belonging to the Muslim community used to stone the Tube lights in the markets which the people of Hindu community tolerated and did not react sharply but this year the damage was colossal and could not be tolerated. During Garba Dance Programme also Muslim boys teased the girls. On 4th April night during the Tazia procession the idols installed outside the temple were enraged and a part of an idol was broken. Next morning when the women reached the temple they saw all this and talked of it amongst themselves. In the meanwhile, the shops in the market started opening and people gathered together. Apprehending some untoward happening Shri Nihal Chand Jain, an Advocate, telephoned the police station at around 9 a.m. on 5th April. Shri Nilamber Singh, the Thana Incharge advised him to telephone after half an hour. When phone call was made to Tehsildar he came first and the Police arrived after an hour.

When people made complaint of breaking Idols to the Police the ASI, Shri Shravan Singh retorted by saying, "what have you done when Idols were broken by Taliban? You yourself must have broken the Idols. His this statement enraged the people's sentiments. People found that this time the lights upto Framji Chowk were broken. Slowly entire market was closed and people gathered together before the temple. The District Collector was phoned. Shri Shahin Ali, SDM arrived from Ajmer. People apprehended that police would permit the Tazia procession. So under provocation they started pelting stones on police. As a result curfew was imposed and army was requisitioned. Because of negligence of police the situation deteriorated. Police implicated the innocent people out of personal vengeance. Police know that Mahavir Jayanti, Hanuman Jayanti and Muharram were falling together but the Peace Committee was not involved in it. Illegal slaughterhouse is being operated here in Nasirabad.

The Kasai boys are being instigated. In Madarsas cruelty is being taught. The atmosphere that prevailed at Babri Masjid demolition is in the making. This all is well in the knowledge of the administration. The Muslim community harassed a Muslim, who stood as surity for Hindu charged during curfew. There is no tension in Hindu and Muslim here but both the sides there are fundamentalists. The role of Shri Shahin Ali has not been good. To extend the curfew limit was wrong. The police behaviour with Shri Mehra and Shri Bhatia, both Advocates who stood for peace and harmony were quite wrong. They were made accused.

Here the relations between the police and the civilians have been quite harmonious which are being spoiled by the Administration. Police takes heavy amounts from Slaughterhouses. The C.I told he would have settled the whole issue if they did not get to higher authorities. Whole of police station is in the pocket of Kasai Community.

People were wrongly implicated in policy cases, which were ultimately withdrawn and Shri Shahin Ali had to apologise in the open court. In administration the role of S.P. was good but DIU and collector's role are questionable. The Collector acted in haste and lacked foresightedness - that harassed 59000 people unnecessarily.

Thirty percent population belongs to Muslim community. Hindus and Muslims work together in transport and other business. Internally Muslims are feeling a pinch of burning of Tazia and its demolition. Whereas Hindus are provoked due to damaging of idols. This may result in future provocations."

Version of Shri Ashok Jain, the Magistrate:
He admitted, "he had complained to the S.P. against beating of his court staff who had curfew passes with them and coming to attend their duty. Jabra and Ram Kishan were in uniform and had curfew passes even then police beat them. Shri Hukum Chand Chowkidar was beaten by RAC while he was coming to court. Shobha Ram was coming to his home when he was beaten in the way. I got them medically examined and Shri Hukum Chand X-Rayed. I have referred to Tulsi Ram Vs. Union of India case emphasizing that if police itself break the law then who will protect? This was a matter between police and Hindus, which was highlighted disproportionately by media. This was done perhaps to justify the imposition of curfew. Some people were wrongly kept under confinement. Dinesh Mehra and Sunil Bhatia were wrongly implicated".
With much reluctance he gave his version.
Shri Mahaveer, an ex-Army man:
"In the night of 4th April (Katl-ki-raat) when police was with the Tazia procession then how it happened that the Tube lights in the market were broken. When complaint was made the police said, tumhi ne todaa hogaa. This statement from a police officer Shri Nilamber provoked the mass of the people who had gathering the people who were with weapons. Yes it is true that in Hindu gathering the people were with weapons. To be truthful my own son was there. They were marching towards Gandhi Chowk and police was being dragged. Hindus were pelting stones. Then police made the lathi charge and threw teargas shells that gave further provocation to the mob, which assaulted the Tazia and put it to fire.

Since the MLA of this Constituency who was very much in the town did not turn up at the sight of these happenings, there must be certain influence of Nilamber Singh. The vote politics has spoiled the situation. In the Masjid there were 500 Muslims with weapons in their hands. Why did police not search there. I respect Islam but simultaneously I shall not tolerate any damage to our deities, Idols. If anything happens next time the human casualties may take place."

Shri V.K. Garg, Cloth Merchant, main Bazar, Nasirabad:
"No Idol is broken. There is a light crack on it. On the one hand the mischievous elements provoked the Hindu religious sentiments, on the other, by assaulting Tazia and burning it, Muslim sentiment was injured. The local administration did not act speedily. The whole incident was wrongly projected. He opined about Shri Ashok Airan, Advocate, that he is not a man with provocative attitude towards Muslim religion. The Kasai matter has no relevance with this incident".

Shri Rakesh Sanwaria:
"I do not know much about this but am of the considered opinion that this is in response to the damage to Idols. Muslim community may not act in vengeance in future."
Shri Deepak Jindal, LIC Agent:
"I have seen with my own eyes the assault on Tazia and its burning. The Hindus had collected stones in a Thela and they were marching towards Gandhi Chowk and pushing the police backward at the face of the stone pelting which was ahead of the Tazia procession. The Hindu mob put the Chaadar on fire, assaulted Tazia, and put it on fire and at that moment they shouted slogans "Jai Shri Ram" as if some victory had been scored. According to me had the curfew not been imposed the situation would have gone out of control but prolonging of the curfew for such a long time was quite unreasonable and improper."

Shri Suresh Garg: A citizen:
"When in the morning of 5th April I went to purchase vegetables in the marker I found that people were talking that the Idols were broken and that some dirty material was there. This provoked the shopkeepers who closed their shops immediately. Within moments the stone pelting started from Paanch Batti Chauraha to Gandhi Chowk. This was an act of anti social elements but the police was not at all vigilant and added to this was the statement of Shri Nilambar Singh, C.I., who had told that what you have done when Idols were broken in Taliban. This aggravated the situation badly. Some p0liticians and Advocates of the city further added fuel to the fire."

Shri S.N. Bansal, an employee:
"The closing operations were in the LIC office and then the other happenings took place. In this the police response had been candidly poor. Shri Ashok Airan, Advocate and his colleagues are not fundamentalists."
Statements from Minority Community Members:

Shri Rafiq Pahalwan: "In our community in the night before Muharram (which is known as Katl ki Raat) Tazia processions are taken from 11 pm to 6 am. The police accompany the procession until it reaches the destination and then leave. The Tazia is carried in a procession that marches through Gandhi Chowk, Paanch Batti, and Motilal Chauraha etc.

On the morning of 5th April around 9 a.m. we came to know that markets are closed. There was nothing of this thing until 4th night. Boys had broken the bulbs and a tube light but there was negligible loss. Some of us went to the market, talked to the responsible persons of the town, and assured them to compensate the loss of bulbs and tube lights. They were patiently dealt with and returned with assurance. All of a sudden news came that Tazia procession will not be allowed to being taken through temple front route. Ten to fifteen persons led by Shri Rajesh Rathi and Gopal of the new temple started shouting slogans "Vande Maatram - Hindustan mein rehnaa hai to Vande Maatram Kahnaa hogaa" and so on. In a louder voice they declared it was their personal temple and no Tazia procession will be allowed to be routed through its front road, whereas the same route which has been used for procession for the last 70 years. They were expressing to the people "our Idols have been broken". They declared whereas these were rubbed and damaged by somebody not on this occasion but on earlier ones." The police suggested that five persons from each side sit in the Dak Bungalow and resolve the issue. On our part we told that we are prepared to compensate the loss of lights and tube lights. At this some of us reached the Dak Bungalow but the other side that is Hindu Community people did not respond. In the situation police advised us that Tazia procession be taken through another route but the persons cited above leading the procession of protesters pursued us and reached Gandhi Chowk and assaulted the Tazia there and put it to fire. In these moments the Force from Ajmer also arrived.

Our persons also felt provoked but they were pushed back. Our 5 to 7 boys became furious. Before we stopped them imposition of Curfew was announced. Stones were pelted on police and they were also injured. The crux was that they wanted to create a Hindu- Muslim communal riot but they did not succeed. They then tried the other way and scuffled with the police and administration. The main leaders who were provoking the communal riot were Jindal Gopal, Mohan Bhawani, Annu Khandelwal, and Manu Chapdiwal. Shri Ashok Airan Advocate also abetted the tension. Persons from the surrounding villages were given the temptation of liquor, held a meeting at this residence, and planning was done. Some persons from Nandla, Derathu, Naharwara, etc. had already assembled. People of the Harijans, Raigar, and Khatik community were provoked. Mohan Bhawani and Monu Chapdiwal distributed liquor to these persons.
We tolerated everything and did not act in provocation; therefore, we did not have any tension. There is no fundamentalist leader amongst us. Salim Aslam was very much present during the riot. 14-15 persons were taken into custody; some of them were released on bail.

It is incorrect to say that it was not a communal riot; it was 101% communal riot. Our Tazia was burnt. This is our weakness or limit of tolerance that we continued to see all this as passive spectators. Our question is why did people come from other villages. If they were called, it means the riot was pre-planned. Wise people saved the situation, otherwise riot would have turned serious. We live with mutual harmony. This mischief is by 5-10 new persons. Had no meeting taken place at Shri Ashok Airan's place nothing would have happened. All planning was done there.

Had the Administration not intervened, we would have been attacked. The complaint against them is only that they wrongly projected the damage to idols".

Shri Chuttan Bhai:
Had it not been a Hindu Muslim riots why our Tazia could have been burnt? It is absurd to term the riot as a dispute between Hindus vs. Administration. For the function of some ceremony by Shri Dinesh Mehra, Advocate at Keeron-Ki Dharamshala a tent was installed which was got removed by police for Tazia procession which passed through peacefully from there. Then why the stones were pelted on police? This is absolutely misguiding to project that the Tazia fell down on its own because of the loose wheels of the vehicle whereon the Tazia was put. Tazia was attacked with a malafide intention and then put to fire and slogans were shouted. The highly provocative slogans were shouted and the leaders of the procession (Hindus) were furiously expressing their anger and challenging that no Tazia procession would be allowed. Observing all this was the limit of our tolerance, Police definitely asked them, "does the road belong to you? But was helpless."

M.Chachaa, Chuttan Bhai, Sajid, Munshiji, and Rafiq Pahalwan:
"In Nasirabad ever since independence there has never been any communal tension. This is the first occasion. Citing the example of harmony Shri Chuttan Bhai says at occasions of Hindus I put Kewadaa in water and then serve them and derive pleasure out of it. The truth is that it is only after taking over by Shri Annu Khandelwal as President that a fundamentalist group was formed consisting of 5-7 persons only. Previously Ashok Airan was a correspondent for Navjyoti. He has started indulging in hatred only after leaving this newspaper. We only object to the conduct of 10-12 persons". Immediately some of them brought a good number of receipts of donations, which they have been giving on Dassehra festival. This they termed as a unique example of communal harmony. The amounts donated were no less than 51 and 100 rupees vide each receipt. "This incident has shaken our trust. We apprehend anything in future."

Courts' Strike in the Entire District:
"Since Shri Ashok Airan, Advocate was implicated in police case and bailed at Ajmer Court, and Shri Dinesh Mehra and Shri Sunil Bhatia, his colleague advocates against whom section 307 was charged, were in great difficulty. In order to create pressure and get then exonerated the strike in all the courts of the district was decided by Bar Association, which continued till settlement with the Administration. We, people are small artisans. We are mechanics, Mistrees, shopkeepers of vehicle parts, truck drivers, etc. We belong to poor families. What do we have to do with riots? Our children too are engaged in such like occupations. We have no time for riots. The other side is unlike us. The unemployed youth is poisoned for creating communal tensions. What is the explanation and compensation to Shri Sajid, Nasir Ahmed, Abid, and Babbu whose tires shops were burnt to ashes by these extremists?"

Masita Chacha:
"Ever since 1924, there was a slaughterhouse during British rule which was closed at our instance and Shri Bhurelal Airan's (Ashok Airan's father) instance we pledged not to take cow's flesh. But see, this new generation men who have got our meat shops closed (of goat meat). Because of the closure of Slaughter House here at Nasirabad atleast 500 families have become jobless. At the demand of the Administration to provide us a place for slaughterhouse we have deposited a sum worth Rs.1,50, 000/- around 2-3 yrs back when Shri Karni Singh was the Collector, Ajmer, which has neither been refunded nor any shops have been allotted to us for meat selling. It is to be noted that during Hindu festivals we stop meat selling to the people in token of our mutual harmony."

Meeting with SP and Collector and Their View Point on the Incident:
In a meeting with the representatives of PUCL the Collector and District Magistrate, Ajmer District, Smt. Usha Sharma expressed that the whole thing erupted because of out of proportion airing of the incident of breaking of bulbs, tube lights and damage to idols outside the Laxmi Narayan temple by the extremist elements. She asserted that it was a communal riot and had the Administration not intervened in time, there would have been human casualties. Imposition of curfew became necessary after demolition and burning of Tazia. Curfew had to be prolonged because of extremist elements 'not submitting to the rule of law'. She assured to allot land for 'Kasai Khana' as soon as she was free from the pressing assignments. She expected of the complainant organisations to suggest a suitable place where Kasai Khana could operate without any objection from any community. She did not appreciate the carrying of strike in the Courts by the Advocates (Bar Association) to pressurerise the withdrawal of cases against the involved persons. She told that the Court strike did create a lot of inconvenience to the public. She asserted that the situation is perfectly under control and no recurrence would be permitted and that all out efforts were being made to restore communal harmony.

Superintendent Police Shri Alok Tripathi: The views expressed by the Superintendent Police Shri Alok Tripathi were almost identical to that of the Collector. However, he refused to accept that there was any indifference or negligence in responding to the phone call at Nasirabad Thana. He charged the extremist elements for creating untoward situation on 5th April 2001 at Nasirabad. He was shocked to observe that the publicly known citizens of Nasirabad not only fell a prey to the mischief of extremist elements but themselves became a party and involved themselves in aggravating communal tension. A false FIR was lodged highlighting that human excreta was thrown in the temple. A false report, but enough to rouse the communal sentiments. The guilty have been booked and no relaxation would be given. It is quite watchful to the activities of these fundamentalists on both sides. It is wrong to say that it was not a communal riot and that it was a dispute between the Administration and Hindu extremists. Had the police and the Administration not acted swiftly the communal riot would have taken place How peace and harmony could be expected at the face of burning of Tazia? The Police was, therefore, very alert and moved swiftly to control the situation and did not permit the surcharged communal tension to be converted into human casualties. In the larger public interest the officer expressed regrets before the Court of Law.

Conclusions Drawn by the PUCL Team:
Muslims and Hindus have been living and working together in various fields with perfect harmony. There is no hatred amongst them. The 4th April night incident provoked the mass of Hindu sentiments particularly after airing the incident out of proportion by certain vested interests. The breaking, stoning of bulbs, tube lights, and damaging idols and vehicles in the street by anti social elements may be a minor incident but certainly an unpardonable act. The act of putting Tazia to fire is a serious offence. The culprits need to be dealt with sternly without submitting to any pressure for relaxation. In the chain of events, had the police acted promptly in time, no violation of human rights would have arisen nor curfew would have been necessitated. Nor the communal sentiments would have been aired creating uncontrollable passions.

Yes, it is a serious lapse on the part of police officials that they turned a deaf ear to these sensitive happenings for a long time. When the stone pelting and damaging and breaking of bulbs and tube lights was usual affair every year, the police should have remained more vigilant after the whole night Tazia rituals were over in early morning of 5th April. But they miserably failed and miscalculated the happenings.

Then again, on getting report about the gathering of the crowd in the market in the early morning of 5th April, 2001 over the damage of the godly idols, etc., the police should have acted like an electronic current. But delayed intervention complicated the situation and provided an opportunity to the extremists and anti-social elements to create tension. It is alleged by Muslim Community that some bad elements were brought from the nearby villages and liquor was made freely available to them and that they created the untoward situation and further that they acted under the guidance of local extremists/ fundamentalists; this change needs to be investigated for future guidance.

The allegation that the local MLA of the Nasirabad Constituency did not turn up on the spot despite his being in town too creates some apprehension about his legitimate role as a people's representative. The issue of 'Kasai-Khana' is an after-thought but now a relevant issue. It needs to be resolved on priority basis. The Muslim community leaders had condemned the incident of breaking bulbs, tube lights, damaging vehicles etc. and assured the Hindu leaders for replacing and or compensating the loss.

This was good for restoring mutual harmony. But because of fear of rousing communal tensions it was given no cognisance. However, this is not enough for perpetual harmony. Such elements, who indulge in such destructive activities, should be identified and sternly dealt with or made to understand that this will not be tolerated in future. The Peace Committee already existing should be reconstituted with respectable persons from both the sides who should remain vigilant about the sensitive issues. In the event of rousing communal sentiments and untoward probabilities they must immediately act and all out assistance should be extended to them by the Administration in maintaining communal Harmony. Those individuals whose tire shops have been burnt and other damage done need to be properly compensated without any delay.

People of both the communities at Nasirabad have been living with perfect harmony. They gave us innumerable examples where they participated in each other community's festivals and contributed for functions, etc. Even during partition of India there arose no communal riot. Only a few known persons are stated to be rousing communal passions. They need to be properly advised.

The fact-finding team of PUCL - Ajmer Branch consisted of the following members:
D.L. Tripathi, Dr. Deepa Martins, Anant Bhatnagar, OP Ray, Divya Singhal, Smt. Shashi Sharma, Meghna Sharma.

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