New Delhi— The Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), is a non-governmental civil rights organization working for the marginalized sections of society. It has recently released a fact-finding report on the communal violence that took place in two districts of Bihar i.e., Bihar Sharif and Sasaram during the Ram Navami processions last month.
The APCR fact-finding team consisted of Advocate Mohammad Mobashshir Aneeq, Saiful Islam, Nasiquz Zaman, Sr. Journalist Prashant Tandon-, Social Activist Gulrez Anjum, Mohammad Zahid, and Akbar. The team visited the affected areas of Bihar Sharif and Sasaram on 12 and 13 April respectively to understand and document the testimonies of the victims who lost their property, sustained severe injuries, and suffered economic losses.
Bihar has a history of a communal conundrum. It has witnessed several religious tensions in the past. But there was something new this year - a procession to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Rama turned into a crowd with violent aggression which eventually resulted in communal conflagrations in the two districts of Bihar.
According to report, The Shobha Yatra procession on April 30, passed off without any serious violence. However, the situation turned sinister on April 31, when the unruly mob turned violent and entered Muslim dominant area during Friday prayers. They targeted Muslim-owned properties and business centers including City Palace (Kantapar), Shahi Masjid, Hotel Asia (Murarpur), and Digital Duniya (Nala Road). The violence escalated when the mob set fire to the 100-year-old Azizia Madrasa and Library destroying 4,500 books.
In Bihar Sharif alone, it is estimated that 60,000 people took part in the Shobha Yatra despite permission only for 5000. Eyewitnesses have also alleged that CCTV cameras near the Gagan Diwan Petrol Pump were removed days before the violence. This was in the main route from where the procession was to be passed.
In the aftermath of the violence, the police registered 20 FIRs and arrested around 200 people who were part of the WhatsApp group (457 people) that had delivered hate speech during the Ram Navami Processions.
The APCR fact-finding team revealed the complete failure of the state that despite a peace meeting a few days before Ram Navami, the administration failed to follow agreed instructions.
Based on its finding the team said, “Religious festivals nowadays have been completely taken over by RSS-BJP activists, Bajrang Dal, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) for communal polarization. People in these processions can be seen brandishing swords and other weapons, holding saffron flags, and playing highly provocative Islamophobic songs.”
The fact-finding team met the District Magistrate of Nalanda, Shashank Shubhankar, and asked about all such allegations, the DM accepted the deployment was not enough to control such a heavy crowd. "Whatever the police force the district had, we made the best use of it. And therefore, we could save lives.
The APCR Fact-Finding Report on Bihar Ram Navami Violence was issued in a Press Conference at the Press Club of India, Delhi on 20th April. The speakers included Senior Journalist Urmilesh, Prashant Tandon, Journalist Bhasha Singh, Social Activist John Dayal, Advocate Mobashshir Aneeq, Professor Apoorvanand, and Sanjay Hegde, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court. They raised concerns over serious lapses in administrative management.
According to the research and findings, the violence seemed pre-planned and concurrent. The lack of ground implementation of the Peace Committee's directions and irresponsibleness caused significant damage. The silence of local politicians, lack of administration efforts, and political polarization contribute to the problem.
All the speakers unanimously expressed concern over the premeditated violence during Ram Navami in Bihar, the lack of implementation of directives, the issue of Islamophobia, and the need for fact-finding and political action to address the violence and promote secularism.
Further, the APCR team recommended a thorough investigation into the incident by the authorities to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future. They asked for the accountability of the Public officials and elected representatives, who participated, instigate, and encouraged the riots to be fixed and should be given exemplary punishment as per the rule of law and urged the State Government to compensate the victims of the violence for the loss suffered.
It also calls for the importance of promoting interfaith harmony, providing rehabilitation and support to victims, strengthening the education system, and building community resilience. By implementing these recommendations, we can prevent the recurrence of such incidents and promote a society that is inclusive, just, and peaceful for all.
The APRC team concluded that the Ram Navami violence in Bihar Sharif and Sasaram will go down in history as a dark chapter in the city’s past and reflect the state's total failure of administrative duties and lack of preparedness. From a wider perspective, it has ruined the social fabric of India by depicting Hindutva supremacy.
“The incident has left a scar on the hearts of the people, and it will take a long time for the wounds to heal. It is a reminder that communal harmony is fragile and must be nurtured with care. It is the responsibility of every citizen to uphold the values of peace and harmony and work towards a better tomorrow.” The fact-finding team said.
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