Saturday July 20, 2019
Home India Remembering B...

Remembering Bhagalpur: The riot that killed over 1000 people in Bihar

0
//

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

Will Congress Party be Able to Survive in Future in Face of Modi Onslaught?

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence

0
congress, modi
From left, Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, her son and party President Rahul Gandhi, and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend a Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence. But following the party’s crushing electoral debacle for a second time, there are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Contrary to expectations, India’s mammoth general election turned out to be virtually a no-contest between Modi and Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi as it became a presidential-style battle.

“It is not what went wrong with the Congress, it is more of a story of what went right for Prime Minister Modi. He stood as a tall leader, as an achiever, as somebody who understood people’s aspirations,” says political commentator Rasheed Kidwai, who has authored a biography of Rahul Gandhi’s mother, Sonia Gandhi. On the other hand, “Rahul Gandhi is temperamentally not a power wielder. He is a trustee of power.”

The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014.

modi, congress party
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves toward his supporters during an election campaign rally in New Delhi, May 8, 2019. VOA

Gandhi’s rallies drew crowds, but his efforts to project Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party as a threat to India’s secular traditions or to highlight issues of economic distress failed to resonate. His attempts to nail him for corruption in a deal to buy Rafale French fighter jets fell flat. His promise of a minimum wage for India’s poorest families was met with skepticism, even among the poor.

On the other hand, Modi, successfully wooed voters with his message of strident nationalism and subtle appeal to the majority Hindu community. Along with it, there was another theme: he projected himself as the humble son of a tea seller, a self made man who fought all odds to reach the top post in contrast to what he called the “entitled” Gandhi who had inherited the mantle of leadership of the Congress Party. It drew cheers from the country’s emerging middle and lower-middle classes, exhausted with dynastic politics.

The Congress Party’s tally of 52 seats in parliament was only a notch higher than the 44 seats it won in 2014 in the 545-member parliament. The party’s candidates returned empty-handed in half the Indian states and in several others the party only mustered a single digit tally.Modi’s BJP won 303 seats.

The scale of its losses not just crushed hopes the Congress Party would either lead a credible challenge to Modi or return as invigorated opposition – it once again raised questions over the leadership of the Gandhi family.

congress, modi
The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014. VOA

Rahul Gandhi has offered to resign, but expectedly the party that has no second rung of leadership has turned it down. “The party will fulfill its role as a strong opposition. We need Rahul Gandhi to lead us in these challenging times,” Congress Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said after a meeting of the party’s senior leaders on the weekend.

Rahul Gandhi also lost the Amethi constituency the party had held for 50 years in Uttar Pradesh state. In another humiliating blow for the Gandhi family, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was appointed in a senior post to revive the party, failed to make an impact. Rahul’s mother, Sonia Gandhi, won her party’s only seat in the state.

Rahul Gandhi’s victory in another constituency in South India means he will continue to be a lawmaker. Dynastic politics is not limited to the Congress Party: lawmakers from political families are a routine feature of Indian politics. But political commentators say in an era showing a preference for strong, populist leaders, Modi was the clear victor.

congress, modi
here are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“There is a new sense of nationalism sweeping across many conventional democracies. There is a yearning for a strong leader that captures the public imagination,” according to political analyst Ajoy Bose. “I don’t really see the conventional Congress Party or the conventional leadership mounting a challenge to Modi. He has completely taken the country by storm.”

ALSO READ: India’s President ‘Ram Nath Kovind’ Designates ‘Narendra Modi’ as PM for Second Term

Gandhi tried to give a positive message after the party’s rout. “We have a different vision of India [from Modi]”, said the head of the party that has long projected itself as a defender of India’s minorities, such as Muslims who worry about religious polarization and a rise in hate crimes since Modi came to power. “There is no need to be afraid. We will continue to work hard and we will eventually win.”

But it may be difficult to reinvent what analysts call a “fading party.” They say Modi’s BJP now occupies the dominant political space that the Congress party did for decades. “Congress is going to get reduced to, you know, like the Liberals did in Britain,” says Rasheed Kidwai. (VOA)