Heads roll as unrest continues in Kunda area of Pratapgarh district
Pratapgarh District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and Circle Officer, Kunda suspended
Virendra Nath Bhatt
Uttar Pradesh government on Monday 25 June, suspended the Pratapgarh District Magistrate Yogendra Kumar Bahal, district Superintendent of Police OP Sagar and the circle officer Kunda, VS Rana. Arun Kumar Pathak, the Station Officer of Nawabganj police station, was earlier suspended for dereliction of duty.
The suspensions come in the wake of communal violence in Asthan village near Kunda. Nearly four dozen houses of people belonging to the Ansari community were torched at the Asthan village. The incident took place on Saturday 23 June when the body of an 11-year-old Dalit girl, who was allegedly gang-raped and murdered on 19 June, was being taken for cremation. The villagers attacked the houses of the community members of the gang-rape accused, who are now under custody.
While the police has taken the four persons accused of rape into custody, two FIRs have been registered and 68 people identified in the case relating to arson, Sagar had earlier informed Tehelka. Adequate police and PAC personals have been deployed in the village for maintaining law and order, he had added.
On 24 June, the state government had announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to residents of 46 houses which were torched in Asthan village on Saturday. The government also declared to provide ex gratia of Rs five lakh to the family of the Dalit girl.
The victims of the violence who fled the village were earlier accommodated in a college at Kunda. They have now been shifted to a madrasa in nearby Barai town, where the district administration is providing them with basic necessities.
Asked why the funeral procession was allowed to pass from the locality of the weavers community in the village the SP had said, “we never expected the situation to take an ugly turn and there was also less force since most of the local policemen were deployed in urban local body elections.” “It was a well planned attack. The mob came from all directions; they looted and then set our houses on fire,” said Akhtar Ali, one of the 125 who have taken refuge in the madrasa. His son Afsar Ali alleged that the police remained a mute spectator and even aided the mob.
This incident has rekindled tensions that were yet to ebb after the Kosi Kalan incident. The violence in Kosi Kalan had broken out over a petty fight on 1 June, and a curfew was imposed. Markets in the town were closed for over next 20 days. Soon after the violence, the district magistrate and superintendent of police were transferred.
Kosi Kalan continues to simmer. The local businessmen had given a call for holding `mahapanchyat’ on 25 June, to chalk out the strategy to fight the injustice by the district administration. The Mahapanchyat was, however, cancelled on the assurance of the district administration of a fair investigation into the criminal cases lodged against the locals. Police have also registered cases against the former BSP minister Lakshmi Naryan and his brother Lekhraj Singh, a BSP MLC.
The Samajwadi Party government has just completed 100 days in office. Akhilesh Yadav, and his party had returned to power with an overwhelming support of the minority community. Forty-six MLAs from the minority community made it to the Assembly on a Samajwadi Party ticket, out of a total 69 Muslim legislators.
Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias `Raja Bhaiyya’, who is an independent MLA from Kunda assembly seat in Pratapgarh and minister for food and jails, today toured the riot affected village along with the local Samajwadi party MP, Shailendra Kumar.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.