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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

Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

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An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

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To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)