Communal Attacks on Muslims of Pune: A Fact Finding Report

June 24th, 2014  |  Published in प्रेस विज्ञप्ति/Press Release, हिंदुत्‍ववादी आतंकवाद/Hindutva Terrorism

Pune: This fact finding exercise was coordinated by National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO). Human right activists from different regions of India participated in this inquiry. They are,

1. Reny Ayline, National Secretary, NCHRO, New Delhi
2. Prof A.Marx, Peoples Union for Human Rights, Chennai
3. Prof. G.K. Ramasamy, Peoples Democratic Forum, Bangalore
4. Adv. Y.K. Shabana, Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights,Mumbai,
5. Adv. Babita Kesharwani, Mumbai
6. Sudhir Dhawale, Editor ‘Vidrohi’, Mumbai,
7. Rupali Jadhav, Kabir Kala Manch, Pune.

This team is in Pune for the past three days visiting different places in and around Pune where Muslims and their properties were attacked from May 31 onwards.The team visited Hadapsar where the muslim techie Sheik Mohsin was beaten to death and places such as Handewadi, Syed Nagar, Kale Padel, Loni, Uruli Devaichi, Landewadi, Bosery where people were beaten, bakeries, shops, hotels,houses and places of worship that belonged to Muslims were ransacked. We met the victims and their near and dear, owners of the lost properties, injured persons and religious leaders and recorded their statements.

We  also met the district collector of Pune Mr.Saurav Rai, deputy collector Mr.Suresh D Jadhav, Hadapsar police senior inspector Mr. B.K.Bandharkar and crime branch senior inspector Mr. Gopinath Patil who is investigating the June 2 incidents. We discussed with the officers in detail about the attacks, action taken and the general situation today in this area.

The Incidents

It all started in the last week of May when some fringe Hindu outfits, mainly one Hindu Rahtra Sena (HRS) led by a maverick by name Dhananjay Desai protested with road rokos and demonstrations against a derogatory face book posting mollifying  the iconic king Shivaji and the Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray with morphed photographs. The agitation turned violent from May 31.  The protestors, who were initially only targeting government properties such as buses, later started pelting stones, looting and burning shops and  religious places of the minority community in and  around  Pune city. The collector said that more than 250 government buses were damaged.

On 31 May in Handewadi two madarasas and two masjids were attacked. When the attack took place there were children working on their lessons inside the buildings. A masjid under construction by one Salim Memon was badly damaged. The Majid e Chudeja was partly burnt and the Imam was left with a head injury. The manager of the Memon masjid Mr. Mohammed Aziz Sheik said that the attackers, all youths came in two wheelers shouting “Jai Bhavani” and “Jai Maharashtra” with deadly weapons in their hands such as cricket bats, iron bars and talwars. Between 9 and 10 pm three such attacks took place at half an hour intervals. In the last phase about 50 to 70 armed goons participated in the attack. Though the manager called the police  and cried for help, they came only at about 12 pm after the attackers left safely.

More or less at the same time about 35 armed activists of the Hindutva outfit came by motor cycles shouting in the same manner attacked Rose bakery, Bangalore bakery and Maharashtra bakery in Loni. All of these belongs to Muslims. Glass doors, fridges and glass show cases were damaged. The owner of Rose bakery one Shaban Sulaiman Shaik said that Rs 35,000 cash was also looted from his shop. A nearby mosque known as Alamgir masjid was also stoned.

Fact Finding Team

Fact Finding Team

At the same time in Landewadi Bosseri the Madina masjid and a nearby Muslim kabarsthan (graveyard) were attacked. The masjid was not only attacked but also burnt using petrol which they brought with them. About 35 children in the age group of 12 to 17 were in the upstairs of the masjid at that time. They actually jumped out to the next building and escaped. The Imam of the masjid one Mohammed Alam had broken his leg when he tried to jump out. He is still under treatment. Four two heelers which stood before the masjid were also burnt. Even the dead were not shown mercy. The graves and a small worshiping shed in the grave yard were ransacked. In Noor Mohalla at Bosery about 40 houses were stoned from outside. Glass windows and doors were damaged. About 25 bikes were attacked and broken to pieces.

All these attacks were in the same pattern. In all the instances the police came only after the attack was over. When the Landewadi masjid was burnt the fire service came to the place only after two hours when everything is burnt already.  The fire station is situated just below the masjid.

Even after such series attacks were made against Muslims of the area neither the district administration nor the police took serious note of it. The deputy collector said that they promulgated some prohibitary order. But they had not cared to deploy more special forces in places where Muslims are living in large numbers.

This led to massive attacks on June 2.  In Kale Padel, Syed Nagar, Hadapsar main market a number of bakeries, shops and hotels were ransacked and burnt. Not only the showrooms, but also the baking machines, fridges, tempos, four wheelers and bicycles which were used to carry the products were attacked, broken to pieces and burnt.  Patel bakery, Welcome bakery, Paradise bakery, Hotel Sahara are some of the bakeries and shops that our team visited. The houses nearby Hotel Sahara inhabited by Dalit Buddhists were also attacked. One Neela Badukombe and anotherMaruthi Shinde Baba, all dalits said that they are living there for nearly 50 years and this is the first time they were attacked.

In Kasbapet a clash occurred between the Hindu extremists who came to attack a masjid and muslim youths who tried to prevent them. Four Hindu extremists were injured , two of them with severe injuries. In this connection six Muslim youths are arrested.

In the Hadapsar main market area the Nalband masjid was stoned. One fruit shop owned by Abdul Kabeer and a banana godown owned by Abdul Rafi Bagwan were burnt out. In Uruli Devaichi the Jama majid was attacked. A fridge and a water tank and some other things weres broken. No case was registered yet.All these attacks took place between 9 and 11 pm. Slogan shouting armed goons who came in two wheelers did all these things.

It was at this time the worst thing happened.  At about 9 pm Mohsin Shaik (28), a pious young muslim techie from Solapur working as a manager in a  textile firm in the nearby area left the Shine Anjuman masjid in Unnati nagar after saying his night prayer. His friend Riyaz Ahmed Mubarak Shendru was on the pillion. When they crossed few hundred meters from the mosque a gang of 30 to 40 armed goons came in the bikes shouting slogans. Seeing them Mohsin stopped his bike and moved aside. The armed gang seeing these young man sporting a bird and wearing a skull cap began to attack with hockey sticks, wooden stumps, iron bars and bats. Mohsin’s friend managed to escape with injuries. But Mohsin, the only bread winner of his middle class family succumbed to death after he was brought to a hospital.

At the end of the street two other Muslim youths Izaz Yusuf Bagwan and Ameer Shaik were witnessing the attack on Mohsin with fear and awe in their eyes. The gang then targeted these men who ran away and escaped with injuries and fractures on their bodies. Out of fear Izaz immediately ran to his native village. Our team met Ameer Shaik who gave a graphical picture of what happened on the other day. Ameer’s hand is broken. He is married and blessed with two children. He is a scrap merchant. But after this incident nobody is ready to trade with him. His future is bleak.

A compensation amount of Rs 5, 00,000 is given to Mohsin’s family by the state govt. The collector told us that a central govt relief of Rs 3 lakhs and another 5 lakh rupees from the state riot relief fund will be paid in due course. But no compensation is paid till today to the injured persons and to those who lost their properties in the attack. The sub collector said that only if a proposal for compensation is sent from the commissioner of police it will be considered.  But no such effort is made in this direction by the police department. Regarding the injured, the sub collector told that any amount of compensation will be paid only to those who were in the hospital for more than a week. But out of the seven people injured only one was in the hospital for more than a week. Others, out of fear left the hospital within a few days.

There are about 20 FIR s are filed in Hadapsar, Boseri, Munuva, Loni and Vagoli police stations. The investigating officer said that 23 persons were arrested for June 2 incidents. In total about  200 people were arrested .When we asked him whether all those arrested are members of HRS, he replied that it could not be said  because that fringe outfit never keeps any documents regarding its membership. When we asked whether the govt has any proposal to ban HRS the collector replied that only if a proposal comes from the commissioner of police the govt would consider it.

The maverick leader of HRS Dhananjay Desai is now behind the bars. He is now investigated from the conspiracy angle in the riots and the attack on Mohsin.

The HRS first came into focus when it carried an attack on the office of a Marathi television channel in 2007 protesting their coverage of an incident involving a Hindu minor girl who had eloped with a Muslim boy. Then they protested against the arrest of army officials who were involved in Malegaon blasts and other such terrorist activities.

Desai has 22 cases registered against him in Mumbai and Pune. While three of the cases are related to dacoity and possession of arms, nearly all the rest pertain to hate speeches made by him.

It is said that the HRS chief Dhananjay Desai has a following of nearly 4,000 youths across Pune district. They are well organised and ideologically motivated. Most of these youths are from poor families and are unemployed. To tend to his supporters, many of whom are from economically weaker backgrounds, Desai brokers settlements in disputes mainly related to land and other properties. The HRS is very active in Hadapsar and Landewadi area. Six months back they conducted public meetings in Landewadi in which hate speeches were freely spoken against Muslims.

Our team found that in total 40 houses and 20 masjids were attacked.  Out of these twenty-five masjids were burnt.  In total 35 two wheelers and five tempos were destroyed.  29 bicycles were burnt. 10 thelas were also broken to pieces.  Seven people are injured and one person killed. We estimate that the total losses suffered by Muslims amount to 4.5 crores.

Observations

 1. Maharashtra is in a sense the headquarters of the Hindutva  exiremist thoughts from the days of Savarkar. In the recent times the Malegoan and Nandid bomb blasts, the involvement  of the army people in Hindutva terrorism  and the mystery surrounding the killing of the honest police officer Karkare who investigated the Hindutva terrorist activities  in Maharashtra are some of the facts we have to bear in mind. We understand that some peace loving people and organisations have attracted the attention of the Maharashtra govt regarding the underground activities of the terrorist organisations based on Hindutva logic. But the Maharashtra govt had not taken such concerns and complaints seriously. In fact we understand that both the revenue and police officials are more sympathetic towards rightwing Hindutva forces and their ideologies. But we feel that if such attitude continues more such attacks on minority communities will take place in the near future.

2. Historically Pune was the epicentre of the marata rule.  12 % of the population are Muslims. For the past 15 years right wing forces are very active in this area. Hate crime and religious fanaticism are on the rise; On 5 January 2004 a group calling itself the Sambhaji Brigade attacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune. The attack was the preliminary culmination in a series of increasingly disturbing and destructive events that were triggered by the publication of James W. Laine’s Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India. Since the author had thanked the library as well as some of the scholars working there the right wing extremists took such an extreme step. On January 13, 2010, RTI activist Satish Shetty was assassinated in Talegaon, about 40 km away from Pune. In the same year, out of nine social activists killed all over India, five were murdered in the areas neighbouring Pune. On July 8, 2013 one Prakash Gondhale, a social activist and a strong opponent of Hindutva hate politics was murdered. HRS members were arrested for his murder. In 2013 August 20, the well-known atheist Dr Narendra Dabolkar was shot dead by some men on motor bikes. Nobody was arrested till today.  When everybody is pointing the Hindutva outfits for the ghastly murder, the Mharashtra govt has given clean chit to the Hindutva movements in the court. Then who are the culprits? The govt has no answer for it.

3. Though Hindutva terrorist organisations are very active in Maharashtra the state govt has not taken enough attention of it. Most of the govt officials and police personnel and the vernacular media are sympathetic towards them. Though the officials as well as the home minister expressed that there is a proposal to ban HRS immediately after Mohsin’s murder, now they are retracting from it. We are also of the opinion that banning organisations are not the solution. Instead the govt should be very firm against hate speeches against certain section of the people. Having an organisation in the name of “Hindu National Army” (English translation of HRS) is against the fundamental tenets of our constitution.

4. The attacks against muslims of Pune by HRS and other such Hindutva minded people are well planned. Though Mohsin was killed randomly for sporting a beard and wearing a skull cap, there is a well-planned conspiracy behind his killing and the attacks on muslims. Both on May 31 and June 2 at the same time, that is, between 9 and 11 pm so many places were attacked which are separated by large distances. The same group could not have done all these things. Clearly some high command had assigned duties to different groups to target different places. So this is a well-planned attack. There is a conspiracy behind it.

5. Though Mohsin’s murder was the worst part of the violence, the state govt as well as the media focuses only on this. But behind this so many planned attacks against the muslim places of worship and on their economic activities. This is a very serious matter of concern.

6. Muslim public, religious leaders and political representatives expressed their concern about the time and background in which these attacks happened. A change of government has taken place. An extreme right wing leader who boasts himself as a “Hindu Nationalist” have took the reign of the country. In such a background the attacks have happened. Nobody in the central govt has condemned it. The BJP Member of Parliament from Pune, Anil Shirole, spoke of how “some amount of repercussions” after the posts on social media was “natural”. Instead of distancing the party and the government from such attacks, Mr. Shirole seems to have done just the opposite. The Jamat e Islami leader Prof Asar Ali Warsi was very much concerned about such statements. We are much worried about such a fear developing among the largest minority in India.

7. Spreading of rumours and false propaganda played an important role in the escalation of violence.  We should not forget that such circulation of some fake vedio clippings triggered violence against Muslims in Mussafarnagar. Recently, the cyber cell of the Mumbai police identified 650 such hate pages/websites.

8. We want to mention here that not all Hindus are cultivating hate against the minorities. But the Hindutva outfits are spreading hate among the Hindus to polarise the majority against a particular minority. The Hindus of Bhima Kortgaon village actually resisted the attempt of HRS when they tried to attack a mosque there. This culture of communal harmony should be nurtured and developed.  Writers, thinkers and politicians with secular views should work in this direction.

Demands

1. A central special investigation team (SIT) should be formed to investigate the atrocities on Muslims of Pune in June 2014. Reputed officers should be included in the team.

2. A fast tract court should be formed and a special public prosecutor should be appointed in consultation with the victims to try the cases.

3. At least Rs 25 lakhs should be paid as compensation to the family of Mohsin.

4. A committee should be formed under the district collector which should study the actual damages incurred by the minorities and they should be compensated accordingly.

5. We are worried about the fact that the govt officials are oriented against the minority communities. Sensitisation programmes for the police as well as revenue officials are to be conducted on issues related to minorities. In places where Muslims are largely populated   muslim officers and police personal should be sufficiently deployed.

6. The communal violence bill should be made as an act as early as possible.

7. The police and other officials who didn’t take action against the culprits should be found out and necessary action should be taken against them. Action should be taken against the Vandewadi fire service personnel for wilful negligence of duty.

8. The cyber cell should expedite investigation and arrest those responsible for the mischievous posts in the social media.

Issued on 20th June 2014 by NCHRO

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