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Role of RSS & police in communal riots, Aligarh: Parliamentary debates

In the debate held in Lok Sabha in December 1978, former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, leader of the opposition Y.B. Chavan, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, and many other veteran parliamentarians participated. The PM, Morarji Desai conceded on the floor of the house that U.P. PAC committed excesses against Muslims during 1978 communal riots in Aligarh.

Qurban Ali 15 Jul 2021

Communal RiotsImage Courtesy:aisa.in

Communal riots in India are not a new thing. In the last sixty years of independent India, riots have taken place intermittently almost every year in some part of the country or the other. The first major communal riots broke out in independent India in 1961 in Jabalpur (M.P.), during the prime ministership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Then there was the horrendous communal riots in Ahmedabad, in 1969 where more than 600, followed by major riots in Aligarh in 1978, Jamshedpur in April 1979, Moradabad in 1980, Meerut in 1982 and 1987 and Bhagalpur in 1989 respectively.

It is interesting to note that in most of the communal riots, right-wing Hindutva organisations like the RSS, Jana Sangh and its fraternal organisations like VHP, Bajrang Dal etc., were involved and their role was mentioned by various judicial and non-judicial commissions established by the state and central governments to probe these riots.

What was more disturbing was the communal role of the police and paramilitary forces like the Provincial Armed Constabulary (P.A.C.) in U.P. and Bihar Military Police (B.M.P) in Bihar. During the Janata Party rule (1977-79) at the Centre as well as in states like U.P. and Bihar, when RSS members were part of the government and were holding important portfolios, their role was criticised in Parliament bitterly.

There were some very interesting debates over communalism and communal riots in India in both houses of Parliament, i.e., Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, from November 1978 to July 1979. The first debate over the situation arising out of communal riots in different parts of the country, particularly in Aligarh, took place in the Rajya Sabha on 20th and 21st November 1978, in the Lok Sabha on 4th and 5th December 1978, and again in Rajya Sabha on 11th July 1979, in which the roles of RSS and PAC in U.P. and of the Bihar Military Police in Bihar were discussed at length. 

In the debate held in Lok Sabha in December 1978, former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, leader of the opposition Y.B. Chavan, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, and many other veteran parliamentarians participated. Prime Minister Desai conceded on the floor of the house that U.P. PAC committed excesses against Muslims during 1978 communal riots in Aligarh.

It is also interesting to note that the 1969 Ahmedabad riots between Hindus and Muslims that occurred near Jagannath Temple in September and later spread to 25 other localities were masterminded by Hindutva forces. According to the findings of an inquiry by the Commission of Justice P. Jaganmohan Reddy, "It is alleged that handbills calling for a religious war were distributed to the rioters by the Jan Sangh and the RSS." The havoc was caused by rumours, patrikas, writings on blackboards and provocative newspaper reports.

The inquiry commission recommended that the special branch of the Gujarat police needed to be reorganised. It is said that even the ruling Congress party was not far behind in spreading communal feelings. Most Congressmen participated directly or indirectly in the riots and called the Muslims anti-national. The Hindu Dharma Rakshak Samiti was formed at this time. Its members were largely middle-class Hindus. Ahmedabad’s textile industry, which provided large-scale employment opportunities for Hindus and Muslims, was facing a crisis, and there was a strong rivalry between the Hindu and Muslim workers in this industry. The relief work that followed the riots was not efficient and the general attitude towards the riot victims was unsympathetic.

Communal riots in Aligarh have been a routine affair since 1962. During October 1978, communal disturbances in Aligarh resulted in more than 30 people being killed, most of whom were Muslims. According to a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) report: "These riots were caused by a series of tension-ridden events which were allowed to develop from June 1978, both by the local Janata Party leaders (mostly of RSS-Jan Sangh background) and the city administration. It reached the tragic climax on October 5, 1978, when Hindu communalists ran berserk against poor Muslims. The Provincial Armed Constabulary of Uttar Pradesh echoed the same Hindu communal sentiments by shooting down and killing innocent and unarmed Muslims.”

The enquiry team of PUCL put the blame squarely on the RSS-Jan Sangh and more significantly, on the “differences and jockeying for power among local politicians”. The report of the enquiry team underlined a malignant trend. Even in law-enforcing agencies like the PAC, political pressure played a powerful role. The team discovered that political pressure on the district magistrate of Aligarh was sufficient to neutralise his efforts to be firm with those bent on disturbing communal harmony. The PAC, the study reported, "betrayed an unmistakably Hindu communal bias by shooting innocent Muslims".

Even when judicial inquiries were ordered, the results were so inconclusive that any attempt to find the guilty elements was negated. The Mathur Commission, for instance, took three years to write its report on the causes and consequences of the 1971 Aligarh riots.

After the October 1978 communal incidents in Aligarh, a four-member National Minority Commission submitted a 20-page report to the then Home Minister, Charan Singh. The report recommended the immediate withdrawal of the PAC from Aligarh, suggested a complete overhaul of the force, and advocated the induction of persons from the minority community into it. The then Petroleum Minister, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna followed this up with a plea for a special task force comprising of Muslims and Harijans to deal with violent agitations with communal overtones.

During a Ram Navami procession in April 1979, major communal riots broke out in Jamshedpur, Bihar, killing more than 120 people, more than half of them Muslims. The local MLA (Dinanath Pandey from erstwhile Jansangh-RSS background) played an active role in provoking the riots. The Inquiry Commission headed by Justice Jitendra Narain concluded that the RSS, with its extensive organisation in Jamshedpur and close links with the Janata Party and the BMS, had a hand in creating a climate propitious for the outbreak of these disturbances. It further said that not a single Hindu was killed by the Bihar Military Police (BMP) in 22 hours of firing resorted to for quelling the riots. The then Minorities Chairman, Justice M.R.A. Ansari, an outspoken former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, alleged the involvement of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in these riots, which he said were pre-planned.

In this background, the debate over communal riots in both houses of Parliament was very revealing and eye-opening. Many important and veteran parliamentarians from both the ruling as well as opposition parties participated in it.

For detailed excerpts from the debates in both Houses of Parliament click here.

Related:

‘No riot can last for more than 24 hours unless the state wants it to continue’
Student has to have his hand amputated following police action: AMU

 

Role of RSS & police in communal riots, Aligarh: Parliamentary debates

In the debate held in Lok Sabha in December 1978, former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, leader of the opposition Y.B. Chavan, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, and many other veteran parliamentarians participated. The PM, Morarji Desai conceded on the floor of the house that U.P. PAC committed excesses against Muslims during 1978 communal riots in Aligarh.

Communal RiotsImage Courtesy:aisa.in

Communal riots in India are not a new thing. In the last sixty years of independent India, riots have taken place intermittently almost every year in some part of the country or the other. The first major communal riots broke out in independent India in 1961 in Jabalpur (M.P.), during the prime ministership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Then there was the horrendous communal riots in Ahmedabad, in 1969 where more than 600, followed by major riots in Aligarh in 1978, Jamshedpur in April 1979, Moradabad in 1980, Meerut in 1982 and 1987 and Bhagalpur in 1989 respectively.

It is interesting to note that in most of the communal riots, right-wing Hindutva organisations like the RSS, Jana Sangh and its fraternal organisations like VHP, Bajrang Dal etc., were involved and their role was mentioned by various judicial and non-judicial commissions established by the state and central governments to probe these riots.

What was more disturbing was the communal role of the police and paramilitary forces like the Provincial Armed Constabulary (P.A.C.) in U.P. and Bihar Military Police (B.M.P) in Bihar. During the Janata Party rule (1977-79) at the Centre as well as in states like U.P. and Bihar, when RSS members were part of the government and were holding important portfolios, their role was criticised in Parliament bitterly.

There were some very interesting debates over communalism and communal riots in India in both houses of Parliament, i.e., Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, from November 1978 to July 1979. The first debate over the situation arising out of communal riots in different parts of the country, particularly in Aligarh, took place in the Rajya Sabha on 20th and 21st November 1978, in the Lok Sabha on 4th and 5th December 1978, and again in Rajya Sabha on 11th July 1979, in which the roles of RSS and PAC in U.P. and of the Bihar Military Police in Bihar were discussed at length. 

In the debate held in Lok Sabha in December 1978, former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, leader of the opposition Y.B. Chavan, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, and many other veteran parliamentarians participated. Prime Minister Desai conceded on the floor of the house that U.P. PAC committed excesses against Muslims during 1978 communal riots in Aligarh.

It is also interesting to note that the 1969 Ahmedabad riots between Hindus and Muslims that occurred near Jagannath Temple in September and later spread to 25 other localities were masterminded by Hindutva forces. According to the findings of an inquiry by the Commission of Justice P. Jaganmohan Reddy, "It is alleged that handbills calling for a religious war were distributed to the rioters by the Jan Sangh and the RSS." The havoc was caused by rumours, patrikas, writings on blackboards and provocative newspaper reports.

The inquiry commission recommended that the special branch of the Gujarat police needed to be reorganised. It is said that even the ruling Congress party was not far behind in spreading communal feelings. Most Congressmen participated directly or indirectly in the riots and called the Muslims anti-national. The Hindu Dharma Rakshak Samiti was formed at this time. Its members were largely middle-class Hindus. Ahmedabad’s textile industry, which provided large-scale employment opportunities for Hindus and Muslims, was facing a crisis, and there was a strong rivalry between the Hindu and Muslim workers in this industry. The relief work that followed the riots was not efficient and the general attitude towards the riot victims was unsympathetic.

Communal riots in Aligarh have been a routine affair since 1962. During October 1978, communal disturbances in Aligarh resulted in more than 30 people being killed, most of whom were Muslims. According to a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) report: "These riots were caused by a series of tension-ridden events which were allowed to develop from June 1978, both by the local Janata Party leaders (mostly of RSS-Jan Sangh background) and the city administration. It reached the tragic climax on October 5, 1978, when Hindu communalists ran berserk against poor Muslims. The Provincial Armed Constabulary of Uttar Pradesh echoed the same Hindu communal sentiments by shooting down and killing innocent and unarmed Muslims.”

The enquiry team of PUCL put the blame squarely on the RSS-Jan Sangh and more significantly, on the “differences and jockeying for power among local politicians”. The report of the enquiry team underlined a malignant trend. Even in law-enforcing agencies like the PAC, political pressure played a powerful role. The team discovered that political pressure on the district magistrate of Aligarh was sufficient to neutralise his efforts to be firm with those bent on disturbing communal harmony. The PAC, the study reported, "betrayed an unmistakably Hindu communal bias by shooting innocent Muslims".

Even when judicial inquiries were ordered, the results were so inconclusive that any attempt to find the guilty elements was negated. The Mathur Commission, for instance, took three years to write its report on the causes and consequences of the 1971 Aligarh riots.

After the October 1978 communal incidents in Aligarh, a four-member National Minority Commission submitted a 20-page report to the then Home Minister, Charan Singh. The report recommended the immediate withdrawal of the PAC from Aligarh, suggested a complete overhaul of the force, and advocated the induction of persons from the minority community into it. The then Petroleum Minister, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna followed this up with a plea for a special task force comprising of Muslims and Harijans to deal with violent agitations with communal overtones.

During a Ram Navami procession in April 1979, major communal riots broke out in Jamshedpur, Bihar, killing more than 120 people, more than half of them Muslims. The local MLA (Dinanath Pandey from erstwhile Jansangh-RSS background) played an active role in provoking the riots. The Inquiry Commission headed by Justice Jitendra Narain concluded that the RSS, with its extensive organisation in Jamshedpur and close links with the Janata Party and the BMS, had a hand in creating a climate propitious for the outbreak of these disturbances. It further said that not a single Hindu was killed by the Bihar Military Police (BMP) in 22 hours of firing resorted to for quelling the riots. The then Minorities Chairman, Justice M.R.A. Ansari, an outspoken former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, alleged the involvement of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in these riots, which he said were pre-planned.

In this background, the debate over communal riots in both houses of Parliament was very revealing and eye-opening. Many important and veteran parliamentarians from both the ruling as well as opposition parties participated in it.

For detailed excerpts from the debates in both Houses of Parliament click here.

Related:

‘No riot can last for more than 24 hours unless the state wants it to continue’
Student has to have his hand amputated following police action: AMU

 

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