Kasganj violence: Who killed Chandan Gupta?
It's clear that a bit of alacrity would have averted the situation and perhaps saved the life of a young man.
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A small town like Kasganj in western Uttar Pradesh - which has been a symbol of peace and unity so far - may have never thought it was actually sitting on a communal tinderbox.
The town, with a population of not more than two lakh, has been a witness to violent clashes on Republic Day which led to the killing of one person. The body of 22-year-old Chandan Gupta, who was participating in a "Tiranga Yatra" on the Republic day in Kasganj, was draped in the same national flag a few hours later following the violence that has left the town scarred.
Following the mindless violence, more than 100 people have been arrested so far. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday (January 30) clearly said there was "no space for any lawlessness" and troublemakers would be punished.
While the administration and police were caught napping, rumours and disingenuous reportage by certain sections of the media has added fuel to the flames.
According to several first-hand accounts, the bikers in "Tiranga Yatra" shouted slogans of "Hindustan mein rehna hain, toh Vande Mataram kehna hoga", and that this was objected to in the Muslim-dominated area.
However, it's also true that the same Muslim-dominated area - Abdul Hamid Chowk - was hosting the Indian flag where the "Tiranga Yatra" bikers reached there. Other first-hand accounts suggest that the bikers carrying the tiranga along with saffron flags were chanting slogans and wanted to pass through the chowk even as people were celebrating Republic Day. Just as residents were about to unfurl the national flag, the bikers reportedly insisted that the chairs be removed to make way for their bikes.
None of the first-hand accounts, however, suggested that any pro-Pakistan slogans were heard when the violence broke out.
Soon, heated arguments ensued that gradually turned into physical violence following which the youngsters left their bikes and fled the scene. A few minutes later, a scuffle broke out at Soot Mandi, 300 metres from Abdul Hamid Chowk, another Mulsim-dominated area. The scuffle ended up in a firing incident which led to the death of Chandan Gupta. The district magistrate of Kasganj has said on record that prima facie it seems the young boys came to Soot Mandi with the intention to avenge the quarrel that took place at Abdul Hamid Chowk.
Going by all these eyewitness accounts, the Kasganj violence seems more of a clash between a few members of two communities than communal violence. The town is limping to normalcy even as heavy security forces are standing guard the small town, which until now was known as the birthplace of poet Amir Khusrau.
Many residents told me that they have never witnessed such tension. The situation was not so bad even in 1992 following the Babri Masjid demolition. Sadly, social media posts have fanned the fire. There have been numerous posts by both verified and unverified Twitter accounts indulging in hate-mongering. As the police are hunting down for culprits across the town, residents are recoiling in fear of persecution.
While out on the streets in Kasganj, I saw a woman chiding her two children to get inside the house. When I asked her the reason behind her agitated state, she told me she is just trying to keep her children safe.
As the residents continue to reel in fear, the situation begs the question - what were the police and administration doing while the group of bikers took out the "Tiranga Yatra"? Of course, there is no need to take any kind of permission to celebrate Republic Day, but a procession through a public area (especially sensitive areas) requires the administration's permission.
It's clear that a bit of alacrity would have averted the violence and perhaps saved the life of a young man.