‘Rioters Knew Victoria School Is Owned By A Muslim’

Anil Bhardwaj, 45, along with several Hindu families in Brijpuri, jumped in front of rioters to save Victoria Public School, owned by a Muslim, from being set ablaze

I was born in this area, Brijpuri, and I saw this school (Victoria Pubic Senior Secondary School) constructed in front of my eyes. On February 24, this school was attacked by a group of rioters who wanted to burn it down. The school was probably attacked because the rioters knew that it belonged to a Muslim. Twice they tried to burn this temple of learning down but both times they were pushed away by the Brahmin families living in the neighbourhood.

When the rioters first came to the school on February 24, they first targeted two buses parked in front of the school and set them on fire. Next, they hurled stones at the school, shattering all the windowpanes. Not satisfied with it, they wanted to jump inside the premises and set it on fire.

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As soon as I heard the commotion, I gathered people from the area and rushed to save the school. There were about 15-20 rioters and we were about 50 people. As we confronted the rioters, they fled. I made repeated calls to the fire department but all in vain as the fire tender was also hit by stones. We somehow managed to save half of one of the buses by dousing the fire with buckets of water brought from our homes.

The rioters returned on the night of February 25 and managed to break inside the school from the back door. They torched two cars parked inside the school and started breaking the locks of the classrooms. The security guard of the school cried for help and we rushed towards the school. As we outnumbered the rioters, they were chased away.

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We rushed to douse the vehicles on fire but they were by now completely damaged. Thankfully, the guard raised an alarm on time and we managed to avert further damage. Had the classrooms been torched, we would have felt really bad as it will be very difficult to conduct board exams in burnt classrooms. I don’t know what the rioters were thinking attacking a school.

There is no excuse for violence. No matter who owns the school, it is the responsibility of the residents of the area to save it. I would like to urge people to act together against violence. It doesn’t matter for us whether it is owned by a Muslim or Hindu. I did what I was supposed to do. Had the school was burnt, it would have brought bad name to our locality.

If we start working together like this, we can save the entire country from communal violence. A majority of residents of this area are Brahmins and they worked together to save the school from rioters. This is how the country works. We shall show love and compassion to each other to make our society strong.

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I just hope I don’t see such violence again. I am worried about the owner of the school. He has faced too much damage to his property. We have assured them that we will save the school from any attempt of vandalism.

Citizenship Law And Justice For All!

The blood in Uttar Pradesh has still not dried. At least 22 people have died in various towns of this state, even as clashes continue. The police in a bizarre argument has said that the people killed, died because of the crossfire within protesters. Only the UP Police can give such an argument even while media reports say they allegedly went inside homes of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar at midnight, beat up residents, including women and children, broke whatever they saw including refrigerators, TVs and washing machines, and stole money. Despite the police denial, there is visual evidence to prove how law enforcement agents became lawless goons loaded with a communal bias. After all, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had called for ‘revenge’. That the Prime Minister, the Home Minister are backing Yogi is also without doubt.

Will the people of Uttar Pradesh get justice?

In 1984, media reporters, including this writer, were on the spot in the State-sponsored killings of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere, master-minded by Congress goons and politicians, especially in Delhi. The mediapersons covered on foot bloody lanes and bylanes in east and west Delhi, witnessed the burnt out homes with the smell of kerosene.  

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When a big tree falls, the earth will shake, said Rajiv Gandhi, then. The Congress ran a diabolical and sinister anti-Sikh campaign after Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her own bodyguards. The Congress won by a huge margin in the next national polls. The BJP got two seats in the Lok Sabha. It took more than three decades to put Sajjan Kumar in jail. After god knows how many commissions of enquiry.

How did the Sikhs feel then? Did they get justice? No.

Ask the Muslims of Hashimpura, Maliana and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh about 1987 violence. Taken out with their hands up in the lanes of their colonies, with guns pointing at them, scores were shot in cold blood by a communal Provincial Armed Constabulary in mafia/Nazi execution style, their bodies dumped in the Hindon river. It was a Congress regime at the Centre and the state.

Did they, their relatives, the survivors, the community, get justice? No.

Not till date, after 33 years. And what was the message to the Muslims by a so-called secular regime? Trust, you know, you were, you are, you will be, always, second class citizens of independent, modern India, though you willfully chose a secular democratic State, not a theocratic State.

Did the secular Indian society get justice in the protracted Babri Masjid demolition issue which was trapped in the labyrinths of the judicial process for decades? Who led the demolition as a public spectacle under a BJP regime in Lucknow, who were the leaders who were openly celebrating the demolition in Ayodhya, while Indian and foreign journalists were getting bashed up by the Bajrang Dal activists? Who led the Somnath-to-Ayodhya regime with the slogan: Mandir wahin Banayenge?

Was anyone held responsible for the riots that followed and killed scores across the damned Indian landscape?

Did anyone get punished for the killings of Muslims in Bombay in the macabre winter of 1992-93, despite the meticulously documented Sri Krishna Commission Report? Did the Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena regime implement the report?

I will skip the details about the 2002 barbaric, State-sponsored genocide in Gujarat under the helm of Narendra Modi. Mediapersons reported the genocide in great details and even after 2002 kept digging and documenting. We waited for justice after the macabre gang-rapes and killings, the people burnt alive as a public spectacle, and the fake encounters that followed. Not one, a series of fake encounters. Mission Assassination Modi – they were called.

Did the mass murderers get punished? Did the fake encounter specialists get punished? Did the Muslims of Gujarat get justice? No.

Till date, almost four months after 8 million people in Kashmir, under military occupation, await justice from the highest court. In Assam, almost 19 lakh Indians, mostly Hindus, tribals, Gorkhas and indigenous communities, apart from Muslims, have been left out of the National Register of Citizens and condemned allegedly as foreigners or ‘doubtful voters’ – will they get justice? Undoubtedly, no.

It is a good thing too. The loss of faith should energise the political struggle. Because, it is the non-violent political struggle which will liberate us from our masters’ masculine arrogance and disregard for all institutions, including the Indian Constitution. Can we have faith in the courts in contemporary times? That is the widespread question right now across the spectrum which had always believed in the judicial process, especially the Supreme Court.

However, the peaceful political resistance and mass movement must do what it must, as a political struggle, and not seek judicial intervention which might effectively kill the movement. And it is a struggle which is secular. Everywhere, in Assam and the Northeast, as much as all over India now, from Kurnool in Andhra to Nuh in Mewat, from Mumbai to Kolkata. It has spread and taught the masculine arrogance of the current regime a good lesson.

But there is a remote possibility of justice, especially when it is political struggle for justice. But who will turn the tide? A mass movement, in synthesis with theory and praxis, led by the young. A peaceful, non-violent, united mass movement – as it is now happening across the Indian landscape, as a rainbow revolution. Yes, led by the young.

There is no defeat in a movement. All movements are victorious, for they create a spiral of new movements and ideas and adventures and literature and cinema, counter-culture and knowledge systems. They create new scaffoldings of resistance and barricades.

That is why an idea cannot be killed. That is why Bhagat Singh and his comrades, as much as Babasaheb Ambedkar, or even Lenin and Che and Fidel, can never die. Nor will Gramsci. Nor will the Mahatma.

There is hope in a non-violent, Gandhian, mass upsurge. ‘Don’t be silent, Don’t be violent’ – as the current slogan says, among an extraordinary repertoire of brilliant slogans. Like a hundred flowers blooming, and one hundred new sublime schools of thought.