‘Ranchi Police Used Bullets Where Lathicharge Would Suffice’

Shahanawaz Akhtar, editor of enewsroom.in, an independent media portal, says police action on Muslims protesting remarks against Prophet Mohammad, raises some unsettling questions

I think that the top brass of the bureaucracy and the police in Ranchi and in the entire state of Jharkhand were simply not prepared to tackle the unrest and outrage which followed the inflammatory comments made by two BJP spokespersons against Prophet Mohammad. It has been rather surprising that despite the change of regime in the state, and the installation of a secular government in Ranchi, there has been no change in the structure and content of the bureaucracy and police administration.

In several districts of the state, IAS and IPS officers who reigned during the earlier BJP regime, continue to call the shots. There seems to be no change in the character of the administration when it comes to dealing with Dalits, Adivasis and the minorities at the ground level.

As far as the violence in Ranchi is concerned, clearly, it was tackled with very little maturity and discretion by the police. First, there was a small crowd of protesters, barely 200-plus, who were protesting. They could have been easily persuaded to not indulge in violence and keep their protest peaceful. Water cannon, tear gas, and a mild lathicharge could have been used after prior warnings.

Why did the police reportedly fire 150 rounds and many of them above the waist…? Why were the two innocent bystanders killed even when they were reportedly not part of the protests…? The crowd did not seem to be moving towards the Hanuman Mandir, so why did they not use other time-tested tactics to stop their protest…? Why did they resort to direct firing and so soon…?

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These are unnerving and difficult questions, even while the internet was banned after the trouble. Indeed, in many ways the current Jharkhand government, with its reasonably good track record, is under a shadow of sorts. Besides, they have been under tremendous pressure from the central government with central agencies conducting raids and pushing the state government to a corner.

Clearly, there is much to learn for the police and the administration after the Ranchi violence. Besides, since this is a state capital, order has been restored reasonably quickly. However, the death of two innocent citizens, and the bitter communal polarisation consequently, under a secular government, will remain a deep cause of concern in the days to come.

A path-breaking bill against mob-lynching has been passed in the state assembly. Certainly, hate crimes have stopped to a large extent and the vicious spate of mob-lynchings targeting the minorities during the earlier the BJP government has all but stopped. But lynchings do continue as a disturbing trend; at least five such incidents have happened under the chief ministership of Hemant Soren, including that of a tribal and a Dalit. This, indeed, is a cause of serious concern.

‘BJP Wants Muslims to React Violently; They Haven’t Taken The Bait’

Sohail Hashmi, a Delhi-based writer, filmmaker and heritage activist, says the reaction of Gulf countries on hate speech in India is extremely selective

There are two sides to the issue of the BJP spokespersons indulging in hate speech. One, the set pattern of aggression or victimhood driven by the same and ultimate purpose: communal polarisation. Second, that they can make highly derogatory statements from public platforms, and no action will be taken against them.

This would repeatedly amount to total violation of all laws, provocative declarations, triggering an atmosphere of violence and animosity towards a community. But, no action will ever be taken.

The Prime Minister says that we must preserve our diversity, but his rank and file is constantly doing the opposite: violence, putting houses on fire, attacking religious places, stopping namaz in public spaces, lynching etc. There is lip service, but the pattern continues.

This time, there has been outrage in the Gulf countries. The hate speech and actions against the minorities in our country have become regular. They transgressed the limits this time because they attacked the founder of a religion. Basically, yet again, they are merely testing the ground. The overall project is to provoke the minorities to come out on the streets and perhaps turn violent, and then they can be blamed and condemned, and another wave of polarization can be manufactured.

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The minorities, till this day, have not fallen to this sinister bait, since the last eight years. They simply refused to play this game. And, yet, violence has happened in Kanpur this time.

The vice president was visiting the Gulf countries. A dinner for him has been reportedly called off. Many stores out there have stopped selling Indian products. If the situation becomes too bad, they might stop importing Indian products.

Besides, there are millions of skilled and migrant professionals and workers in the Gulf who sustain the Indian economy by pumping back billions in foreign exchange. This is no small change. With mass unemployment on the rise in contemporary India, across the class spectrum, and especially hitting the poor and workers the most, what will happen if there is enforced migration from the Gulf, back to India, adding to the intense and widespread economic crisis and joblessness here.

The BJP spokespersons have not been punished. Suspension etc, is no punishment in a country where riots have happened and many times the victims have been hounded, as in North-east Delhi. Or, the manner they have put charges against people who are simply peaceful dissenters, like the young Muslim scholars from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia etc, currently languishing in jail for such a long time.

They can brandish guns, indulge routinely in hate speech, provoke violence – but nothing will ever happen to them. They will always get away.

As for the reaction of the Gulf countries, it seems that as and when repeated assaults on human and democratic rights happen in India, they look the other way. The moment the Prophet is attacked, they express outrage. While such attacks and hate speech should be universally condemned and punished, and this goes for all religions, it would be worthwhile if the Gulf countries also take up the routine and relentless assaults on the very existence of the peaceful minorities in India — under the current regime. That would mark a significant departure.

Considering that most ot the countries in the Gulf are autocracies, it is not really expected that they would care for democratic rights anywhere in the world.

As told to Amit Sengupta