Tuesday February 19, 2019
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Remembering Bhagalpur: The riot that killed over 1000 people in Bihar

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By Nithin Sridhar

The Justice NN Singh Inquiry Commission, which was formed in 2006 to investigate into the Bhagalpur riots of 1989 in which over 1000 people had died, tabled its final report in the Bihar Legislative Assembly on 7-August.

The report squarely holds the then Congress government under chief minister Satyendra Narayan Sinha, the state administration, and the police as being responsible for one of the biggest riots in Independent India.

Photo credit: hillpost.in
Photo credit: hillpost.in

The 1000-page report has not only blamed the Congress government for its inaction and complicity in the riots but also have identified around 125 officials, including those belonging to IAS, IPS and state services for their gross negligence. The report has recommended taking actions against these officials for their acts of omissions and commissions committed during the riots. Let us revisit one of the most horrific riots in the Indian history.

Sequence of the events

Bhagalpur has been a sensitive area which had witnessed many riots even before 1989. There were riots in Bhagalpur in 1924, 1936, 1946, 1967, 1970 and 1984. But the riot of 1989 was the most widespread riot that Bhagalpur ever witnessed.

The 1989 riot started on 24-October and spread to around 250 villages. Apart from killing around 1000 people, it displaced at least 40,000 people.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had organized a five-day Ramshila program as part of its country-wide Ayodhya Ramshila programs. The programs were aimed at collecting bricks from various houses for constructing Ram temple in Ayodhya. On 22-October, when one such program was passing through Fatehpur village, it had provoked brick-batting and arson. On 24-October, when a similar procession was passing through the Bhagalpur town, the Muslims of Tatarpur (a Muslim dominated area), refused to allow the procession to move through their area.

When the procession continued to move through the area, there were reports of bombs, arson and missiles being thrown at the procession. This triggered off the riots that spread and consumed numerous people till the end of November.

However, the Members report (tabled in 15-Feb-1995) of the Commission of Inquiry that was constituted under Justice Prasad and two other members observes that: It may be that some miscreants of doubtful communal hue may have thrown bombs, some stones and crackers to create a mayhem, but nothing more can be said. Though, the minority report (tabled in 28-Feb-1995) of the Justice Prasad blames Muslims of the Tatarpur area for throwing bombs and triggering the riots.

Photo credit: hillpost.in
Photo credit: hillpost.in

The inaction and complicity of the administration

The complicity and inaction of the police and district administration had been heavily criticized in Members report of 1995 itself. The report indicts the administration for:

  1. Allowing the Ramshila procession to pass through Tatarpur area, though a license was not issued to take the procession through that area.
  2. Indifference and incompetence in not anticipating the riots.
  3. Failure to dispel the rumors that provoked widespread communal violence.
  4. Failure to maintain the curfew and the violation of the same by officials themselves on 25-October to protest against the transfer of their SP.

The police were further seen moving with the mobs and rioters and assisting them in their destruction. These observations have been re-iterated in the Justice NN Singh report. The latest report also blames the government as well as the police and administration for inaction and negligence.

Regarding the punishment delivered to the guilty, WarishaFarasat states: “Though 23 years have passed, the victims of the communal carnage are still struggling, socially and financially. In only a handful of cases, such as the Chanderi and Logain massacres, have the guilty been punished.”

It is high time that the guilty are punished, the victims are fairly compensated and the congress state government that presided over the riot is questioned and asked to come clean.

 

 

Next Story

With The Elections Coming Up, Indian Government Promises Farmers Their Income Support

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers.

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Farmers, India
An Indian woman helps her farmer husband irrigate a paddy field using a traditional system, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.

In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.

Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”

India, Farmers
Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, center, holds a briefcase containing federal budget documents with Junior Finance ministers Shiv Pratap Shukla, center right, and Pon Radhakrishnan, left, upon their arrival at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.

The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.

The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.

Modi, India, Farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.

The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”

Also Read: Twitter Searching For ‘A Unique Leader’ To Take Indian Operations To Next Level

The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)