Truth and honesty aren’t the qualities most appreciated in an age of cowering hypocrisy. Hence, when truth stares us in the face, we tend to think of it as unusual or very bold, when it’s just about articulating simple facts. Precisely why, Bareilly district magistrate Raghvendra Vikkram Singh's stinging (and now deleted) Facebook post on the hypocrisy of the right wing over Kasganj violence, is something that has hit the ruling elite like a bolt from the blue.
Although now deleted, the post has been much reported on, becoming the big story of the day. The IAS officer and Uttar Pradesh bureaucrat has said it’s now a trend to “enter Muslim-majority areas by force” and “shout anti-Pakistan slogans to create ruckus”, as if the Muslims aren’t Indian, but Pakistanis.
Singh was responding to the communal violence in Kasganj, UP, where a Hindu man was killed and a Muslim man was injured after clashes broke out when men were stopped from hoisting the national flag on Republic Day. Rumour-mongering was done in plenty, to the effect that the entire episode was pegged on the fake news of Muslims resorting to violence. The entire cycle of provocation, the chanting of rabidly Islamophobic slogans, the daring to hoist the saffron flag, and the insults led to clashes in which shots were fired from both sides. This in turn resulted in shops and vehicles being torched, and internet services snapped in the district over fears of more communal polarisation.
Kudos to this young DM of Bareilly for standing up to the communal poison & violence being spread by saffron thugs & calling a spade a spade. We need such officers to uphold the rule of law & the Constitution pic.twitter.com/3Z7sVWRskm— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) January 30, 2018
"A very strange trend has started of late. Take out processions by force through Muslim-dominated localities and raise anti-Pakistan slogans. Why? Are these people Pakistani?" asks Bareilly District Magistrate. Because it pays to divide.https://t.co/awyxZ86jC9— Tony Joseph (@tjoseph0010) January 30, 2018
Yet, how do so many BJP-ruled state turn into a tinderbox ever so often? Whether it’s Karni Sena-ravaged Rajasthan, or the anti-Romeo squads and Hindu Yuva Vahini in Uttar Pradesh, it’s the violent mob running amok, with tacit state sanction. As the Bareilly district magistrate's post underlines, it’s the intentional engineering of communal ruckus that informs each and every one of these instances. Singh wrote on Sunday, January 28: “Ajab riwaz ban gaya hai. Muslim mohallo main julus le jao aur Pakistan murdabad ke nare lagao. Kyun bhai woh Pakistani hain kya? (A strange tradition has been formed. To visit Muslim areas and raise slogans against Pakistan. Why, are they (Muslims) Pakistanis)?”
While investigations revealed that Muslim youths of Baddu Nagar area in Kasganj were stopped from hoisting the national flag by a procession of the ABVP and the VHP men on a so-called “Tiranga Yatra”, and insulted after which clashes broke out, right wing social media was awash with fake news that one more Hindu youth was killed. That the youth himself alerted the police about the sinister rumour-mongering on social media on his death is a bitter irony of our times. The episode has led to over a hundred arrests, as law and order has taken a massive hit in Yogi Adityanath-run Uttar Pradesh.
The Bareilly district magistrate, who has been a commissioned officer in the Indian Army, told the Hindustan Times over phone: “It was a small incident, but see how big its implications were. The SP of Kasganj has been transferred and people are questioning the working of the district magistrate. These incidents affect the ongoing developmental work.” Singh had also written about an incident last year in Khelam area of Bareilly when a group of Kanwariyas or Shiva devotees took out a procession through Muslim-majority village and allegedly raised anti-Pakistan slogans.
That Singh has been forced to delete the post speaks volumes, at a time when the UP government has been in the news for mostly cows and cow-related violence on minorities, when not for infant deaths in Gorakhpur’s BRD hospital. In fact, in a new post, Singh has said that he’s sad that his hopes of a discussion have been dashed as law and order goes for a toss in the state.
In a new FB post Bareilly DM RV Singh says, "Muslims are our brothers, our blood. Our DNA is the same". Sad UP govt is reportedly taking action against an officer who was only trying to help maintain peace by exposing Hindutva goons' methods pic.twitter.com/phTgtCzGGF— Aditya Menon (@AdityaMenon22) January 30, 2018
Singh has written: “I had hoped there will be [an] academic discussion but unfortunately it had taken a different turn. Extremely sad.” He has reiterated that too many people have expressed their ire and disapproval over his post, which he posted to spark a debate. His message of inter-faith bond, saying Muslims and Hindus have the same DNA, as they are brothers, has been both hailed and hated on social media once again.
To the extent that news of Yogi Adityanath-led UP government mulling action against the Bareilly district magistrate has also surfaced, not only threatening his freedom of speech, but also disincentivising speaking truth in an era of rampant lies and hate-mongering. While each and every claim made by Singh is a verified fact, this reaction of UP government is all but expected. Not is the move to chastise Singh for his simple and honest post a case of classic overreach, it’s about reining in bureaucracy and turning it into a sorry battery of yes-men, by targeting those who speak up and take a principled position.
That a message of inter-faith brotherhood and harmony, of exposing the miscreants who regularly incite violence in minority-dominated areas, further instilling fear and ghettoising them in neglected clusters, has been targeted by the right wing is a sorry sign of the times.