New Delhi: The violence and stone pelting directed at security forces that were initiated by some fundamentalists after Friday prayers across India, specifically in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand, were planned and coordinated well in advance at the local level by using messaging apps and interpersonal meetings. In several cities where violence broke out, it has been found that the stones were stored well in advance at different locations and were then passed on to the rioters.
The violence took place on the issue of the “blasphemous” comments by a BJP national spokesperson on 26 May while taking part in a TV debate. The said leader was later suspended from the party.
The Central government agencies have asked the state governments to be alert to more such violent protests taking place especially in areas that have a large number of followers of Islam, apart from areas that are near the borders and in small towns that are at a distance from the state capitals and large cities.
According to officials, these violent protests in which some religious buildings were also vandalised, has the potential to cause communal riots in the coming days, something which the protestors were aware of and yet did it.
On Saturday, reports of miscreants desecrating religious idols were also reported from parts of the country where the violence had broken out, as part of “their” revenge on the “blasphemous” comment by the former BJP spokesperson, which shows that there was a larger design behind these acts.
Official sources in the security establishment said that the violent protests, that continued on Saturday as well, were not spontaneous as they have found links that prove that people were being instigated to come out on the streets and start rioting.
The first such violent incident was reported from Kanpur on 3 June and then from Bhaderwah town in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, which was initiated after a highly provocative speech was made by miscreants targeting the Hindu community.
This was followed by widespread violence across parts of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. In Bengal, the violence led by rioters spread across the five districts of Howrah, South 24 Parganas, parts of Kolkata, Malda and Murshidabad . Saturday was the third day of violence where locally made bombs and guns were used to target policemen who were beaten at several places. Police stations were torched, vehicles, houses and multiple shops burnt down in the state where the rioters had blocked a national highway on Thursday for 11 hours in Domjur.
Violence after the Friday prayers was also reported from Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad, Prayagraj, Saharanpur, Firozabad, amongst other places, where stones were pelted and skirmishes with the police were reported. In Jharkhand, violence by this minority community was reported from Ranchi.
Attempts were made to create a similar sort of violence in Delhi where a large crowd of 100 to 200 people had gathered outside the Jama Masjid after the Friday prayers, but the police’s swift action led to the dispersal of the crowd.
“More than two weeks have passed since the said comments were aired and the government and the political party have already taken action against the individual in the case. And as such there was no reason for anyone to protest violently by coming out on the streets. These violent reactions that we saw on Friday were not sporadic and spontaneous, people were being instigated to take ‘revenge’ for this ‘blasphemy’. We are still in the process of determining whether there was a role of any organisation, Indian or foreign, behind these incidents”, an official with an intelligence agency told The Sunday Guardian.
The Uttar Pradesh police has arrested three people associated with the extremist organisation, Popular Front of India (PFI), for their alleged role in the violence. How much role, if any, the PFI, has played in coordinating the violence across various states is still being investigated.
According to the official quoted here, there was definitely multi-level failure on part of the top police officials in the states where the violence happened.
“In some states, the police had specific intelligence reports about a violent crowd congregating post Friday prayers and despite that there was no plan in place. In some states, there was no concrete intelligence. So, there was failure on two fronts—acting on intelligence where intelligence was there; and secondly, failure to collect intelligence. These issues should and will be handled by the respective state governments”, he added.
Apart from the identical social posts that were shared on WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook, asking the practitioners of a particular faith to come out on the streets to protest, minor boys (all under 18 years of age) were standing on the frontlines while pelting stones at policemen in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand.