Saturday, August 9, 2008

On Tasleema Nasreen: C. M. Naim

Asghar Ali Engineer is someone whom I greatly respect. He is a brave man and a learned man; a man not just of words, but also of action. It is therefore with much humility and sincerity that I beg to differ with him in the matter of Tasleema Nasreen. His long piece, entitled Reform and Social Context, appeared here in Spotlight (Chicago) of 15 July 1994./1/ (Since the weekly does not indicate its sources I don't know where the article originally appeared.)
Mr. Engineer's position is that Tasleema Nasreen is the darling of the press, and "a woman in a hurry, both to acquire publicity and to establish sexual equality." He accuses her of only condemning religion while ignoring the reality of present "social context," and being of the same ilk as Salman Rushdie and others: "thoroughly westernized and cut ... adrift from their own roots." "They talk like aliens," he charges, "and needlessly provoke their fellow religionists." These are strong accusations, but also unfair.
The first time I became aware of Dr. Nasreen's existence was on 6 October 1993. The Times of India had a short item about her. It said that she had written a novel criticising the Muslim fanaticism in Bangladesh that caused substantial loss of Hindu life and property after the destruction of the Babri Mosque in India. It further reported that several Muslim religious leaders were angry at her and that one of them, Maulana Habibur Rahman, had issued a fatwa that she should be killed. Clearly, if anyone was in a hurry, it was the Maulana.
As the story developed and people became more curious about her, it came out that she was not just a novelist. She had been writing essays and columns and was fairly well-known for her trenchant comments, but her reputation as a novelist was meager compared to that as a social commentator. More important, in my view, was the fact that her novel Lajja was consistent with what she had been saying all the time. In other words, she had not put on some special act when she wrote her short novel.
But even if she had, what of it? Were there not attacks on Hindu lives and property in Bangladesh? Do two wrongs make one right? Personally, as a Muslim, I felt proud of the fact that she had the courage to describe the pain of her non-Muslim brethren. Just as I was proud -- as a former Indian -- that an Indian Hindu, Vibhuti Narain Rai, had the courage to write a short novel, Shahar Mein Curfew, about the plight of riot-stricken Muslims in Allahabad. So far, no Hindu organisation has asked for his head on a platter. And that deserves to be noted. Yes, it is true that Islam is not any less tolerant than other religions, but it is also true that presently a lot of Muslims seem to have become more intolerant, or at least the more intolerant among them are getting a dominant hand in many so-called Muslim countries. It seems that is the "social context" that Dr. Nasreen has had very much in mind. As has Mr. Engineer, for that matter -- in other writings.
Taking up the issue of "sexual equality," Mr. Engineer uses the example of Islam to make his point that "even if a religion preaches sexual equality, it is quite naive to believe that sexual equality will be established." I must quote his entire paragraph:
Islam normatively accorded equality to both the sexes. There is a clearly worded verse in the Koran (33:35) which strongly and unambiguously advocates sexual equality. However, it made concession to the then prevailing context and accepted slight male superiority. When a woman complained to the Prophet that her husband had unjustly slapped her, the Prophet advised her to retaliate (iqtasi). The women of Madina were jubilant. But this was short-lived as the men protested to the Prophet and Allah had to make a concession to the men as they were the earning members of the then society and women and children were dependent on them (see the Koran 4:34). Thus the social context has to be taken into account for legislation.
That is an amazing line of argument. Mr. Engineer contends that God, after declaring normative equality, had to give in to man-made social conditions of the time and accept "slight male superiority." If Almighty God had to give in then who can hope to challenge social conditions now? And what makes him think that after just a few more generations "the idea of sexual equality will be accepted unambiguously by the society?" But we do see that any number of God-fearing men and women challenge social conditions every day and have been doing so since the beginning of time in all societies. Mr. Engineer himself is one such person. He knows that God does not change the condition of those who don't strive to change it themselves.
Mr. Engineer believes the word of The Statesman's correspondent despite the denial issued by Dr. Nasreen. That's his privilege. Perhaps he has never been misquoted in the press. But when a matter concerns something that touches on faith, I'm more willing to believe the accused. Mr. Engineer also accuses her of seeking publicity. But she only gave interviews when the reporters came to her, and the reporters went to her only because a Maulana issued a fatwa against her and demanded her death. (Now he denies that he offered a prize.) But he is not accused of seeking publicity!
Yes, there are contexts within which this entire matter must be placed to get a better sense of it: (1) The fatwa against Salman Rushdie which no "Muslim" country or Muslim religious institution seriously challenged, not even to the extent of asking for a trial of some kind before passing a judgment of such nature. (2) The attacks, verbal, physical, even fatal, on any number of writers and journalists in "Muslim" countries, including Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Sudan, and Pakistan. (Remember, in Pakistan, Akhtar Hameed Khan, a true man of social action, has also been accused of blasphemy, and in India, Professor Mushirul Hasan was bloodied and has not been allowed to work for only questioning the ban on Rushdie's book.) (3) The campaign being waged by the mullas of Bangladesh against various NGOs involved in developmental work. (4) The rise and rehabilitation of the Jama'at-e-Islami in Bangladesh and their increasing attacks on supporters of secular polity. Rather than getting upset about what we assume to be Dr. Nasreen'smotives, we should give some sober thought to the ambitions of her detractors.

Originally published in Mainstream, Bombay, 17 September 1994.
For Asghar Ali Engineer's article, see Appendix 2.
The Hindi novel is now available in English translation. V. N. Rai, Curfew in the City, translated by C. M. Naim, New Delhi: Roli Books, 1998.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hashimpura: the black chapter in the history of UP Police / Vibhuti Narain Rai

You get subject to some experiences that stick with you throughout your life. They always stay with you like a nightmare and sometimes are like debts on your shoulders. The experience at Hashimpura was such an experience for me.
The night of 22 23 May year 1987 which I spent in the wild undergrowth along the stream flowing through the Makanpur village situated on the Delhi Ghaziabad border looking for any living souls amidst the dead bodies covered with blood in the dim light of my torch- everything is engraved in my memory like a horror movie.
That night I returned to Ghaziabad from Hapur at around 10 30 pm. District Magistrate Nasim Zaidi was with me and I dropped him at his house before reaching the residence of the police officer. The moment the headlight of my car fell on the gates of the residence I saw an estranged and shocked Sub Inspector B. B. Singh who was the in charge of the Link road police station at that time.
I could tell from my experience that something serious had happened in that area. I instructed my driver to stop the car and go off. B.B.Singh was so horrified that it did not seem possible for him to explain things coherently. Whatever he could convey while stammering about events in a disorderly manner was enough to shock me. I understood that somewhere in his station area the P. A.C. had killed some Muslims. Why?? How many?? From where?? Was not clear. After asking him to repeat his facts again and again I tried making a narrative of the events piece by piece. According to the picture so drawn B.B. Singh was sitting in his office when around 9' o clock he heard firing from the direction of Makanpur. He and everybody else at the station thought that there was robbery in progress in the village. Today Makanpur's name can only be found in the revenue records. Makanpur today has tall magnificent buildings but in 1987 it was all barren land. Through this barren land ran a check road on which B.B. Singh raced his motorcycle towards the village. Behind him sat the station officer and a constable. They had barely covered a 100 yards on the check road when they saw a truck racing towards them from the opposite direction. If they had not ridden the motorcycle off the check road the truck would have ran them over. According to what they saw while trying to maintain their balance the truck was yellow in color and had 41 printed on the back. They even saw people in khaki clothes sitting in the back seats. It was not difficult for a police officer to understand that this was a truck belonging to the 41st battalion of the P.A.C. crossing them with some officers of the P.A.C.; but this made the situation more complicated. Why would a P.A.C. truck be coming from Makanpur at this hour?? What was the mystery behind the firing?? B.B. Singh got the motorcycle on the check road and again proceeded towards the village. The scene that he and his officers saw not more than a mile down the road gave them all goose bumps. Before the habitation of the village the check road crosses a stream. The stream goes ahead and enters into the Delhi border. There was a bridge where the check road crossed the stream. As he reached the bridge and the headlights of B.B. Singh's motorcycle fell on the undergrowth along the stream; he understood the mystery behind the firing. There were blood stains all over the place. Along the stream, in the undergrowth and in the water there were bodies with fresh wounds in them. B.B. Singh and his men tried to inspect the scene and to guess what happened there. All they could decipher was that there must be a relation between the bodies there and the P.A.C truck they came across on the way. Leaving the constable at the scene B.B. Singh with his fellow officer turned back to the main road. The headquarters of the 41st battalion of the P.A.C. was situated on the Delhi Ghaziabad Marg near the police station. They both headed for the headquarters.
The main gate was closed. Even after arguing for a long time the sentry did not give them the permission to go inside. B.B. Singh then decided to come to the zonal headquarters and tell me about the events.
From what I could understand from the narration it was clear that some event had occurred, the event was horrifying and that Ghaziabad could be in flames the next day. Since the past many weeks the neighboring district of Meerut was facing communal riots and these riots were moving towards Ghaziabad as well.
I first called the district magistrate Nasim Zaidi. He was about to sleep. After that I called the additional S.P. at the district headquarters, a few deputy S.P.s and magistrates and told them all to get ready.
In about another 45 minutes we were heading towards the Makanpur village in about 7-8 cars.
Our cars were parked a little distance away from the bridge on the stream. No one had come from the village which was situated on the other side of the stream. It seemed that terror had forced them all to go into hiding in their houses. There were some police officers from the Link road police station though. The weak beams of their torches were falling on the thick shrubs besides the stream but it was difficult to see anything in that little light. I told the drivers to turn the cars towards the stream and turn their headlights on. An area of around 100 yards width was illuminated. What I saw in that light was the nightmare I was referring to in the beginning.
The light of the headlights was not sufficient due which torches were also carried by all the men. The stains of blood had still not dried up and blood was still dripping from them. The bodies of the dead were dumped all around some were stuck in the bushes whereas some were half submerged in the water. To check if anyone was still alive among the bodies seemed more important to me than to count and remove the dead.
We were about 20 people and everybody started looking in different directions to check if anybody was still alive. We would even yell out in between hoping that somebody would answer back, trying to tell them that we were not foes but friends and the injured would be taken to a hospital. But we got no reply. Disappointed some of us sat down on the bridge. The district in charge and I decided that there was no gain in wasting any time. We had to make strategies for the next day and we decided to leave the task of removing the bodies and completing the necessary paper work. We were about to proceed towards the Link Road station when we heard the sound of a cough coming from the stream. Everyone froze. I leapt towards the stream. Silence fell over the place again. It was clear that there was a survivor but he did not believe that the people looking for him were friends. We started yelling out again and threw light on each individual body and in the end our eyes fell on a body which was moving. Someone was hanging by both hands from a bush with half his body in the stream in such a way that it was difficult for one to tell if he was dead or alive without proper attention. Trembling with terror and believing only after a lot of reassuring that we were there not to hurt but to save, the person who was going to tell us about this horrifying event, his name was Babbudin. The bullet had just missed and went scratching him. Unconscious he fell into the shrubs and in the stampede his killers forgot to check if he was dead or alive. Holding his breath he lay half in the water and half in the bushes and in this way he managed to cheat death. He wasn't seriously hurt and he walked from the stream to the cars. He even rested on the bridge for some time. When I met after 21 years while I was collecting material for the book I was writing on Hashimpura, at the same place where the P.A.C. picked him up from, he remembered that I offered him a biddi after taking one from a constable. According to what Babbudin told us that when that day during the regular checking around 50 people were made to sit in the P.A.C. truck they all thought that they were being taken to a station or a jail. The truck was taken off the main road about 45 minutes from Makanpur and stopped at distance down the road. The P.A.C. leapt down from the truck and ordered them to get down from the truck. Only half the people had hardly got off when the P.A.C. started firing on them. The people still on the truck took cover. Babbudin was one of them. He could only guess what would have happened to the people who got off. The sounds of the firing probably reached the neighboring villages as a result of which noises started coming from them. The P.A.C. people again got on the truck. The truck reversed and again sped off towards Ghaziabad. Here it came to the Makanpur stream and the P.A.C. again ordered everyone to get off. This time the horrified prisoners refused to get off so they were pulled and dragged from the truck. The one who came out were shot and thrown in the stream and the ones who didn't were shot on the truck and thrown off. While Babbudin was telling us the whole incident we tried to assess the location of the first crime scene. Someone suggested that the first crime scene could be the stream which flows near the Muradnagar station which is situated on the road from Meerut to Ghaziabad. I called the Muradnagar station using the wireless at the Link road station and found that we were right. The Muradnagar station had been facing the similar problem just some time ago. Some were found dead in the stream and some were brought back alive to the station.
The story after this is a narrative of a long and torturous wait in which the issues relating to the relation between the Indian state and minorities, the unprofessional attitude of the police and the sluggish pace of the frustrating judicial system may be raised.
The cases which I had filed in Ghaziabad's Link Road and Muradnagar Stations have been facing various roadblocks for the last 21 years and are still pending in courts and still waiting for the logical judgment.

हाशिमपुरा - उत्तर प्रदेश पुलिस के इतिहास का एक काला अध्याय
जीवन के कुछ अनुभव ऐसे होतें हैं जो जिन्दगी भर आपका पीछा नहीं छोडतें . एक दु:स्वप्न की तरह वे हमेशा आपके साथ चलतें हैं और कई बार तो कर्ज की तरह आपके सर पर सवार रहतें हैं. हाशिमपुरा भी मेरे लिये कुछ ऐसा ही अनुभव है. 22/23 मई सन 1987 की आधी रात दिल्ली गाजियाबाद सीमा पर मकनपुर गाँव से गुजरने वाली नहर की पटरी और किनारे उगे सरकण्डों के बीच टार्च की कमजोर रोशनी में खून से लथपथ धरती पर मृतकों के बीच किसी जीवित को तलाशना- सब कुछ मेरे स्मृति पटल पर किसी हॉरर फिल्म की तरह अंकित है.
उस रात द्स-साढे दस बजे हापुड से वापस लौटा था. साथ जिला मजिस्ट्रेट नसीम जैदी थे जिन्हें उनके बँगले पर उतारता हुआ मैं पुलिस अधीक्षक निवास पर पहुँचा. निवास के गेट पर जैसे ही कार की हेडलाइट्स पडी मुझे घबराया हुआ और उडी रंगत वाला चेहरा लिये सब इंसपेक्टर वी•बी•सिंह दिखायी दिया जो उस समय लिंक रोड थाने का इंचार्ज था. मेरा अनुभव बता रहा था कि उसके इलाके में कुछ गंभीर घटा है. मैंने ड्राइवर को कार रोकने का इशारा किया और नीचे उतर गया.
वी•बी•सिंह इतना घबराया हुआ था कि उसके लिये सुसंगत तरीके से कुछ भी बता पाना संभव नहीं लग रहा था. हकलाते हुये और असंबद्ध टुकडों में उसने जो कुछ मुझे बताया वह स्तब्ध कर देने के लिये काफी था. मेरी समझ में आ गया कि उसके थाना क्षेत्र में कहीं नहर के किनारे पी•ए•सी• ने कुछ मुसलमानों को मार दिया है. क्यों मारा? कितने लोगों को मारा ? कहाँ से लाकर मारा ? स्पष्ट नहीं था. कई बार उसे अपने तथ्यों को दुहराने के लिये कह कर मैंने पूरे घटनाक्रम को टुकडे-टुकडे जोडते हुये एक नैरेटिव तैयार करने की कोशिश की. जो चित्र बना उसके अनुसार वी•बी•सिंह थाने में अपने कार्यालय में बैठा हुआ था कि लगभग 9 बजे उसे मकनपुर की तरफ से फायरिंग की आवाज सुनायी दी. उसे और थाने में मौजूद दूसरे पुलिस कर्मियों को लगा कि गाँव में डकैती पड रही है. आज तो मकनपुर गाँव का नाम सिर्फ रेवेन्यू रिकार्ड्स में है . आज गगनचुम्बी आवासीय इमारतों, मॉल और व्यावसायिक प्रतिष्ठानों वाले मकनपुर में 1987 में दूर-दूर तक बंजर जमीन पसरी हुयी थी. इसी बंजर जमीन के बीच की एक चक रोड पर वी•बी•सिंह की मोटर सायकिल दौडी. उसके पीछे थाने का एक दारोगा और एक अन्य सिपाही बैठे थे. वे चक रोड पर सौ गज भी नहीं पहुँचे थे कि सामने से तेज रफ्तार से एक ट्रक आता हुआ दिखायी दिया. अगर उन्होंने समय रहते हुये अपनी मोटर सायकिल चक रोड से नीचे न उतार दी होती तो ट्रक उन्हें कुचल देता. अपना संतुलन संभालते-संभालते जितना कुछ उन्होंने देखा उसके अनुसार ट्रक पीले रंग का था और उस पर पीछे 41 लिखा हुआ था, पिछली सीटों पर खाकी कपडे पहने कुछ लोग बैठे हुये दिखे.किसी पुलिस कर्मी के लिये यह समझना मुश्किल नहीं था कि पी•ए•सी• की 41 वीं बटालियन का ट्रक कुछ पी•ए•सी• कर्मियों को लेकर गुजरा था. पर इससे गुत्थी और उलझ गयी. इस समय मकनपुर गाँव में पी•ए•सी• का ट्रक क्यों आ रहा था ? गोलियों की आवाज के पीछे क्या रहस्य था ? वी•बी•सिंह ने मोटर सायकिल वापस चक रोड पर डाली और गाँव की तरफ बढा. मुश्किल से एक किलोमीटर दूर जो नजारा उसने और उसके साथियों ने देखा वह रोंगटे खडा कर देने वाला था मकनपुर गाँव की आबादी से पहले चक रोड एक नहर को काटती थी. नहर आगे जाकर दिल्ली की सीमा में प्रवेश कर जाती थी. जहाँ चक रोड और नहर एक दूसरे को काटते थे वहाँ पुलिया थी. पुलिया पर पहुँचते- पहुँचते वी•बी•सिंह के मोटर सायकिल की हेडलाइट जब नहर के किनारे उस सरकंडे की झाडियों पर पडी तो उन्हें गोलियों की आवाज का रहस्य समझ में आया. चारों तरफ खून के धब्बे बिखरे पडे थे. नहर की पटरी, झाडियों और पानी के अन्दर ताजा जख्मों वाले शव पडे थे. वी•बी•सिंह और उसके साथियों ने घटनास्थल का मुलाहिजा कर अन्दाज लगाने की कोशिश की कि वहाँ क्या हुआ होगा ? उनकी समझ में सिर्फ इतना आया कि वहाँ पडे शवों और रास्ते में दिखे पी•ए•सी• की ट्रक में कोई संबन्ध जरूर है. साथ के सिपाही को घटनास्थल पर निगरानी के लिये छोडते हुये वी•बी•सिंह अपने साथी दारोगा के साथ वापस मुख्य सडक की तरफ लौटा. थाने से थोडी गाजियाबाद-दिल्ली मार्ग पर पी•ए•सी• की 41वीं बटालियन का मुख्यालय था. दोनो सीधे वहीं पहुँचे. बटालियन का मुख्य द्वार बंद था .काफी देर बहस करने के बावजूद भी संतरी ने उन्हें अंदर जाने की इजाजत नहीं दी. तब वी•बी•सिंह ने जिला मुख्यालय आकर मुझे बताने का फैसला किया.जितना कुछ आगे टुकडों टुकडों में बयान किये गये वृतांत से मैं समझ सका उससे स्पष्ट हो ही गया था कि जो घटा है वह बहुत ही भयानक है और दूसरे दिन गाजियाबाद जल सकता था. पिछले कई हफ्तों से बगल के जिले मेरठ में सांप्रादायिक दंगे चल रहे थे और उसकी लपटें गाजियाबाद पहुँच रहीं थीं.मैंने सबसे पहले जिला मजिस्ट्रेट नसीम जैदी को फोन किया. वे सोने ही जा रहे थे. उन्हें जगने के लिये कह कर मैंने जिला मुख्यालय पर मौजूद अपने एडिशनल एस•पी•, कुछ डिप्टी व्स•पी• और मजिस्ट्रेटों को जगाया और तैयार होने के लिये कहा. अगले चाली-पैंतालीस मिनटों में सात-आठ वाहनों में लदे-फंदे हम मकनपुर गाँव की तरफ लपके. नहर की पुलिया से थोडा पहले हमारी गाडियाँ खडीं हो गयीं. नहर के दूसरी तरफ थोडी दूर पर ही मकनपुर गाँव की आबादी थी लेकिन तब तक कोई गाँव वाला वहाँ नहीं पहुँचा था. लगता था कि दहशत ने उन्हें घरों में दुबकने को मजबूर कर दिया था. थाना लिंक रोड के कुछ पुलिस कर्मी जरूर वहाँ पहुँच गये थे. उनकी टार्चों की रोशनी के कमजोर वृत्त नहर के किनारे उगी घनी झाडियों पर पड रहे थे पर उअनसे साफ देख पाना मुश्किल था. मैंने गाडियों के ड्राइवरों से नहर की तरफ रुख करके अपने हेडलाइट्स ऑन करने के लिये कहा. लगभग सौ गज चौडा इलाका प्रकाश से नहा उठा. उस रोशनी में मैंने जो कुछ देखा वह वही दु;स्वप्न था जिसका जिक्र मैंने शुरु में किया है.
गाडियों की हेडलाइट्स की रोशनियाँ झाडियों से टकरा कर टूट टूट जा रहीं थीं इसलिये टार्चोंं का भी इस्तेमाल करना पड रहा था. झाडियों और नहरों के किनारे खून के थक्के अभी पूरी तरह से जमे नहीं थे , उनमें से खून रिस रहा था. पटरी पर बेतरतीबी से शव पडे थे- कुछ पूरे झाडियों में फंसे तो कुछ आधे तिहाई पानी में डूबे. शवों की गिनती करने या निकालने से ज्यादा जरूरी मुझे इस बात की पडताल करना लगा कि उनमें से कोई जीवित तो नहीं है. सबने अलग-अलग दिशाओं में टार्चों की रोशनियाँ फेंक फेंक कर अन्दाज लगाने की कोशिश की कि कोई जीवित है या नहीं. बीच बीच में हम हांक भी लगाते रहे कि यदि कोई जीवित हो तो उत्तर दे. हम दुश्मन नहीं दोस्त हैं. उसे अस्पताल ले जायेंगे. पर कोई जवाब नहीं मिला. निराश होकर हममें से कुछ पुलिया पर बैठ गये.मैंने और जिलाधिकारी ने तय किया कि समय खोने से कोई लाभ नहीं है. हमें दूसरे दिन की रणनीति बनानी थी इसलिये जूनियर अधिकारियों को शवों को निकालने और जरूरी लिखा-पढी करने के लिये कह कर हम लिंक रोड थाने के लिये मुडे ही थे कि नहर की तरफ से खाँसने की आवाज सुनायी दी. सभी ठिठक कर रुक गये. मैं वापस नहर की तरफ लपका. फिर मौन छा गया. स्पष्ट था कि कोई जीवित था लेकिन उसे यकीन नहीं था कि जो लोग उसे तलाश रहें हैं वे मित्र हैं. हमने फिर आवाजें लगानी शुरू कीं, टार्च की रोशनी अलग-अलग शरीरों पर डालीं और अंत में हरकत करते हुये एक शरेर पर हमारी नजरें टिक गयीं. कोई दोनो हाथों से झाडियाँ पकडे आधा शरीर नहर में डुबोये इस तरह पडा था कि बिना ध्यान से देखे यह अन्दाज लगाना मुश्किल था कि वह जीवित है या मृत ! दहशत से बुरी तरह वह काँप रहा और काफी देर तक आश्वस्त करने के बाद यह विश्वास करने वाला कि हम उसे मारने नहीं बचाने वालें हैं, जो व्यक्ति अगले कुछ घंटे हमे इस लोमहर्षक घटना की जानकारी देने वाला था, उसका नाम बाबूदीन था.गोली उसे छूते हुये निकल गयी थी.भय से वह नि;श्चेष्ट होकर वह झाडियों में गिरा तो भाग दौड में उसके हत्यारों को यह जाँचने का मौका नहीं मिला कि वह जीवित है या मर गया. दम साधे वह आधा झाडियों और आधा पानी में पडा रहा और इस तरह मौत के मुँह से वापस लौट आया. उसे कोई खास चोट नहीं आयी थी और नहर से चलकर वह गाडियों तक आया. बीच में पुलिया पर बैठकर थोडी देर सुस्ताया भी. लगभग 21 वर्षों बाद जब हाशिमपुर पर एक किताब लिखने के लिये सामग्री इकट्ठी करते समय मेरी उससे मुलाकात हुयी जहाँ पी•ए•सी• उसे उठा कर ले गयी थी तो उसे याद था कि पुलिया पर बैठे उसे किसी सिपाही से माँग कर बीडी दी थी. बाबूदीन ने जो बताया उसके अनुसार उस दिन अपरान्ह तलाशियों के दौरान पी•ए•सी• के एक ट्रक पर बैठाकर चालीस पचास लोगों को ले जाया गया तो उन्होंने समझा कि उन्हें गिरफ्तार कर किसी थाने या जेल ले जाया जा रहा है. मकनपुर पहुँचने के लगभग पौन घण्टा पहले एक नहर पर ट्रक को मुख्य सडक से उतारकर नहर की पटरी पर कुछ दूर ले जाकर रोक दिया गया. पी•ए•सी• के जवान कूद कर नीचे उतर गये और उन्होंने ट्रक पर सवार लोगों को नीचे उतरने का आदेश दिया. अभी आधे लोग ही उतरे थे कि पी•ए•सी• वालों ने उनपर फायर करना शुरु कर दिया. गोलियाँ चलते ही ऊपर वाले गाडी में ही दुबक गये. बाबू दीन भी उनमें से एक था.बाहर उतरे लोगों का क्या हुआ वह सिर्फ अनुमान ही लगा सकता था. शायद फायरिंग की आवाज आस पास के गाँवों में पहुँची जिसके कारण आस पास से शोर सुनायी देने लगा और पी•ए•सी• वाले वापस ट्रक में चढ गये. ट्रक तेजी से बैक हुआ और वापस गाजियाबाद की तरफ भागा. यहाँ वह मकनपुर वाली नहर पर आया और एक बार फिर सबसे उतरने के लिये कहा गया. इस बार डर कर ऊपर दुबके लोगों ने उतरने से इंकार कर दिया तो उन्हें खींच खींच कर नीचे घसीटा गया. जो नीचे आ गये उन्हें पहले की तरह गोली मारकर नहर में फेंक दिया गया और जो डर कर ऊपर दुबके रहे उन्हें ऊपर ही गोली मारकर नीचे ढकेला गया. बाबूदीन जब यह विवरण बता रहा था तो हमने पहले घटनास्थल का अन्दाज लगाने की कोशिश की . किसी ने सुझाव दिया कि पहला घटनास्थल मेरठ से गाजियाबाद आते समय रास्ते में मुरादनगर थाने में पडने वाली नहर हो सकती है. मैंने लिंक रोड थाने के वायरलेस सेट से मुरादनगर थाने को कॉल किया तो स्पष्ट हुआ कि हमारा सोचना सही था. कुछ देर पहले ही मुरादनगर थाने को भी ऐसी ही स्थिति से गुजरना पडा था . वहाँ भी कई मृत शव नहर में पडे मिले थे और कुछ लोग जीवित थाने लाये गये थे.
इसके बाद की कथा एक लंबा और यातनादायक प्रतीक्षा का वृतांत है जिसमें भारतीय राज्य और अल्पसंख्यकों के रिश्ते, पुलिस का गैर पेशेवराना रवैया और घिसट घिसट कर चलने वाली उबाऊ न्यायिक प्रणाली जैसे मुद्दे जुडे हुयें हैं. मैंने 22 मई 1987 को जो मुकदमें गाजियाबाद के थाना लिंक रोड और मुरादनगर पर दर्ज कराये थे वे पिछले 21 वर्षों से विभिन्न बाधाओं से टकराते हुये अभी भी अदालत में चल रहें हैं और अपनी तार्किक परिणति की प्रतीक्षा कर रहें हैं

श्री विभूति नारायण राय

Enemy in Uniform / NEWS LINE-March-2002

Cover Story
Muslims in India consider the police as their enemy and, judging from a pioneering study by a senior officer in the Indian police, they have good reason to think so.
From Farhaad Yousuf in New Delhi
Vibhuti Narain Rai, a respected police officer, defies the trend of the largely Hindu police force targeting non-Hindus during communal riots in India. He has written and lectured extensively on the communal dimension of handling riots and police sensitisation to religious differences.
Rai, a scholar and author of books on religious bias among Indian policemen, says the phenomenon precedes independence and is not peculiar to any one community.
Rai’s 1998 book, Communal Conflicts: Perception of Police Neutrality During Hindu-Muslim Riots in India is a pioneering attempt to document the role of the police in abetting communal violence. Rai’s contention is that Muslims in India consider the police as their enemy; the Hindus see them as friends and protectors. It is basically the overall behaviour of the police in situations of communal strife which pushes members of a minority community, like the Muslims, into viewing it as an enemy.
Such a perception of the police, he says, is deeply rooted in the actual behaviour of the police force in general. The police routinely blame Muslims for rioting, and see them in terms of extremely negative stereotypes as wild fanatics and untrustworthy anti-nationals. This, he says, is actually quite contrary to the facts, for in almost all the cases he has studied, Muslims are not the first to start the riots. Moreover, they suffer a disproportionately larger loss of life and property in communal rioting than their Hindu brethren. They, rather than the Hindus, also become the targets of the police, ostensibly sent to restore peace. The number of Muslims killed in police firing over the years is considerable, and these include cases of perfectly innocent women and children as well. “In all the riots discussed in this study,” he writes, the police “did not act as a neutral law enforcement agency but more as a ‘Hindu’ force.
“I was stunned to discover that in most major communal riots in the country, Muslims were the worst sufferers, both in terms of loss of life and property. Often, the percentage of Muslim casualties was more than 60 per cent of the total. Their losses in terms of property were in similar proportion.”
Nevertheless, even in riots where the number of Muslims killed was many times more than the Hindus, it was they who were mainly arrested, most searches were conducted in their houses, and curfew imposed in a harsher manner in their localities. This observation holds good for even those riots where almost all killed were Muslims, e.g., Ahmedabad (1969), Bhiwandi (1970) or Bhagalpur (1989).
Similarly, Muslims are often at the receiving end during house searches. The general pattern during a communal riot is that a Muslim mohalla is cordoned off with the help of the army or para-military forces after which the houses are searched indiscriminately. Such acts only result in injuring the pride of the entire community. What is more disturbing is the mind-frame of the civil and police administration. While the curfew is enforced with all strictness in the Muslim localities, it is virtually confined to the main roads in Hindu areas, with normal activity in the lanes and by-lanes remaining unaffected. In interviews with the riot victims of Ahmedabad, Meerut, Bombay and Allahabad, this single factor came across as the most important in explaining Muslim anger towards the police, says Rai.
Further, the experience of curfew was different for the poor residents of slum areas belonging to the two communities. Most houses lack basic facilities such as drinking water and lavatories. The Muslims invariably complained that while they were not permitted to move out of their houses to fetch water from public taps, which happen to be the main source of water supply in such areas, the Hindus were rarely subjected to such restrictions.
Recent decades have witnessed the escalation of incidents of inter-communal violence all over India, and regions where relations between different religious groups were hitherto relatively peaceful are now increasingly being threatened by the growing strength of communal and fascist groups. A salient feature of communal violence in India today is the increasing role of the police, meant to be the upholders of peace and the law, in organising, abetting and even perpetrating indiscriminate violence against minority and marginalised groups. The killing of several dozen innocent Muslim youths by the police in Hashimpura, Meerut, and the involvement of the police in the massacre of several hundred Muslims in Bhagalpur in 1989 are the two most gruesome of the many instances of the active role of the police in the escalating persecution of minorities in India. Besides the Muslims, the involvement of the police in the suppression of other marginalised groups such as the Dalits is only too well-known to need any reiteration here.
Rai sees the further exacerbation of communal violence in the post-1947 era as related to India’s lop-sided process of capitalist development and the consequent strengthening of the influence of communalist groups. In particular, Hindu fascism is seen as playing the most critical role in this regard, with the rise of the Hindutva lobby reflecting, at root, the interests of the ruling class and castes in the face of the growing struggle of marginalised groups against oppression.
Rai’s disturbing findings need to be taken with the utmost seriousness, but he himself confesses that even senior police officers are reluctant to take any remedial action. He contends that it is the top police officials’ ‘mental barrier’ and ‘rank communal prejudice’ against Muslims that prevented him from gaining access to many documents that would have helped in his study. Perhaps another indication of this attitude is the fact that the institution that had sponsored this study, the National Police Academy, itself refused to publish his findings.

No riot can last for more than 24 hours unless the state wants it to continue

An interview of Vibhuti Narain Rai taken by Teesta Setalwad and Javed Anand for Communalism Combat and published in its issue of February- 1995
He is an IPS officer whom the saffron brigade loves to hate. Based on his personal experience as a junior officer during the 1980 communal riots in Allahabad he wrote a novel, Shahar Mein Curfew in 1989, on the eve of his promotion as the superintendent of police of the same city in U.P..Ashok Singhal ,the general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, felt enraged enough by its contents to engage in a public burning of the book.
In 1987 he was the SP of Ghaziabad , when in the course of the Meerut riots, the state's Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) arbitrarily rounded up a group of Muslims from Hashimpura, packed them in a truck, killed them in cold-blood and dumped them like garbage. He and his men, cried themselves hoarse for three hours in desperate search of a survivor among the victims so that the gruesome tale of criminals in uniform could be told to the world.
Having succeeded at last in finding, Babudeen, the lone survivor, he ensured top security to the victim until an F.I.R. was lodged ,against the murderous PAC men.
Vibhuti Narain Rai is his name. He has 20 years of police service behind him.
Now a DIG, Border Security Force(BSF) he was posted at Srinagar before he took a year's study leave for research on the subject of communalism and the police force in India .
Among other things Rai's interviews with hundreds of riots victims from across the country produced the startling finding that in all riots situations, Hindus consider policemen as their friends while almost without exception, India's minorities---(Muslims and Sikhs) experience them as their enemy.
The implications of his finding are frightening because: loosing faith in the police may lead to loss of faith in the state itself.
The candour and depth of feeling with which Rai spoke to Combat is rare for a police officer still in service . We reproduce here his interview in full.
What is the specific subject of your dissertation ?
The subject that has been assigned to me is " Perception of Police Neutrality during Communal Riots", that is ,the perception of the police among different strata of society. I concentrated on perception of police neutrality among all minority segments of in Indian society. How they perceive the police was my specific area of research.
To collect information, I framed a questionnaire for a wide cross-section of riot victims from all over the country. The responses that I have got are startling, there is a sharp difference between the perception of the minorities and those of the majority community.
Hindus responded in one way while the response of Muslims and Sikhs was entirely different. From the hundreds of responses that I have collected it is clear that during communal riots, Hindus always visualize the police as their friends while almost every Muslims and Sikhs sees them as his enemy.
Now, this is a truly shocking revelation to me. Though I had anticipated that a large majority of Muslims and Sikhs might feel this way, I expected at least some sections from both communities to view the police otherwise. I was shocked to find a near universal minority response that the police are enemies.
A second question I asked my respondents was whether they respondents was whether they would approach the police during a communal riot when their life threatened or their property was in danger. The responses to this question, too, were yet another revelation to me . The vast majority categorically stated there was no question of their, approaching the police. A few said they would not like to reply to this question. Among those who responded, barely 5-10 percent said that they would like to approach the police. These responses, again, are truly shocking.
As a senior police officer what do you feel are the implications of such responses?

The implications are nothing short of disastrous because the police represents the state. Loosing faith in police may amount to loosing faith in the state. But I must make a qualification ; one of the heartening findings was that while loss of faith in the police was near total among the minorities, many of the riot victims I interviews still expressed faith in other organs of the state like the army, the BSF or the CRPF .
But if the communal virus that is so virulent spreads further, I wonder how long we can keep our army free from it ? Especially, if the army is called in so frequently to tackle communally explosive situations and jawans ate stationed for long durations, there is every likelihood of their catching the same virus. The consolation for now is ; at least, the minorities still have some faith in some institutions of the state.
Now that you have completed your research and are near the end of your dissertation what are the major conclusions that you have reached ? As an insider who has been extensively researching on the issue, how serious and widespread, according to you, is the problem of communalization in the Indian police force ?
Communal prejudice is so deep and widespread that I feel some drastic steps need to be taken and fast .Especially by the senior leadership of the Indian Police. Prejudice governs our actions much more than the fair play we are sworn to.I9t is heart warming to come across instances of decent non partisan police officers. But , and I say it with deep regret, such examples are more the exceptions than the rule.
It is useless to decry or condemn or constantly put blame only on politicians. We in the police force have to accept that our house is not in order.
It has become a routine , a fashion almost after each riot when the allegations begin coming in, senior officers defend the force and counter allege that the accusations are biased, that the have been leveled by ill informed persons, etc; that sections of society, media, social activists, minorities and communists who commonly bring these facts to the notice of the public are biased and that. in a nutshell, there accusations are malafide.
Personally I feel that unless we begin by accepting that there is something seriously wrong , we may not be able to rectify it and put our house in order.
Our leadership must improve. IPS officers must stop blaming the force. This applies to Bombay or anywhere else in the country.
There is often a tendency in the force to seek an alibi for their conduct in the role of politicians. For instance the excuse that " we were not given the necessary orders" is often touted What are your comments on this.
There is no denying that in a system of parliamentary democracy like ours, politicians play a decisive and in many cases a final role. But I have never in my whole career come across a situation where an officer who has acted conscientiously and stopped a riot, is punished for it through political action.
Many times we take shelter behind politicians for our own failures. We say that politicians did not permit it. But no politician can ever ask us to behave in a communal fashion. It is not so easy for even the chief minister of a state ruled by a "Hindutva" party to openly behave like a Hindu communal fanatic and give orders according to his leanings.
Could you elaborate on this ?
Yes. We now have historical evidence of this kind of inaction and complicity. In 1990, when Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav's government was in power, 300 men were stationed all around and protected the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Though around a hundred frenzied persons climbed the domes they could not damage it.
Two years later, on December 6, 1992, we had a situation where the entire force of UP police, CRPF and ITBP, totaling 20,000 plus were "guarding" the structure . The video cassette recording by the Intelligence Bureau clearly documents that not more than 3-4,000 "kar sevaks" were within close proximity of the mosque. In such a scenario could no effective action have been taken ?
The research why no action was taken lies elsewhere. The same cassette shows policemen rejoicing with their hands held high in victory when the Babri Masjid was destroyed. The district magistrate and other officials were dancing with delight. That is why the "car sevaks" could not be stopped. There was no desire to do so.
So if you were in control, and were given an order telling you not to fire at the kar sevaks, for example, are you were not bound to follow this political diktat ?
Yes I am saying that No government can give illegal orders. The Indian Penal Code; the Indian Constitution, they are supreme. And no government can give orders contravening these statutes.
As a senior police officer with considerable experience, especially in communal hotspots in UP, could you consider open communal bias ?
There are constant refrains from sections of officialdom that the PAC in UP is not communal. My personal evidence is to the contrary. I am constrained to say that their behaviour is like that of an RSS activist. The only difference is that the PAC jawans sport full khaki pants while the RSS cadre wears khaki shorts.
For me, one of the most glaring instances was the conduct of the PAC in Meerut. I was serving as SP Ghaziabad )neighbouring district) when the PAC picked up at least 40 Muslims from Hashimpura in Meerut and shot them dead in 1987.
During the communal riots there was an official "search" of the mohalla by the army, while both the police and PAC were present. During those "searches" the PAC arbitrarily picked up Muslims from the area , packed them into a truck and killed them en route to Ghaziabad.
As SP Ghaziabad, I reached the spot within a few hours. It took me more than three hours of patrolling among a field of corpses - one of the most gruesome jobs of my whole career- to locate the stray survivor of that massacre.
My men and I shouted ourselves hoarse, trying to convince any survivor among the victims that we were there to save them. But how could we expect them to believe us since we donned the same hateful uniform ?Finally ,after several hours, we could reach Babudeen, one of the few survivors of that PAC assault. It was due to our relentless efforts that the F.I.R. against the PAC officials was registered in his name. He had to have top notch security for many days.
The case was then handed over to the CID, UP. Eight years later I was recently told that they (the CID) have finally filed a charge sheet against officers of the PAC ! The charge sheet reached the court only a few months back. The case is now languishing with the government yet to decide whether or not to give sanction to prosecute.
It may be argued that you are over-generalizing from a few cases, however shocking ?
This is only one of the examples. If we try to ignore these, call them exceptions and explain it away saying that their (PAC) normal conduct is secular, it would amount to brushing the dust under the carpet. We will have to accept that something wrong with the PAC.
In almost every riot in UP over the past 20 years the PAC has been indicted. Personally, I feel that such repeated allegations call for drastic steps to improve the PAC.
Another ghastly case is the conduct of the Bihar Bhagalpur, especially in the villages of Loghain and Chanderi where 100 Muslims were slaughtered in cold blood. In Loghain particularly, conduct of the police and the administration was truly shocking because the bodies of those slaughtered were recovered only one and a half months later, buried in a field over which cauliflower was being grown.
The reason was that the officials of the district police and administration, located barely 20 kilometers from the site, just kept on denying the incidents despite repeated allegations especially in the media.
You can imagine the killing of over 100 persons in cold blood within 20 kilometers of officialdom and both the police and administration trying to hide it. That was the height of callousness. There were serious allegations against the Bihar police for their gross conduct. On a recent visit to Bhagalpur, I was also told that only one ASI has been charge sheeted.
I strongly feel that action should have been taken against the senior police officer on duty also .punishing an ASI or a head constable is not enough. The SP or the DSP, the IG, commissioner or DIG, the DM, punishing someone at the top is a must.
Why ? To send a strong message down to the lower levels of the police force and the administration ?
Exactly, that way a clear message is sent down. If you punish the SP, if you tell the DM and the SP that if there are riots you will be accountable, there will be no riots. I strongly believe that if a riot breaks out and is not controlled within 24 hours, the DM and the SP should both be placed under immediate suspension.
What you are implying then is that any communal riot any where in India can be effectively controlled by the administration and the police within 24 hours if they desire to do so .If they do not, they should be held directly responsible for the failure?
Yes ,absolutely. Recently, I attended a session at a training course for probationers. It was the unanimous of all senior officials present that no communal riot in India can last for more than 24 hours without the consent of the state.
I have repeatedly made this proposition at every forum that I have addressed : In any city or the state of the country , a riot can be controlled within 24 hours unless the state wants it otherwise .By the state I mean the forces which represent the state whether it is police or the district administration or local governments.
Indian society is not a hostile society like west Asia, Europe or other parts of the world where sections of civil society are fighting the state with the use of weapons. Few situations like that prevail in India, the exceptions being terrorist infested areas like Punjab, Kashmir and the northeast . In the rest of the country, if the police and administration are unable to control a riot a riot within 24 hours. it only means that our actions, conduct and behaviour need introspection.
It is my strong personal view that it is the deep-rooted communal bias in the police and the administration that prevents us from controlling communal flare-ups within 24 hours Statistics also bear this out.
Muslims have been the worst sufferers, the victims of every riot since independence. Some 20-25 percent of those affected might be Hindus but over 75 percent are Muslims. Similarly ,it is Muslims who constitute the large majority of victims of police bullets in each riot. Despite this, statistics also show that more Muslims are arrested before ,during and after a riot than Hindus. How can this happen, unfailingly, each time, unless there is deep-seated communal bias ?
What kind of action do you think is needed to put the house in order as you put it ?
The action will have to be manifold. For example, I would recommend that ,first anf foremost , minorities must be given proper representation in the police force. We must have reservations for this. This kind of affirmative action has been adopted in countries like the USA and the UK for blacks and other racial and ethnic groups, and they have found it useful. In Indian society, which is a plural society composed of so many ethnic, linguistic and religious groups, I think that fair representation of all these groups is a must. It is absolutely necessary.I find these arguments utterly baseless. In fact , I feel that if there is a representation within the police force of members from each segment of society, it will help them to understand "the other point of view." If there is representation of Muslims, Sikhs and Christians among policemen posted at the district level , I am sure there will be a marked change in the overall behavioral pattern. I feel certain of this.
What have we achieved by not having reservation ? Despite recommendation after recommendation made annually by the National Police Commission, why are we reluctant to implement this basic safeguard ?
May I give you a tragic example of what the lack of reservation can do? Within days of the 1980 communal carnage at Muradabad, the then UP chief minister, announced the creation of five battalions of a special unit , the Vishesh Sewa Dal, "especially for the protection of minorities." Seven years later, it was the 41st PAC battalion, consisting of these same five battalions of the protection of minorities that was responsible for the atrocities at Hashimpura. Can there be a clear example of what lack of reservations can do ?
Could you explain how a more representative force will make a difference at a practical level ?
Our police functions on the basis of minimum strength. For example, the PAC of Uttar Pradesh will not be split in less than a section and the BSF will not be split in less than one platoon. A section means 11-12 persons. So, imagine if these 11-12 persons are stationed at one particular place, and out of this number there are 2-3 belonging to the minority community. They sleep together in one barrack, relax together, dine together. Through all this, a sort of brotherhood, develops that affects their behaviour in a communally tense situation also.
You say that a quality leadership within the police force can make all the difference in controlling a communally tense situation. What is needed to ensure this quality leadership ?
Force are run by their leaders. As Napoleon has so rightly said, "There are no bad soldiers only bad generals." So, leadership not only makes a substantial difference, it is the most vital, the most decisive factor in the functioning of a force whether we are talking of the police, the paramilitary or the army.
If the leader becomes communal , his actions are tainted with bias, it is certainly going to reflect in the behaviour of the force also. Certain interventions are needed. Among the remedies, I would rate training as the most important. New training inputs will have to be evolved.
At the end of the police training we have to be able to create a conviction in the probationers that once they don khaki , they seize to be Hindu or Muslim. Their faith remains their individual faith but once they sport their uniform they are simply police officers with one solitary duty; to maintain law and order.
You were serving in U.P. at the height of the Ram Janma Bhoomi mobilisation. Can you tell us briefly how the communal virus came to infect the various segments and institutions of society?
Those were the worst years. Communalisation had flown down from the upper classes and castes to even lower caste Hindus. Those were the worst days, I had never seen anything like it. Every segment of society was deeply affected by the virus: the media, the Police, lawyers, the magistracy, the bureaucracy ….
Lawyers of the Allahabad High Court had led a procession screaming pro Godse and anti Gandhi slogans during that time. Professors and lecturers of the Allahabad University had issued letters and statements in favour of the demolition and the construction of the Ram temple.
What was the role of the media during this period?
The role of the media was the worst of all. News Papers like Aaj,Jagran, Amar Ujala have been severely censored by the Press Council of India for their role. For example , reports on the news of the death toll of Kar Sewaks in 1990 revealed the worst bias in the media. Hardly 25 odd persons had been killed. But thanks to the local press ,the figure reached 25-30000!Some papers began by exaggerating the figures - just another name for lying- to 500, then 1000, 2000.Within a few days these figures had reached 25-30000.You just could not believe what was happening. The aim of these publications was clear - to whip up anger and frenzy.
There is the other example from Aligarh.Local newspapers around the same time published a complete lie stating that in the hospital attaché to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU),all Hindu patients had been killed. The "news" appeared one morning. Immediately riots started in and around Aligarh, spreading to neighbouring districts and villages. Imagine the effect….violence breaking out on the basis of a totally false report, maliciously printed.
Within a few hours, a respected couple from Aligarh, G.P.Singh and his wife Mamta Singh (writers in Hindi) went to the hospital and found each and every patient safe. Patients even told them that after this rumour had been systematically spread, Muslim doctors and medical college students guarded them the whole night. They were actually worried that people may take inspiration from the rumour.
And what happened to the newspaper? It escaped unscathed , except for a reprimand from the Press Council. And what would a reprimand do to a publication like this? It made no difference.
What was the conduct of the UP police during this period?
Policemen, too, were reading the same papers. Almost the entire police force in UP began believing that 25-30,000 had been killed in Ayodhya when they had gone for kar seva
The fascist way of preparing ground and gaining support from the majority community works like this ; it results in ordinary people starting to believe that they are victims and under threat. Through insidiously planted propaganda it secures the participation of ordinary persons in violence against the "other", in the belief that they are actually defending themselves. The media, especially in that period served the fascist cause admirably by printing blatant lies.
You said that part of your research work was to explore how the RSS functions before, in and during a riot situation. What are your findings in this regard?
The most recent example of the RSS manipulation of the mass psyche was evident in Hubli (Karnataka) in the flag-hoisting controversy. I was there by January 19, several days before Republic Day, as part of my research. It gave me first hand knowledge yet again, of the manner in which lies are assiduously propagated, and a myth systematically sown deep into the mass psyche. It bore close similarly to the myth and lies that were manufactured for the Ramjanmabhoomi mobilisation.
Until about 1984-85, we always read or heard the words Babri Masjid used to describe the monument around which Hindutva forces had launched their mobilisation. This was the case with the private as much as the official, government-controlled television and radio media.Then, gradually , the terms of reference changed ; it first began to be referred to as the Babri Masjid- Ramjanmabhoomi dispute; then to Ramjanmabhoomi - Babri Masjid dispute ;finally by the time we reached 1990, most of the media- including the government controlled television and radio- had began to refer to it ad vivadit dhancha (disputed structure).
Similarly, in Hubli, the idgah maidan had been given in 1922 on a 999 year-long lease to the Anjuman-e-Islam. Since then the location has been referred to as Idgah Maidan. Even all the cases that have been filed contesting the claims of ownership, including the one by the RGSS (Rashtriya Gaurav Samman Samiti) refer to the location as Idgah Maidan.
But now, suddenly, they have found a different name. There is a local historical figure, a symbol of resistance to British imperialism, Rani Chinamma. A statue of this historical figure, a women locally respected for her struggle, has suddenly been installed within 100 yards of the structure at the crossroads. She is a powerful local symbol who has been sought to be appropriated by the local forces of Hindutva.
Now this park which has for 72 years been called Idgah Maidan , suddenly been re-named Rani Chinamma Maidan ! The local press has followed suit and begun to refer to it as Idgah Maidan-Rani Chinamma Maidan. I recently told a friend in Hubli that very soon it will be renamed Rani Chinamma Idgah Maidan and finally, a disputed Maidan.
This is how the RSS creates a mythical dispute, works on the minds of a vast majority of Hindus who then begin believing falsified accounts and accept them to be truth.

विभूति की बेबाकी विस्मयकारी - महाश्वेता देवी -

दैनिक हिन्दुस्तान, 27.5.2007

दंगे भारत के माथे पर कलंक है ! दंगों पर भारतीय भाषाओं में काफी कुछ लिखा गया है, लेकिन विभूति नारायण कृत शहर मे कर्फ्यू इस अर्थ में सबसे अलग है कि रचयिता ने ऐसे दंगों को एक वरिष्ठ पुलिस अधिकारी के रूप में निकट से देखा और प्रामाणिक चित्र उपन्यास में खीचा ! विभूति का यह उपन्यास मैंने हिन्दी में ही पढा था ! बाद में मैंने इसका बाँग्ला में अनुवाद कराया, जो मासिक"भाषा बन्धन" के पूजा विशेषांक में छपा और अब ग्रंथ मित्र प्रकाशन से यह पुस्तकाकार छपा है! बांग्ला में यह औपन्यासिक कृति बहुत समाद्वत हुई है! इसके बारे में नवारुण भट्टाचार्य ने लिखा है, "शहर में कर्फ्यू एक विस्मयकारी द्स्तावेजी उपन्यास है . इसको साथ बाँग्ला ही क्यों, भारत की किसी भाषा की रचना से तुलना नहीं हो सकती ! सांप्रदायिक दंगे किस प्रकार होतें हैं और कौन इस नृशंसता के शिकार होतें हैं, यह जानने के लिये शहर में कर्फ्यू को पढना पडेगा !" नवारूण ने जो लिखा है, उसी में बांग्ला के आलोचकों और पाठकों की राय अंतर्निहित है! मेरी राय भी ! पुलिस सेवा में रहते हुये राज्य और जनता के रिश्तों पर जिस बेबाकी से विभूति ने कलम चलाई है वह मेरे लिये विस्मयकारी है !अपने बेबाक वर्णन विश्लेषण में विभूति ने पुलिस को भी नहीं बख्शा है ! विभूति एक व्यक्तव्य में कहतें हैं कि सांप्रदायिक दंगों के दौरान पुलिस और फौज का काम देश के सभी नागरिकों की रक्षा करना है, हिन्दुत्व के औजार की तरह काम करना नहीं है ! इस बेबाक वक्तव्य में ही हम विभूति की विलक्षणता और विशिष्टता का सन्धान आसानी से कर सकतें हैं ! विभूति की बेबाकी से सिर्फ मैं ही नहीं विस्मित हुई हूँ ! अनेक अन्य लोगों को भी भरोसा नहीं है कि पुलिस सेवा में वरिष्ठ पद पर रह्ते हुये उन्होंने सांप्रदायिक दंगों पर इस तरह कलम चलाई है ! इसीलिये मुस्लिम इंडिया के संपादक शहाबुद्दीन विभूति को रिटायर्ड पुलिस अफसर लिखतें हैं ! यह तथ्य दीगर है कि वे अभी भी पुलिस सेवा में हैं ! संप्रति वे उत्तर प्रदेश में अतिरिक्त पुलिस महानिदेशक (एडीजी) हैं ! विभूति ने शहर में कर्फ्यू तब लिखा जब इलाहाबाद में वे एस पी सिटी थे और उसी समय इलाहाबाद का पुराना हिस्सा दंगों की चपेट में था ! उसी दंगे की दरिदंगी विभूति के अनुभव संसार का अंग बन गई ! विभूति को भारतीय पुकलिस अकादमी की एक फेलोशिप भी मिली, जिसके तहत उन्होंने पिछली शताब्दी के आखिरी दशक में शोध भी किया ! फेलोशिप के तहत वही शोध प्रबन्ध है- सांप्रदायिक दंगे और भारतीय पुलिस !
विभूति नारायण इस धारणा को गलत साबित करतें हैं कि हिन्दू स्वभाव से अधिक उदार और सहिष्णु होता है और मुसलमान आनुवांशिक रूप से क्रूर होता है! वे यह भी बतातें हैं कि दंगों में मरने वालों में 70 प्रतिशत से ज्यादा मुसलमान होतें हैं ! विभूति बहुसंख्यक समुदाय के मनोविज्ञान की बात करतें हैं ! उनका यह मानना है कि इस देश में सांप्रदायिक दंगे नहीं रोके जा सकते ! शहर में कर्फ्यू में लेखक बताता है कि दंगे और उसके बाद लगने वाले कर्फ्यू के दौरान सबसे ज्यादा तकलीफ कौन उठतें हैं ! उपन्यास बताता है कि सईदा यानि एक औसत मुस्लिम औरत 13 गुना आठ फीट के कमरे मेँ किस तरह अपने पूरे परिवार के साथ गुजर-बसर करती है ! उपन्यास बताता है कि 15 साल की एक लडकी दंगे के दौरान किस तरह बलात्कार की शिकार हुयी और उसकी यातना तभी खत्म हुई, जब वह बेहोश हो गई ! इसके ठीक पहले वही लडकी एक लडके के प्रेम में पडी थी !
विभूति ने शहर में कर्फ्यू के अलावा तीन अन्य उप्न्यास घर, किस्सा लोकतंत्र, और तबादला भी लिखा है ! घर उनका पहला उपन्यास है ! जिसके छपते ही वे हिन्दी जगत में चर्चित हो गये थे ! शहर में कर्फ्यू उन्हें लोकप्रियता के शिखर पर ले गया ! किस्सा लोकतंत्र और तबादला भी चर्चा में रहे! चारों उपन्यासों के अनुभव संसार अलग हैं ! चारों के अनुकूल भाषा और शिल्प के सार्थक प्रयोग उन्होंने कियें हैं ! उपन्यासकार में जन के साथ प्रतिबद्धता भी है ! उनमें प्रतिबद्धता के साथ नवीनता और प्रयोग धर्मिता का मणिकांचन योग भी है ! उन्होंने धारदार व्यंग्य भी लिखें हैं ! विभूति ने पत्रिका वर्तमान साहित्य का 15 वषों तक संपादन किया ! वे आज़मगढ के अपने गाँव मेँ एक पुस्तकालय- श्री रामानन्द सरस्वती पुस्तकालय भी चलातें हैं . पुलिस मेँ रहते हुये भी रचनात्मक कार्य किये जा सकतें हैं, इसका विरल उदाहरण विभूति नारायण राय है!

Muslims and Police in India - An interview of Vibhuti Narain Rai taken by Yogendra Sikand and published in online and print media.

Vibhuti Narain Rai is a senior Indian Police Service officer and editor of 'Vartaman Sahitya', a Hindi literary magazine. He is also a novelist. 'Shahar Mein Curfew' (Hindi) is his most well-known book which has been translated and published in English ('Curfew in the City'). He is also the author of 'Combating Communal Conflicts--Perception of Police Neutrality During Hindu-Muslim Riots in India'. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about the role of the Indian police in handling communal riots.
Q: How did you decide to write a book on the subject of the police in handling communal riots?

A: My book is the outcome of a one-year fellowship that I received from
the National Police Academy to study perceptions of police neutrality during incidents of Hindu-Muslim violence. Basically, the study set out to examine how Hindus and Muslims perceive the role of the police in different ways in such situations. Not surprisingly, I discovered over the course of my study that Hindu and Muslim perceptions of the police during communal disturbances are diametrically opposed. This is basically what I tried to show in my book.
Q: How do you account for these different perceptions of the police by Hindus and Muslims?
A: In the course of my study I found that in a normal situation, an average Hindu does not necessarily see the police as friendly or helpful, but during communal riots he looks upon the police as a helper and protector. On the other hand, Muslim riot victims generally do not feel that they would get any protection from the police, even when their lives and property are under threat. I think one basic reason for this is the police themselves. After all, an average policeman -and most policemen are Hindus- gets his value system from his own society or community. That is why the average policeman often think of Muslims in very negative terms; they seem to believe the standard stereotypical images of Muslims as being 'dirty', 'untrustworthy', 'violent' and 'pro-Pakistani'. From this, it leads them to think of Muslims as 'aggressors' who initiate riots. Now, of course this is not true to say that most riots are started by Muslims. But still, when I point out to police officers that many more Muslims than Hindus lose their lives in the riots and so it is improbable that they could be said to have initiated them, they generally refuse to agree. They claim that Hindus are by nature: 'pious', 'non-violent' and 'law-abiding'. Therefore, they never initiate violence themselves. This perception seems to be deeply rooted in their psyche. My argument is that if you analyze the history of various riots that have taken place in India since the 1960s or so, you will find that there has probably been no single riot in which less than 90% of those killed have been Muslims. However, this point is generally not accepted by the average policeman, even though I am basing my claim on official records. I am not surprised that many police officers do not wish to recognize this fact. They, like an average Hindu, would disbelieve these figures. These are official figures and no government on earth would release false data.
Q: What do you feel about the sort of training that is given to the police? Are they taught to deal with incidents of communal violence in a neutral way?
A: Theoretically, such inputs are given to the policemen when they
undertake their training course. However, the training period is only nine months long and in this short period, you cannot completely disabuse them of the communal stereotypes that they have imbibed from their family and society. The course is only sufficiently long enough to train a person to handle a weapon. In any case, the course devotes little attention to history, culture, religion and other social issues. There is also no regular training component after this initial period. There is also the factor of infiltration by the RSS in the police, but this is difficult to quantify. I think there must be periodic training sessions after the initial course, where policemen should be thoroughly briefed on a range of social issues, including respect for and knowledge of different religions.
Q: Are there any efforts being made to provide this sort of training

A: As far as I know, there have been few organized or institutional
initiatives undertaken in this regard. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer is doing some useful work in this direction. His institute arranges workshops with the Mumbai police to sensitize them on a range of issues related to communalism.
Q: What then do you think is the solution to the problem?

A: I think one major solution is to institute reservation for different minorities in the police services, where they are currently very poorly represented. And by minorities I do not mean just Muslims, but other religious minorities and even minority ethnic groups in every state as well. Reservation for minorities should, ideally, be in accordance with their share in the total population. Now, some people, including police officers, will argue that reservations in the police service for minorities would divide the police on communal lines. They might argue that instead of reserving jobs for minorities in the police services we should encourage the minorities to apply for police jobs. My reply to them is that ever since the independence of India, the government has sent out dozens of circulars, orders and guidelines to recruitment boards asking for a fair recruitment of the minorities in the police service. This has not worked though because it has not been made mandatory. When I talk of representation for minorities in the police service, I also want to stress that this should only be for the backward sections among them. Now, in the case of Muslims, the Muslim elites or 'Ashraf' do not want to recognize the fact that caste differences exists in the Muslim community. They talk of Muslims as a monolith, which is not the case. I think reservations for the Muslims must be restricted to the backward sections or 'biraderis' among them, the so-called 'Ajlaf' Muslims. The Ashraf are, on the whole, capable of taking care of their own interests, while the Ajlaf are poverty-stricken and suffer the most during communal riots. I am opposed to the idea of reservations for Muslims as an entire community. If that is done then the Ashraf are bound to occupy all the positions as they are more educated and better-off than the other Muslims.
Q: Perhaps encouraging Muslims to join the police services would be a less controversial way of promoting Muslim representation in the services. What are your opinions on this?

A: No, I don't quite agree because I think that many recruiting officers themselves have a bias against Muslims and would not be happy to see Muslims join the police. They will put up all sorts of flimsy excuses to see that this does not happen. They will claim that Muslims simply do not apply and if they do apply, they might dismiss their applications by claiming that they are not physically fit, which might not be the case. I think that, in fact, very little effort is needed to encourage Muslims to apply. If one is serious about it, one can get numerous such applications. After all, unemployment, even among the educated, is rampant among Muslims. Additionally, there is this feeling that wearing a police uniform is a matter of prestige.
Q: How do you think that increasing representation of minorities in the
police services through reservations will actually change things?
A: I think it will make a tremendous impact. Not only will it increase the confidence of minorities in the police, it will also help undermine the communal stereotypes. As I mentioned, they are quite deeply ingrained among many policemen and police officers. If Muslim and Hindu policemen live and work together it is bound to lead to a change in mutual perceptions and promote a sense of understanding. In turn, this will also lead to more responsible handling of riot situations by the police.
Q: What do you feel about the performance of Muslim police officers in
handling riot situations?

A: Normally, Muslim police officers are as good or as bad, as competent or incompetent, as other officers. However, in situations of communal riots, many Muslim officers do not have the courage to get out of the police stations for fear of being killed. Muslim officers might be reluctant to deal with Hindu mobs for fear of being accused as 'anti-Hindu'. They might feel that they do not have the confidence of the police force, which is largely Hindu. Just to cite an instance- during the recent violence in Gujarat, a Muslim police officer was mobbed by a group of Hindus and narrowly managed to escape with his life.
Q: How do you look at the phenomenon of communalism? How does it influence your writing?
A: I must confess that as a youth, I was associated with the RSS and even attended the local shakha. Later, I came under the influence of Marxism, which is how I changed my way of looking at the world. I believe that all forms of communalism are dangerous. The communalism of the majority is more dangerous because it is capable of capturing state power. At the same time minority communalism must also be fought against, including by the minorities themselves, as it poses a grave danger by deceptively appearing to champion their interests.
Q: How has your book on the police and communalism been received by the police and other government officials?
A: I must say that not many people in the police or in government actually read my book, but from those who did I got mixed responses. Some praised it, but many others condemned it. They claimed that I was creating dissentions among the police! They even alleged that my findings and conclusions were biased because they could not believe that some Hindus too can be aggressive, intolerant and violent. This, itself suggests that prejudices about other communities are very deeply rooted in our society, including among government and police officials, who ought to know better.

Books & Author/Dawn- June 16 , 2002

Curfew in the City
This novel is a sensitive and touching study of a people in a crumbling inner city locality when curfew is suddenly clamped on them.
ARTICLE: ‘Karphu ... Karphu ... Ya Khuda’
By M.A.H.

“Karphu ... Karphu ... Ya Khuda” was the stifled and muffled cry of anguish of Saiphunnis. She and her neighbour, Sayeeda, had dragged themselves out to get medicine for the latter’s ailing daughter, when the curfew was announced. Everything was in turmoil. The localities from Bahadurganj, G.T. Road, Katju Road, Mirza Ghalib Road, Maulana Shaukat Ali Marg, Johnsonganj, Khuldabad, Muthiganj, etc were all deserted. These areas were contemptuously referred to as ‘Pakistan’. The city was Allahabad. The year was 1980. The senior superintendent of police was Vibhuti Narain Rai.
Narain Rai decided to write, in Hindi, a short novel, Shahar mein karfiyu on the Allahabad riot, based on his observations of what happened during the days and nights of the curfew. It took him seven years to complete it. It came out in 1987. Within one year, several Indian Urdu journals published it in Urdu translation. And C.M. Naim, of the University of Chicago, in collaboration with the author, translated it into English, Curfew in the city, Roli Books, New Delhi, 1998).
The spark was ignited when some urchins threw “a hand bomb at the wall of a temple”; but, in fact, “what exploded on the temple wall was more like a firecracker than a bomb”. But the Hindus concluded that the perpetrators could only be Muslims. They started attacking every Muslim that came their way.
When asked about the riot by the residents of a neighbourhood, a character, Devi Lal says, “Array ... there are nothing but corpses in the city. I myself saw two trucks go by filled with corpses ... the police were taking them away to throw them in the Jamuna. Musallas ... are running all over the place ... flashing their knives and daggers. Poor Hindus ... they have no one to protect them.”
“So, lala the Muslims are roaming everywhere with knives despite the police?”
“Roaming? They’re knifing everyone. Helpless Hindus are dropping like flies.”
Bursting with excitement, Devi Lal started consorting with the policemen, who had come to enforce curfew in his area. Ultimately, they all sat down with piping hot tea for everyone; and, in no time, started a chorus: “Hindu-pulis bhai-bhai”. The police was determined to teach the “Pakistanis” a lesson.
Sayeeda’s daughter died during the days of curfew; and the family went through indescribable indignities to obtain a pass, issued for three persons only, for the burial. Then, there was a “nameless, religionless, and casteless” girl, who was entrapped by three goons... “a curfew can deprive any girl of her life’s tenderest experience. It can knock her down ... and drag her through experiences that could turn the rest of her life into an inescapable labyrinth of nightmares.”
The “respectables”, who formed the Peace Committee, had congregated at the Kotwali. They had their own programmes and motives. Lala Radhey Lal was expecting to make some profit from rise in grain prices. The riot was a threat to Pandit Dixit, a member of the legislative assembly. At the time of the last elections, a riot went in his favour. Now his rival, Ram Jaiswal, a staunch Hinduvadi could reap benefits in the already announced elections. And all the Hindus would go to the hinduvadi Jaiswal, leaving Dixit, high and dry.
It was Comrade Surajbhan, who gave vent to his anger against everyone, especially journalists: “You always find some Pakistani hand behind every riot. There hasn’t been a riot since Independence, in which more Muslims had not been killed, but each time you publish the news as if there’s been a massacre of Hindus. When Muslims complain of high-handedness ... you call them traitors ... The local office of the Muslim League is right next to that mosque. It had the party flag flying ... A little trick photography moved the flag to the mosque itself — ‘Pakistan flag flies over a mosque’ — Your friends lost nothing when they called it a Pakistan flag. It didn’t hurt them one bit that their words increased tension in the city.”
Notwithstanding the Peace Committee, the police conducted house searches in the ‘Pakistani’ neighbourhood. The authorities “firmly believed that the residents of the ‘Pakistan’ area started every riot, and were bringing guns and bombs from Pakistan.”!
When the story ends, the curfew continues, the houses are being searched, and Sayeeda’s daughter has not been buried.
Rai writes about the reaction of “the fascistic proponents of Hindutva”, when the book was published. “They felt that this novel had placed the Hindus as guilty parties before the bar. Shri Ashok Singhal, head of the VHP, made the demand that the book should be banned.” In March 1991, a journalist in Allahabad announced his plans to make a film. C.M. Naim, the translator, writes in his Foreword: “It was this announcement that brought forth a ‘fatwa’ from Shri Ashok Singhal ... he threatened to burn down any cinema house that would dare show the proposed film.”
Immediately after writing the novel, Rai went on a fellowship, for a year, to the National Police Academy (Hyderabad Deccan) to conduct research on “The perception of police neutrality during communal strife”. Rai observes, in ‘Afterword,” that the majority community ignores facts, and appears obsessed with two perceptions — that the riots are started by the Muslims and that those who die in the riots are mostly Hindus.
As pointed out by Rai, in the riots, after Independence, Muslims account for more than seventy per cent of the fatalities. During and after the Babri Mosque, the percentage has been above ninety. Likewise, seventy-five per cent of the property that was looted or destroyed belonged to Muslims. Another conclusion of Rai is that the police, like the majority community, thinks that the Muslims are responsible for the riots, and therefore, acts under the premise that the riots can be brought under control only by taking strong measures against the Muslims.
As Rai writes, “The most amazing fact ... is that in almost every riot, the Muslims also formed the majority of the people taken into custody by the police.”
About the question — who starts the riot — Rai’s opinion is that for a Hindu civil servant, educationist, journalist, jurist or policeman, it is only too easy to believe it is the Muslims who start the riot. Rai observes that before a riot is started, an air of tension is first created — months before — a web of false accusations, rumours, etc is woven; the tension is built up, and is taken to a flash point.
In a Hindu religious procession, Rai says some participants themselves throw stones at the procession. At that heightened tension, that is the first stone. It is, as it were, the first inflammatory slogan. The built up tension starts the riot. It is meticulously planned.

Department of English Language & Literature -National University of Singapore presents 'The Aura of Terror':

Violence and the Uncanny in Vibhuti Narain Rai's Curfew in the City
Speaker: Dr.Bede T. Scott
Date: Wednesday, 24 October 2007Time: 4.00 pm
Venue: AS5/05-09

This paper examines the phenomenon of communal violence on the Indian subcontinent -
exploring its impact on urban space and on the status and disposition of the minorities inhabiting that space. Through an analysis of Vibhuti Narain Rai's 1988 novel Curfew in the City - set during the Allahabad riots of 1980 - I argue that such violence serves to reconfigure urban space along sectarian lines, framing and reframing the topographical boundaries between communities. Muslim districs become 'mini-Pakistans', wire fences become the Line of Control dividintg the two Kashmirs, and open drains become the Indo-Pakista ni border. I then explore the adverse impact this reconfiguration of space has on minority communities, alienating them from their environment and inducing in them a profound sense of displacement or 'unbelonging'. In order to clarify this process, I shall be employing the psychoanalytical concept of the uncanny, or unheimlich - Freud's term for 'everything . . . that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light'. In this instance, however, I use it to describe the way in which communal violence 'defamiliarizes' urban topography - translating the familiar into the unfamiliar, the homely into the unhomely - and in so doing, converts persecuted
minorities into symbolic foreigners or refugees-in-waiting. As James Clifford points out, displacement does not always require movement; it can also 'involve forces that pass powerfully through - television, radio, tourists, commodities, armies'. A list to which I would add that most powerful of displacing forces, the communal riot.
About the Speaker: Bede Scott is an Assistant Professor in the Division of English, Nanyang Technological University. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2006.