Bulandshahr: Why Villages Affected By Mob Violence In December Are Against The BJP And The ‘Sangathan’

by Madhur Sharma - Apr 18, 2019 03:29 PM +05:30 IST
Bulandshahr: Why Villages Affected By Mob Violence In December Are Against The BJP And The ‘Sangathan’Damaged vehicles piled up in Chingravati.
  • Bulandshahr’s Syana and Chingravati villages were among those affected by mob violence over cow slaughter that claimed the life of a police officer and a civilian. Villagers are angry with police “excesses” and feel that justice has not been done.

    They will not vote for the BJP on 18 April. However, the rest of Bulandshahr still seems to root for Modi.

Chingravati is one of the many stops where privately-operated buses make a halt on the Bulandshahr-Garh route that passes through Syana. Yes, Syana is the same area that was in the limelight not too long ago for violence following the discovery of cow carcasses in a village.

Syana is also one of the five assembly constituencies along with Anupshahr, Bulandshahr, Debai and Shikarpur, that form the Bulandshahr Lok Sabha constituency in western Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls on 18 April.

This correspondent got on the bus from Bulandshahr and witnessed passengers getting on and off at almost every stop except for Chingravati. In fact, this correspondent was the only one to get off at Chingravati, right in front of the police post that was the centre of the violence on 3 December 2018.

The post has now been rebuilt. A few policemen casually sit at the entrance. Burnt and broken vehicles piled across the road are now the only remnants of the violence that hit the area. Villages that faced the brunt, Mahav and Chingravati, are on either side of the road, and it is when one gets off the main road and walks to the villages that one realises that something is amiss.

Damaged vehicles piled up across the road from the Chingravati police post.  
Damaged vehicles piled up across the road from the Chingravati police post.  

The road to Mahav, where the storm began with the discovery of cow caracasses, was quiet and without traffic except for a herd of stray cattle that was trying to make their way into a field that had been fenced like many others around it.

An eerie silence hung in Mahav. There was a group of people at a grocery store but no conversation flowed out of them. No one would come on record to discuss either elections or the aftermath of the December violence. They did guide us towards the residence of the former village pradhan, Rajkumar Chaudhary, in whose fields the cow carcasses were discovered.

As we moved towards the house, we met a person who had returned from Bulandshahr just a while ago. The person agreed to talk to us, but only on the condition of anonymity.

He said that there was no electoral mood in the village as everyone was in a state of fear following the violence. No one talked of anything related to politics with anyone in the village, the person said.

“Around 200 people in the village are directly affected by the police crackdown,” he said. “Most of these people and many more from the village will either not vote or will press the NOTA [None of the Above] button. I am not sure if even my family would vote.”

The person introduced us to another man near the pradhan’s residence who told us that he was on the run for over two months and had only lately returned to the village. He said he had left the village fearing arrest.

It was the case with many men in the village, he told Swarajya, again on the condition of anonymity. We were told that a lot of them have still not returned.

“There is a strong buzz here that there will be a police crackdown once elections conclude in the region and we all are living in that fear,” he said. “The extent of fear is such that people here believe that they will be arrested once they leave their homes to vote, so a lot of them are saying they would not vote and would stay indoors.”

The first person nodded in agreement. He said, “no one would speak on camera or give their name to you as they are afraid that their name or statement in newspaper or on TV may lead to a crackdown.”

Villagers are unhappy with the police probe.

Chingravati police post after renovation.
Chingravati police post after renovation.

“It was reported to the police that some 30-40 cows had been slaughtered but he [Inspector Subodh] refused to acknowledge the number and said that there would be just 10-15 cows. How did he know the number of the slaughtered cows?”, said a man we met near the former pradhan’s residence. “It is also believed that the police covered up cow slaughter as they would receive money from those in the trade.”

We then moved to the pradhan’s residence where some people were already present and agreed to talk to us, but on the condition of anonymity. They were quite vocal against the police, the “sangathan”, and their Member of Parliament (MP) Bhola Singh.

“It is all the doing of the sangathan,” a man in his 50s said, referring to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.

“We only reported the slaughter as it had taken place in our village. There was no intention to create a scene out of it. It was the Bajrang Dal that escalated it. They were the ones who brought together the mob.”

Sangathan na hota to koi raar hi na hoti. Ye unhi ka kara hua hai,” another man said. (There would have been nothing had there been no sangathan. It’s all their doing.)

It is also a common opinion that the government has completely sided with the police and that there was no ‘neutral’ or ‘just’ investigation.

They also alleged that arrests made by the police were arbitrary. Eight villagers from Mahav had been arrested, we were told. One of them is a 75-year-old man named Chanderpal.

“While they have booked several people by name, several “unnamed” people have also been booked,” another man in his 50s said, who had recently met Mahav villagers lodged in the Bulandshahr jail. “It is in the name of arresting these “unnamed” people that they picked up just about anyone. Chanderpal’s arrest was one such unnamed arrest.”

There was also anger against the BJP’s sitting MP, Bhola Singh, who they said neither did anything for them during their hours of need nor visited them. While no one explicitly stated their political opinion, it was evident from our conversations that the village was united in its anger against both the sangathan and the sitting MP, Bhola Singh, who now seeks re-election.

In 2014, Bhola Singh had defeated Bahujan Samaj Party's Pradeep Kumar Jatav by more than 4.2 lakh votes. The Bulandshahr Lok Sabha constituency, one of the 80 in Uttar Pradesh, is considered a BJP bastion. The party has been continuously winning from here since 1991 except for 2009.

This anger was shared by Sumit Kumar’s father, Amarjeet, as well. Sumit was the young man from Chingravati who was killed in the police’s retaliatory firing in the violence.

Amarjeet, Sumit’s father.
Amarjeet, Sumit’s father.

Chingravati was even quieter than Mahav, where we could only find two people. They guided us to Sumit’s home and refused to speak to the media.

Sumit’s father, Amarjeet, came down heavily on the police and the government.

He told Swarajya that neither the MP nor the MLA did anything for them. The family has also not received any compensation, he said, despite the government’s announcement of a compensation of Rs 10 lakh.

“The MP came here only on 4 December. He has not been here since then, and I have only managed to talk to him on phone a few times,” Amarjeet said. “I called him multiple times every day in the first week of April but his PRO would pick up the call tell me every time that he [the MP] is in a meeting.”

“See their behaviour. Elections are on and they are begging for votes everywhere but they are not talking to me. They don’t even care about their votes here.”

Sumit’s father was also furious that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath did not acknowledge to him that it was the police who was responsible for his son’s death.

It was initially reported that both Sumit and Inspector Subodh were shot with .32 bore bullets. It was also reported that the .32 bore is not used by the police. However, Amarjeet and some villagers said that police personnel are known to carry personal pistols in addition to their service weapons and so did Subodh.

Amarjeet said that Adityanath told him that a “third person [other than Inspector Subodh] shot him [Sumit]”. “But when I said that he [Subodh] was carrying a personal pistol along with his service weapon, Adityanath admitted that all policemen carry such pistols.”

“These were his words. Yet, his police hasn’t admitted this fact in its chargesheet.”

“I also asked them for a CBI inquiry but he assured me that three agencies were on it, and that he could not do anything at the moment because the police might turn against the government,” Amarjeet told Swarajya. “This is what the CM told me! Such is the police’s tyranny that the government fears their revolt.”

The fear of being implicated by the police is rampant in Chingravati as well. Amarjeet said that no one even talks to him in the village or meets him out of the fear of being implicated.

Such fear is pervasive in all the seven villages in Syana that have been declared ‘critical’ for the time being, namely Mahav, Chingravati, Baroli, Thal, Nayabans, Nayagaon, and Khad Mohan Nagar. These villages will witness additional deployment of security for the conduct of elections and this has further intimidated the villagers.

In addition to losing his son, Amarjeet also shared with us his distress as a farmer, much of which was shared by most of the farming class in the region. Stray cattle and sugarcane dues are pressing issues and the farming class is frustrated as government assurances on both of these counts have not been up to the mark.

Fencing of the field out of fear of stray cattle.
Fencing of the field out of fear of stray cattle.

Villagers across Syana have fenced their fields, some with ropes and some with barbed wires, to prevent stray cattle from entering their fields and damaging their crops. Beyond Syana, in Amarpur village, a 19-year-old student of biotechnology, who did not wish to be named, told Swarajya that 16 bigha of their family’s wheat was destroyed by the stray cattle who either ate it or stomped it.

“The stray cattle have suddenly increased over the past few years or so because of Yogi’s ban on their slaughter,” the student said. “While cow slaughter was previously banned as well, there still used to be slaughter but that is not the case anymore. The stray cattle have increased now as they are not being slaughtered.”

However, a big menace it might be, stray cattle doesn’t seem to be a poll issue.

When we asked who will he vote for on 18 April, the student replied with a firm ‘Modi’. “Who else is there to vote for?” he asked.

Shafiq Ahmad from nearby Khanpur town did not think like this. Khanpur is the only second town in the Syana Vidhan Sabha.

“We stay up all night to drive cattle away from our fields. There have been no gaushalas as well. They have just dug up earth in a field in the name of gaushala and put some poles and that’s it. The MP has also never come here in Khanpur and has not done any development work,” Shafiq said. “My vote will go to mahagathbandhan because such a situation cannot change as long as the BJP is in power.”

A man at a little distance from Shafiq’s shop, who did not wish to be named, said that while stray cattle were a problem, it would not impact his vote.

“It is we who are abandoning our cattle and then creating this issue. Modi or Yogi are not abandoning our cattle, are they?” he said.

He replied with a firm ‘Modi’ when we asked him who he would vote for. “He is a good man,” he simply said when asked for the reason. About his MP, he laughed and said that he has barely done anything and his vote to BJP shall go in the name of Narendra Modi.

Khalid Avrez was honest. He said, “frankly, there is no issue. People here will vote along caste and religion. If people would vote on the basis of issues, no one would vote for Bhola Singh as he has not done anything here.”

This assessment of their MP is common.

Prem Raj, who runs a watch shop in Khanpur’s main market, said, “Sansad to jaise hain vaise hain hi, par vote Modi ko karenge.” (We know how our MP is, but my vote will go to Modi)

Kuldeep Garg, a former journalist and currently associated with an apolitical trader’s body in the town, was at a shop at the other end of the market.

“No candidate has come here to ask for votes. They are overconfident about their voters, particularly the BJP,” Garg told Swarajya. Despite admitting that their sitting MP from the BJP has not performed and also that the goods and services tax adversely affected traders, Garg said he would still vote for the BJP.

He said, “I am okay if some of my self-interest is sacrificed for a greater good.”

Garg said that the December violence will indeed have an impact on voting, and it will not be good for the BJP. “Some five-seven traders here who I know are rooted in the affected villages. They would either not vote at all or would vote against the BJP.”

As we moved ahead in Khanpur, we learnt that the BJP is under fire from both Hindus and Muslims. While the Hindus, particularly Jats, were miffed at the inaction against cow slaughter in Mahav and the police for their excesses after the cop’s murder, some Muslims complained that the BJP was dividing people.

Anjum, who we met at a garment store and who only gave her first name, said, “they have done everything to incite riots. They blame Pakistan for everything, and have made cow slaughter such an issue. They throw Muslims in jail for the slightest of thing. Has anyone done this in the past?”

Issues pertaining to development, stray cattle, and national security came up as we moved further in the town.

“All of our MLAs are from the BJP. Our MP is from the BJP. The BJP is also in Centre. But there has still been no development here,” Asif, who only gave his first name, said.

“Stray cattle are also roaming free. They have talked of a gaushala but none have come up so far. It is the government’s job to arrange for them. A government should change with time and since we have given them five years, it should now change. My vote will go to mahagathbandhan,” he said.

Mohammad Sayyid was not convinced that the government was doing enough to secure the country. He said, “our men are dying daily and we are not giving any response. We are with the government if they attack Pakistan but they are not doing anything.”

He hinted at the Pulwama attack, and we asked him about Balakot airstrike and if he felt if it was or was not adequate. “If the government can count 300 mobile phones there [at Balakot], why can’t it find bodies? We cannot believe they have done anything there. It’s jumlebaazi.”

We learnt from people that a gaushala is slated to be built in Nangla village on Khanpur-Girora Road. While some said that the gaushala was functional and housed 300-400 cattle, some said that its construction was not yet complete.

It was an entirely different story when we reached Nangla. The land for the gaushala was dug up on four sides. Fully grown wheat crop stood across the field except for the dug up area. Villagers working in nearby fields told us that it was actually the gram panchayat’s land that had been encroached upon by a villager.

Plot of land where <i>gaushala </i>shall come up in Nangla village, Khanpur (Syana tehsil, Bulandshahr district)
Plot of land where gaushala shall come up in Nangla village, Khanpur (Syana tehsil, Bulandshahr district)

A villager told us that no work had been done on the land in over a month. He further told us, on the condition of anonymity since the person encroaching upon the land was an acquaintance of his, that the area’s patwari was in league with that person.

“The buzz here is that the patwari has taken money and that rather than the gram panchayat’s land that has been encroached, the land from across the trail will be acquired for gaushala which is private property,” the villager said. “We do not know if we would even receive compensation.”

Private land who villagers say may be taken over for <i>gaushala </i>instead of the <i>gram panchayat</i>’s land illegally encroached
Private land who villagers say may be taken over for gaushala instead of the gram panchayat’s land illegally encroached

When we asked him who he would vote for, he replied, "Modi”. “The country is secure with him,” he said when we asked him the reason for his decision.

We moved further on the trail and came across a cluster of flower beds, which were being tended by a woman. We asked her about the allegations made by the villager we met a few minutes ago. The woman confirmed those allegations.

“We bought this land with our hard-earned money. Our life depends on it. How can they take it just like that?” she said. “We are collecting our papers and we would go to their office and court if the need arises but we will not give our land just like that.”

She said she would vote for Modi despite the hardships she was facing.

“We read in paper and see on TV that he is doing good work. He is replying to Pakistan. Pulwama was avenged with Balakot,” she said.

We took a different route to return to Syana from the one we took earlier to reach Khanpur. Almost every other farm that we saw was fenced, suggesting that stray cattle was a problem.

But an electoral issue? Consistently not.

A lot of people are willing to put it aside for the sake of the “greater good”. But even they acknowledge that they have incurred losses because of it. The government’s assurances of building gaushalas in the region have also fallen flat.

While villages directly affected by December violence may vote differently this time and stay away from the BJP, it seems that Modi enjoys huge popularity among the Hindu voters and the party still has an edge in the region.

This report is part of Swarajya's 50 Ground Stories Project - an attempt to throw light on issues and constituencies the old media largely refuses to engage. You can support this initiative by sponsoring as little as Rs 2,999. Click here for more details.

Madhur Sharma is a post-graduate student of journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, and a history graduate from Delhi University. He tweets at @madhur_mrt.

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