New Delhi: The "communalism" of the "State machinery" allowed to escalate the communal violence in Dhule town of Maharashtra, alleged activists during a press conference here on Friday. The local police "systematically targeted Muslims" during the January 6 riots, in which six people were killed, they said.
A fact finding team comprising — rights activist Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD, Dr Ram Puniyani of All India Secular Forum, Professor Apoorva Anand of Delhi University, Advocate Nihalsing Rathod of Human Rights Law Network and several others — visited the town to investigate the violence, the third in the region since 2008.
According to the interim report of the fact-finding team, the police allowed a minor incident to escalate into a riot-like situation. “They intervened very late. And when they did, they targeted only Muslims,” said Shabnam Hashmi.
As per testimonies collected by the team, the incident was triggered after a Muslim auto driver was beaten by the owner of an eatery in Macchi Bazar. “When the driver went to the police station to file a complaint, the officials were hostile and did not register his complaint, following which a mob gathered and people started pelting stones,” said Hashmi. “It was not a Hindu-Muslim issue, but the police only let the violence escalate,” she said.
The activists alleged connivance by the State machinery in the escalation of violence. “Why did it take the Chief Minister and the Home Minister nine days to visit the victims and order a judicial inquiry? There is a great sense of alienation and frustration among the Muslim community due to the callous response of the State,” Prof Apoorvanand said.
He said that the locals were afraid to even file a case. In the rare event of some victims gathering the courage to act, they were told by the police that a case had already been registered naming them as the accused and they could not, therefore, file a case.
He said fear within the community was so palpable that the victims refused to go to the civil hospital because riot victims in 2008 were allegedly beaten and driven away by some members of the majority community.
“The Dhule incident mirrors our society. If it is not taken seriously, the country will face a very severe struggle,” said Apoorvanand.
Speaking on this occasion, Dr Ram Puniyani said, “The incident shows the communalisation of the State machinery. The police launched an inhuman, one-sided attack on the members of the minority community.”
H said, "A total of 151 police personnel were taken to the hospital on January 6 of which 133 were discharged immediately, and all cases were described as minor."
“When we checked the medical records of the victims, we noticed that the bullet injuries were above the waist in 90 percent of the cases. The police did not aim to disperse the crowd. It was targeted killing," said Dr Puniyani.
“It is time to put the police in the psychiatric couch to understand what makes them brutally attack the minorities,” said film director Mahesh Bhatt. “The mindset of the entire police force is contaminated and reflects a fascist attitude,” he said.