Recent violence in the state is part of the larger politics of communal hatred, says Jamaat Islami’s Salim Engineer
Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI —The recent anti-Muslim violence in Tripura is part of the larger politics of communal hatred that is in vogue across the country right now, said Mohammad Salim Engineer, vice president, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, who was part of a joint delegation of Muslim organisations that undertook a three-day visit to the riot-hit state.
“The locals told us that since the present BJP government assumed power in the state, the Hindutva groups have been working hard on the agenda of spreading hatred among communities,” said Salim, adding that the party could use this violence to its advantage in the upcoming local body election in Tripura and even for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections.
Tripura witnessed a series of ant-Muslim violence by Hindu nationalists for more than a week in late October, attacking mosques and Muslim properties. The attacks were done in apparent retaliation to the violence in Bangladesh where Hindu temples and shrines were targeted by Muslims following allegations of desecration of the Holy Quran on October 13.
Salim rued the fact that despite repeated appeals to Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb for a meeting, it did not materialise. “We called CM’s office multiple times but he kept dodging us with the excuse of a busy schedule”.
The DGP also did not give them time for a meeting, according to Salim.
The Tripura Police has been constantly issuing statements claiming “normalcy” to underplay the violence saying that attacks on mosques and Muslim properties are being exgaggerated.
“The violence continued for a week and yet the administration and police kept saying everything is normal and that people are spreading rumours,” said Salim.
Amidst the scant media coverage and police denials, a number of delegations of activists travelled to Tripura to find out the facts on the ground. This included a five-member team of Muslim organisations that included All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Jamaat-e- Islami Hind, Jamiat Ahl e Hadees and All India Milli Council.
Journalist Shams Tabraiz Qasmi of Millat Times who was also part of the delegation has produced a series of video dispatches highlighting the testimonies of victims which contradict the claims of the police and government.
The work of activists and independent journalists has pricked the official narrative as the police have responded with threats and cases against journalists and activists while maintaining a soft hand approach on rioters.
On Wednesday, the police filed a case under the UAPA, an anti-terror law, against a team of lawyers who put out a fact finding report that dispelled police claims. Two lawyers Mukesh Kumar and Ansar Indori have been summoned to appear before sub-inspector at West Agartala police station on November 10.
Two journalists who visited the state alleged that they faced harassment and questioning from police for doing ground reporting. Masi uz Zaman Ansari, a reporter with India Tomorrow news portal was detained on Wednesday morning when he was on way to board a train to Panisagar. The police questioned him for hours before he was let go.
Similarly, Mahmodul Hassan of News9 was subjected to scrutiny by a police officer who asked him what angles he would cover in his stories. “Questioning an on duty journalist in this way tells a lot about the apathy of media freedom,” Hassan said.
Salim lamented the role of police who he said need to be held accountable for failing to protect Muslim properties.
He said that the worst violence took place in the Panisagar area of North Tripura district on October 26 when a rally organised by VHP attacked two mosques. “They vandalized and looted 11 shops and completely burnt down four more,” he said.
“The police were accompanying the rally in Panisagar and yet they did not even try to stop the rioters from violence. It seems the Police gave them a freehand to do it and that is a deeply worrying thing,” he said.
According to Salim, the delegation spent three days in Tripura and visited four districts which had witnessed violence between October 19 and October 26. “Mosques were specifically targeted,” he said. “Four mosques were totally destroyed in arson. Around 10 mosques were vandalized; We found broken window panes, CCTVs damaged, broken fans and bulbs.”
A few cases into some incidents have been filed, Salim said, but there are many more incidents that need to be booked and investigated. Secondly, he said, the compensation given to some of the victims was meagre compared to the scale of loss.
He also expressed worry over lack of action by the government against growing hatred in the state which he said is “dangerous”, though he asserted that they found the common Hindus did not support the elements and groups who spread hatred and commit violence. “Their relations with Muslims are good. They assured us not to worry and that they will help rebuild properties.”
He said that life has started to return to normalcy but the victims were afraid to reveal the names of those who committed violence for fear of reprisal.
He, however, questioned the lack of proactive role of opposition parties in the state in preventing the violence. “We believe they should have come forward from the beginning but they did not make any serious efforts. They were late in their response.”