A festering sore on Indian democracy

A multitude of massacres in the name of religion has put India’s secular polity to test. A flashback on the travesty of justice by Pradyot Lal, NK Bhoopesh & Anurag Tripathi

2015-04-11 , Issue 15 Volume 12



13 August 1980

• Official toll: 450; independent probes reckon that to be one-third of the likely number of casualties

• In the aftermath of the riots, Allahabad High Court judge Justice MP Saxena was asked to inquire

• Three-and-a-half decades later, his findings remain virtually consigned to a waste paper basket, with even avowedly secular parties not having the courage to pick up the gauntlet

If ever a comprehensive study is undertaken to determine the role of law-enforcing agencies in ‘helping’ spread communal riots in free India, what happened in somnolent Moradabad where all that glitters is brass is instructive. Around 3,000 namazis had turned up at the idgah to render Friday prayers when some pigs mysteriously found their way among them causing instant commotion. What followed was even more macabre, as the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel who were on duty failed to chase away the offending animals in time. Instead, as brickbatting of the police and PAC personnel ensued, they indiscriminately opened fire causing several in the congregation to die instantly. There was already enough tension between the factory owners and the artisans who were usually drawn from different communities. The demographic structure of the city, however, was not reflected in its political representation. Two generations after the riot, the scars are yet to heal. As sociologist Satish Sabherwal and historian Mushirul Hasan averred a couple of months after the riots, neither the then UP chief minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh nor the leaders at the Centre went beyond offering palliatives to the victims. This was ‘democratic’ India’s second tryst with the PAC after the revolt in its ranks in the mid-1970s had threatened to upstage the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

Shame! Bodies of infants killed during the 1983 massacre in Nellie, Nagaon district, Assam, await burial

Shame! Bodies of infants killed during the 1983 massacre in Nellie, Nagaon district, Assam, await burial, Photo: Courtesy the milli gazette



18 February 1983

• Official toll: 2,191; unofficial and independent agencies reckon twice that number was approximate to the truth

• Affected area: Central Assam, especially Nellie in Nagaon district

• The SK Tiwari Commission ostensibly conducted an inquiry, but it was caught up in a political and social maelstrom. Only three copies of its report exist, and no political party has thought it worthwhile to do anything concrete

THE immediate cause is difficult to easily decipher. One was the anti-foreigner issue that the then ascendant All Asom Students Union (AASU) raised to a feverish pitch, leading to deportation of alleged aliens and mass murder. The terms of the movement were hazy since many of the so-called refugees had either come before Partition or during the turmoil in Bangladesh during its liberation struggle. The death of Lok Sabha MP Hiralal Patwari made fresh polls necessary in one of the constituencies but the Congress government thought it prudent to order Assembly polls in 1983. AASU opposed the decision and boycotted the polls. As the then Assam DGP KPS Gill recalls, there were at least 23 highly sensitive constituencies where elections should not have been held, and Nellie was one of them. Whether there had indeed been a sudden infiltration of illegal immigrants could not be verified. AASU thought that there was and stirred an agitation that the state administration failed to control. Two years later, the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi signed a peace accord with AASU and the Nellie massacre was sought to be erased from public memory.

Wounded An injured Sikh man being carried away on a cart in Delhi during the 1984 riots, Photo: Courtesy  Vijay Saluja

Wounded An injured Sikh man being carried
away on a cart in Delhi during the 1984 riots, Photo: Courtesy Vijay Saluja



Delhi and other parts of India

31 October – 4 November 1984

• Total casualties in Delhi alone: 2,733 Sikhs; some human rights bodies say it was much higher

• Worst-affected areas included Trilokpuri, which epitomised the grisly and planned nature of the massacre

• Eight different commissions, convictions extremely few

Thirty-one years ago in New Delhi, Kanpur and Bokaro, murderous attacks were launched against Sikhs by mobs organised and instigated by mainly Congress politicians bent upon using the tragic assassination of Indira Gandhi as an occasion for political manipulation and gain. In the capital, the police stood mute witness to the killing of 2,733 Sikhs. That inaction and the failure to register cases or properly investigate those that were eventually filed are testimony to the official patronage the killings enjoyed. Rajiv Gandhi, who had just been sworn in as the prime minister, made light of the pogrom, describing them as a reaction to the killing of his mother. He infamously said, “The earth always trembles when a big tree falls.” Senior Congress leaders such as HKL Bhagat, who were identified by the survivors and eyewitnesses as instigators of the violence, were rewarded with ministerial berths. A Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra concluded, astonishingly, that the organised massacre was a spontaneous and “involuntary reaction” by ordinary citizens stricken by grief at Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Subsequent commissions indicted the police for acts of commission and omission but the bitter reality is that the victims of the massacre are no closer to justice today than they were in 1984.

The fact that the politicians and police officers responsible for the violence not only escaped indictment but also prospered had grave implications for minorities elsewhere in India. The riot system perfected by the Congress on the streets of Delhi was unveiled again in Bombay in 1993 and, finally, by the BJP government of Gujarat in 2002. There have been demands to construct at least a memorial for the victims, but they have fallen on deaf ears. Non-Congress governments have been equally lackadaisical and cavalier in their attitude. Some ultra-Hindutva organisations and individuals, unhinged formally from the saffron brigade, also joined the unprecedented, brutal pogrom that damaged India’s secular image irrevocably and gave rise to secessionist tendencies.

Easy targets Armed personnel round up Muslim men in Hashimpura during the 1987 riots

Easy targets Armed personnel round up Muslim men in Hashimpura during the 1987 riots, Photos: Praveen Jain



22 May 1987

• Death toll: 42 Muslim men

• In 2015, a Delhi court acquitted all the PAC men accused of killing 42 Muslims

Vibhuti Narain Rai, the then SSP, Ghaziabad (UP), found that more than 150 Muslim men had been taken away by the PAC in a truck at gunpoint towards a canal that flows parallel to the Meerut-Ghaziabad Road and the sound of gunshots had been heard from that direction. It was late in the night but he got a team of 20 police personnel ready and rushed to the spot. Dead bodies were scattered along the canal bank. In that ghostly silence, he began to examine the bodies to see if anyone was alive in the heap of corpses. At last he found a man who was still not dead, brought him to Ghaziabad, got him admitted to a hospital and proceeded to file an FIR against the PAC personnel for their heinous crime.

Babuddin Ansari is one of the survivors of the massacre. He is a native of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, but fate had trapped him in Hashimpura in May 1987 as he was visiting some relatives with his father. 
According to his account, he took a bullet on his shoulder when the PAC men had first opened fire on the people held captive in the truck near the Gang canal in Muradnagar. By the time they moved the truck away from the canal, 25 of the men had been killed. The truck was driven a little further and then stopped near the Hindon river bridge where the rest of the captives — 16 of them — were killed. In this group, Babuddin was the only one who survived. He was the sixth person to be thrown into the river, but before that, he was shot again — this time in his leg.

Luckily for him, he fell near the embankment and held onto a rock. 
He recalls seeing the bodies being thrown from the Hindon bridge one by one. Meanwhile, some policemen came flashing their torches into the river. Babuddin thought they were sent by the PAC men, so every time they threw the light upon the river, he would duck into the water. Finally, a policeman touched his head with a rifle and asked his name. From there, he was taken to the police superintendent who assured him of help. The Ghaziabad police then picked up his belongings from Hashimpura. Next day, he was escorted back to his home state.

Some of the survivors of the grisly massacre are still hopeful of getting justice even after a Delhi court acquitted the accused PAC jawans on 24 March 2015 citing the prosecution’s inability to establish that they were the same jawans who had fired those fatal shots.

Close shave Security personnel look on as a Muslim woman is rescued from rioters in Bhagalpur

Close shave Security personnel look on as a
Muslim woman is rescued from rioters in



24 October – 23 December 1989

• Official toll: 1,070

• Started as a police-people clash and degenerated into communal violence

• Justice elusive 25 years later, with Nitish Kumar periodically assuring action against the culprits, many of whom are already dead

Hindu-Muslims tensions had escalated during the Muharram and Bisheri Puja festivities in August 1989. As part of the Ayodhya campaign, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had organised a ‘Ramshila’ procession in Bhagalpur. The procession aimed to collect bricks for the proposed Ram temple at Ayodhya. One such procession passing through Fatehpur village provoked brickbatting and arson on 22 October.

Prior to the outbreak of the riots, two rumours about the killing of Hindu students started circulating: one was that Muslims had killed nearly 200 Hindu students of the university; the other that 31 Hindu boys had been murdered and their bodies dumped in a well at the Sanskrit College. Besides, the political and criminal rivalries in the area also played a role in inciting the riots.

On 24 October, the Ramshila processions from various parts of the district were to proceed to the Gaushala area, from where they would move on to Ayodhya. The procession coming from Parbatti area passed peacefully through Tatarpur, a Muslim-dominated area, after its leader Mahadev Prasad Singh told the Hindus not to raise any provocative slogans. Sometime later, another massive procession from Nathnagar arrived at Tatarpur, escorted by the police. Some members of the procession shouted slogans such as Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan. Bombs hurled indiscriminately at this stage are considered to have triggered these riots.

The mobs attacked shops owned by the Muslims on the Nathnagar road (later renamed as Lord Mahavir Path). The rioters also attempted to storm the Muslim-dominated locality of Assanandpur, but the locals fired at them from the rooftops. The mob then turned to the Hindu-dominated locality, Parbatti, where it massacred at least 40 Muslims. As the news of the violence reached the other Ramshila processions at Gaushala, the Hindus went on a rampage, killing Muslims, looting their shops and destroying their property.

On 25 October, an 8,000-strong mob looted and destroyed Madaninagar, a Muslim settlement, turning it into a ghost town. They also attacked Kanjhiagram, a nearby locality. Bhatoria, a Muslim-dominated village, was attacked twice — on October 25, and again on October 27. Many Muslims were killed. Alleged police atrocities further fuelled the violence.

According to contemporary accounts, on 26 October, at least 11 Muslims were killed in the Brahmin-dominated Parandarpur village. The same day, 18 Muslims, including 11 children, were killed in full public view, in the Nayabazar area of Bhagalpur. Around 44 Muslims, including 19 children, were provided refuge by some local Hindus in the Jamuna Kothi building. At 11.30 am, a 70-strong mob entered the Jamuna Kothi with swords, axes, hammers and lathis. Within 10 minutes, 18 Muslims were killed. Some of the children were beheaded, some had their limbs cut off while the others were thrown off the third floor. A woman called Bunni Begum had her breasts chopped off. Some other Muslims, who had been provided refuge by the Hindus in the nearby buildings, managed to survive. In Assanandpur, the Muslims also escorted several Hindu students residing in a hostel to safety.

Lynch mob Sword-wielding rioters took over the streets of Mumbai for several days in December 1992

Lynch mob Sword-wielding rioters took over the streets of Mumbai forseveral days in December 1992



December 1992 – January 1993

• Official death toll: 267; the unofficial figure, as deposed before the Justice Srikrishna Commission, was twice that number

• Cause: The Babri Masjid demolition had serious repercussions across the country and one of the cities that suffered the most was Mumbai

• Status: The revelations made by Justice Srikrishna failed to enlighten the political masters

A cosmopolitan city by nature, which hitherto had other priorities, was submerged in a communal deluge from December 1992 to January 1993. The city witnessed one of the worst riots during this period, which left deep scars on the city’s soul. The December 1992 events constituted the first phase of a communal riot that was to be repeated on a larger scale in January 1993.

The Justice BN Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry stated that there had been a build-up of communal fervour among the Hindus and Muslims in the weeks preceding the demolition of the Babri Masjid. As news of the demolition spread in the city on 6 December, Muslim gathered on the streets even as the Hindutva outfits took out victory processions.

The Shiv Sena led by its acerbic leader Balasaheb Thackeray celebrated the demolition by conducting
a rally in the Dharavi slum. The situation deteriorated further on 7 and 8 December.

At many places, the violence took the form of a police-versus-Muslims confrontation. According to media sources, 90 percent of the dead were killed in police firing. As per media reports, more than 210 people died in Mumbai and 57 in the areas adjoining the metropolis. Out of them, 137 fell to police bullets.

Unofficial records claim that the actual toll was more than 400. The situation was said to have
been brought under control by 12 December, but according to the Justice Srikrishna Commission, stray incidents of violence continued to occur until 5 January when the second phase of the riot started.

War cry A Bajrang Dal activist with an iron rod shouts slogans during the mayhem in Gujarat 2002, Photo: AFP

War cry A Bajrang Dal activist with an iron rod shouts slogans during the mayhem in Gujarat 2002, Photo: AFP



October-December 1990

• Cause: Local trouble exacerbated by LK Advani’s Rath Yatra and his subsequent arrest

• Consequence: The Congress party’s secular image was
irrevocably dented

The walled city Hyderabad witnessed one of the worst communal riots in 1990. The city’s proud record was besmirched beyond recognition. On 9 October 1990, the city police gunned down a notorious criminal and some politicians gave this a communal angle. As per the Justice Heeraman Singh Commission of Inquiry, this eventually resulted in communal clashes. The second trigger point for the clashes was the arrest of LK Advani in Bihar on 23 October. After Advani’s arrest, the BJP and some Muslim organisations distributed provocative pamphlets. More than 11 people were killed in communal clashes that took place between 29 October and 1 November in Hyderabad and its neighbouring Ranga Reddy district. Communal tension between the two communities was at its peak and to further worsen the situation, two rumours started doing the rounds in the city. One rumour was of the stabbing of a poor Hindu hawker in Karwar area on 7 December and the second was about the discovery of the bodies of a woman and her child in the Sabzimandi area. As per the official records, the massacre that followed resulted in the killing of 134 people and 300 getting severely injured. The unofficial count of the dead was between 200 and 300. There was a clear pattern to the killings with women and children being particularly targeted. Many were burned alive or stoned to death.

Various reports indicated that the violence was encouraged by some Congress dissidents in order to precipitate the overthrowing of Chief Minister Chenna Reddy who, indeed, was forced to step down after the riots.



December 1997 – February 1998

• Death toll: At least 70, in two phases

• Cause: From business rivalry to divisive strains, the combustion in the city was expertly manufactured

That business is thicker than blood was proved during the Coimbatore riots. The riots that took place in 1997-98 were, perhaps, unique in nature as they were triggered by mounting tension between the Hindu and Muslim communities over the rising graph of Muslim businesses in the city.

The extremist Hindutva outfit Hindu Munnani’s leader Rama Gopalan had come to Coimbatore several times, asking Hindus to purchase only from Hindu shops. Moreover, relations between the police and the Muslim community were at an all-time low after the bombing of the RSS office in Madras in 1993. The police were constantly on the lookout for members of Al-Ummah, an organisation led by SA Basha, one of the prime suspects behind the blast. The trust deficit between the police and the Muslim community came to a boiling point when three young Al-Ummah members murdered a police constable. A section of the police, in connivance with the Hindu Munnani, targetted Muslim establishments. The violence the ensued lead to the death of 20 people.

While the situation was returning to normal, on 14 February 1998, a series of bomb blasts occurred in Coimbatore in which around 50 persons were killed and 200 injured. The attacks were carried out by Al-Ummah members in retaliation for the killings of Muslims by the police in November-December 1997. In the hours following the explosions, Hindu mobs attacked Muslim shops and properties. The government had to send in the army.

A judicial committee formed on 7 April 2000 under Justice PR Gokulakrishnan to probe the serial bombings confirmed that Al-Ummah was responsible for the attacks. The committee tabled its final report in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on 18 May 2000 and its recommendations were accepted in principle by the state government. The trial began on 7 March 2002 and as many as 1,300 witnesses were examined. Basha was found guilty of hatching a criminal conspiracy to trigger a series of explosions and was sentenced to life along with 12 others.

Remains of the day A Bodo man sits in a burnt down room at his home in Kokrajhar, Assam

Remains of the day A Bodo man sits in a burnt down room at his home in Kokrajhar,Assam



6 January 1993

• Official toll: 55 killed in firing by the BSF

• Follow-up: Several BSF personnel were suspended and a CBI inquiry ordered; in 2013, the CBI filed a closure report saying the witnesses failed to identify the lawbreakers

• Status: A judicial commission headed by Justice Amarjeet Choudhary was constituted but is yet to submit its report

Many human rights activists consider Sopore, a town in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir, to be synonymous with State repression in the sensitive state. It all happened after some militants attacked BSF personnel at Baba Yousuf Lane near Sopore on 6 January 1993. One BSF jawan was killed. But what happened after that in the town was unheard of in Kashmir’s recent history. In retaliation to the attack by the militants, the BSF men went berserk killing 55 civilians. Some eyewitness accounts claimed that the troopers also set many houses on fire. The BSF men also attacked a bus, killing the driver and 15 passengers on the spot. The Indian government’s estimate was that 50 homes and 250 shops were burnt down, though human rights activists claim that more than 450 shops were destroyed.

Even as the massacre evoked sharp responses from human rights organisations across the world, the Indian government initially defended the security forces saying that the civilians casualties were the result of a gun battle with the militants. But there were hardly any takers for the government’s version in Kashmir. Despite a curfew being imposed, thousands of people thronged the streets to protest against the killings, forcing the government to constitute a one-member judicial commission under Justice Amarjeet Choudhary.

The commission’s term expired in 1994 before it could come out with a report and the government did not grant it an extension. Some BSF personnel were suspended to pacify the people of Kashmir and a CBI inquiry was also ordered. The CBI filed a closure report in the court in 2013 saying that the witnesses could not identify the culprits. The investigating agency’s submission in the court that the victims’ kin should not get access to the documents related to the case also drew flak from many quarters. The unending wait of the victims in Sopore bears testimony to how the justice system consistently fails to deliver justice in cases of atrocities by agencies of the State.



February-March 2002

• Death toll: At least 2,000

• Status: The wounds of Gujarat are yet to be healed and the changed complexion of the Centre has not helped; the apex court, however, seems keen to strike out for justice

The parallels between 1984 and 2002 are uncanny. Like Rajiv Gandhi’s ‘Newtonian’ logic, Narendra Modi, anointed in 2001 as the chief minister of Gujarat, described the killing of innocent Muslims in his state as a spontaneous reaction to the burning of Hindu train passengers at Godhra. Activists of the BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits led the mobs at various places and some, such as Maya Kodnani, were rewarded with plum jobs. The Gujarat Police used the same tactics as their Delhi counterparts to ensure that investigations in the major riot cases went nowhere. The big difference between now and then, of course, is the vigilance of the Supreme Court, which intervened when it became apparent that Modi’s government was not going to provide justice.

The Gujarat riots have been interpreted subjectively rather than objectively, depending upon where you stand. Some political analysts call it a genocide, whereas others describe it as a pogrom. Whichever way one looks at it, what happened in Gujarat in 2002 left an indelible mark on the secular fabric of the country. Some people even accused Modi of directing the police to allow the mob frenzy to go unchecked.

It all started with the burning of Coach S6 of the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra railway station on the morning of 27 February 2002. Fifty-seven people, including 25 women and 15 children, returning from a kar seva ceremony at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya were charred to death. The Gujarat government claimed that a mob of local Muslims had carried out the heinous crime. It constituted a judicial commission under Justice GT Nanavati to look into the reasons and conspiracy, if any, behind the carnage. Six years later, the commission submitted its report, largely upholding the government’s version of the incident.

When the UPA government came to power in 2004, Lalu Prasad Yadav, the then railway minister, constituted a committee to investigate the incident. This committee rejected the conspiracy theory and concluded that it was a case of accidental fire. It cited forensic reports to claim that the fire had started inside the train compartment. The Gujarat High Court, however, quashed the findings and concluded that the committee was constituted with mala fide intentions.

In February 2011, a court convicted 31 Muslims for the Godhra carnage, which is widely believed to be the trigger for the state-wide violence that followed in its wake.

The worst incident happened at Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad. On 28 February, a mob of more than 1,000 Bajrang Dal activists attacked the Muslim-dominated locality and killed 97 people. They looted and torched Muslim homes, and gangraped women. The allegation that the Gujarat Police had connived with the mob was upheld by the court when it convicted Kodnani, who was the BJP MLA from Naroda constituency at the time of the incident and went on to become a minister in the Modi government from 2007 to 2009. A total of 32 people were convicted in the Naroda Patiya case.

The Gulbarg Society massacre also took place on 28 February. VHP and Bajrang Dal activists attacked the housing society where former Lok Sabha MP Ehsan Jafri lived. The 72-year-old Congress leader was killed along with 34 others. Many people went missing. It was later concluded that altogether about 70 people had been killed in the attack.

In 2007, Tehelka did a sting operation in which 14 VHP or Bajrang Dal activists — including Madan Chawal and Haresh Bhatt, who was the national coordinator of the Bajrang Dal in 2002 and went on to become the BJP MLA from Godhra — were caught on camera admitting their role in the riots. The Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan after serious allegations were raised against the then Modi government. But in its final report, the SIT found nothing to suggest Modi’s involvement in abetting the violence. Human rights organisations, however, continue to cry foul about this report.



July 2012

• Cause: Tension between locals and perceived “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh has been a perennial problem in the state since the 1950s

• Status: Political pussyfooting and periodic flare-ups are endemic

What happened in July 2012 in Assam left the nation in a state of shock. It brought back the limelight on ethnic violence in Assam, which has so far claimed the lives of a huge number of people and displaced many more. The ethnic Bodo tribe has clashed with migrants, mainly Bangladeshi Muslims, several times since the 1950s.

The violence in Kokrajhar, a district in lower Assam bordering West Bengal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, could easily find a place among the 10 biggest communal clashes in independent India. On 20 July 2012, four Bodo youngsters were lynched in Kokrajhar, allegedly by the Muslim migrants, followed by the native Bodos encircling villages and torching Muslim houses. The incident had a domino effect across the state. The riots went on unabated for several days and eventually left more than 80 people dead and more than 50,000 displaced.

Even as the violence spread across more than 400 villages, a blame game ensued with the state government holding the Centre responsible for the failure to halt the violence and vice-versa. On 27 July, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi accused the then UPA government of delaying the deployment of the army in the riot-hit areas. The then prime minister Manmohan Singh visited riot-affected Kokrajhar the very next day and called the violence “a blot on the face of India”.

An indefinite curfew and shoot-at-sight orders had been enforced in Kokrajhar district since 26 July, along with a night curfew in Chirang and Dhubri districts. The prime minister ordered an inquiry committee to be set up to look into the violence, and directed the state government to provide security so that the affected people could return home.

According to media reports, the army was initially reluctant to deploy its troops and sought a clarification from the defence ministry as the situation “seemed to have communal overtones”. When the situation deteriorated rapidly and another request was made, the ministry authorised army deployment on 25 July 2012.

On 7 August 2012, the Centre ordered a CBI probe into the ethnic clashes in the state and on 19 September, the investigation agency made the first arrests — that of five young men who were accused of involvement in the alleged lynching of the Bodo youths on 20 July. However, nothing substantial came out from the CBI enquiry and the state continues to witness ethnic clashes from time to time.



August – September 2013

• Cause: A seemingly minor incident flared up into a massive denouement

• Status: The saffron brigade used the riots to manipulate and polarise even as the Samajwadi Party government hemmed and hawed

The Muzaffarnagar riots can easily qualify as the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in recent history. This was the first time in the past two decades that the civil administration was forced to bring in the army to restore law and order. The last time the army had been deployed was to contain the riots that erupted in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition.

The 2013 riots in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts in western UP were the outcome of political one-upmanship between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party. Both the parties brazenly manipulated the people with an eye on the impending Assembly bypolls in the state.

The situation in the district started deteriorating since 27 August, when two young Jat men were beaten to death in Kawal village, following the killing of a Muslim youth. The clashes occurred over an alleged incident of eve-teasing.

The Jats organised a ‘panchayat’ in Jaansat town on 31 August and demanded action against those who killed the two young men from the community. They also asked for the removal of the superintendent of police of Shamli district for his allegedly partisan conduct and declared that a ‘mahapanchayat’ would be organised on 7 September in Nagla Mandaur if the demands were not met.

On 5 September, the BJP gave a call for ‘Muzaffarnagar bandh’. To pre-empt the ‘mahapanchayat’, the administration imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CRPC in the entire district and deployed the PAC and the Rapid Action Force.

As soon as reports of attacks on participants of the mahapanchayat started doing the rounds, the situation went out of control. The police had to beat a hasty retreat in many places as the well-armed rioters outnumbered them. The district administration immediately imposed curfew. At least 62 people, including 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus, were killed in the violence, 93 injured and more than 50,000 displaced from their homes and villages. The displaced people found shelter in ill-equipped relief camps, where some of the children died in the following winter due to the freezing cold.

The Supreme Court held the Samajwadi Party prima facie guilty of negligence in preventing the violence and ordered it to immediately arrest all the accused irrespective of their political affiliation.

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