One person was killed and several injured when groups of Hindu and Muslim men clashed in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj town in the last week of January. The violence began when a group of men waving saffron flags and the Indian tricolour set out on an unauthorised motorbike rally and disrupted a Republic Day function in a Muslim-dominated locality. Guns were fired by both sides, according to the police, and a young man named Chandan Gupta was killed. As the violence continued for days, with mostly Hindu mobs rampaging through the town, attacking Muslims and setting fire to their shops and vehicles at many places, all eyes turned to how the police under Chief Minister Adityanath would react.
So, how have the police done?
A look at the 18 cases registered so far – and the 55 people arrested – offers a picture: the police seem to have focused more on clashes that took place in the first 24 hours than the mob attacks over subsequent days.
After the clashes of January 26, hundreds of police personnel were deployed in Kasganj. Yet, violence continued for at least three more days. The police then conducted a series of raids to find the suspects. The town is home to around 1.20 lakh people, around 20% of them Muslim.
Police records accessed by Scroll.in show that arrests have so far been made in 11 of the 18 cases – three related to the Republic Day clashes and the rest to violence over subsequent days involving relatively minor offences. The police are yet to solve, or even identify suspects, in the other seven cases, all related to the violence targeting Muslims. They include two cases of attempt to murder, four of arson involving shops owned by Muslims and one of vandalising a minaret in an Idgah, a ground where Muslims conduct public prayers, especially on Eid.
The first of the three cases from January 26-27 pertains to Gupta’s killing, registered on the basis of a complaint by his father Sushil Gupta naming as many as 18 suspects. In total, 19 people, all Muslim, have been arrested and booked for murder, attempt to murder and sedition.
The second is a case of attempt to murder and arson with intention to destroy a place of dwelling, work or worship, registered on their own by the police. Though the First Information Report names only four suspects, the police have arrested as many as 16 people, again all Muslim.
The third case, of arson and other charges, was also registered by the police on their own. It pertains to the burning of a shop soon after Gupta’s cremation on January 27. As many as 12 people, all Hindu, have been arrested, the police records show.
Both attempt to murder and arson with intention to destroy a place of dwelling, work or worship are non-bailable offences under the Indian Penal Code, punishable with a period that can extend up to 10 years or life imprisonment.
Seven of the remaining eight people arrested have been booked under the Arms Act. They were identified from video clips shot by local residents. The eighth person has been booked for penal charges related to “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”.
The seven unsolved cases, on the other hand, involve serious offences, including attempt to murder and arson. They were registered on the basis of complaints from Muslim residents.
Most of the 18 cases also include offences such as rioting and unlawful assembly. While 15 are registered in various police stations of Kasganj town, the records show, three are registered in the neighbouring tehsils of Amanpur and Ganjdundwara.