Communal Disharmony

UP government uses NSA to charge 3 men for communal violence in Kasganj, raising serious questions

There are contradictions in the police reports and the district magistrate’s sanction in the claims cited to back the charge.

On August 6, the Uttar Pradesh government pressed charges under the National Security Act against three men accused in connection with communal violence in the state’s Kasganj district in January. The men – Naseem, Waseem and Salim – are brothers. Salim, is the prime accused in a case of murder related to the communal clashes. Naseem and Waseem had secured bail from the Allahabad High Court that same day and were due to be released from the Kasganj district jail. By the time the bail order could reach jail authorities, the state pressed the new charges under the National Security Act, so they could not be released.

Police reports about the incident and the district magistrate’s order imposing charges under the National Security Act, which Scroll.in has seen, raise concerns over the claims cited to back the charges. The police claims do not stand up to scrutiny, with discrepancies and logical fallacies among First Information Reports, the related chargesheets and several police reports filed in connection with the incident, including the ones asking for charges under the National Security Act to be pressed.

The January 26 incident

The clashes between Hindus and Muslims started in Kasganj on January 26 when a group of men waving saffron flags and the Indian tricolour held an unauthorised motorcycle rally, the police said. They ended up disrupting a Republic Day function in a Muslim-dominated locality in the town. This led to arguments that sparked violence in a locality around one km away. Gun shots were fired by both sides, according to the police. In the ensuing violence, a man called Chandan Gupta, alias Abhishek, was killed and several people injured. The violence continued sporadically for the next three days, during which several shops – most of them owned by Muslims – and vehicles, were set on fire across the town by mobs defying orders that banned the assembly of more than four persons.

Kasganj town is home to around 1.20 lakh people, around 20% of them Muslim.

Claims and contradictions

A report in which the local police made out the case for the National Security Act to be invoked against the three accused was filed in Kasganj on August 2. In this report, the police claim that Chandan Gupta, along with some other members of the Tiranga Rally, was surrounded by a group of Muslim men who had snatched the Indian tricolour from their hands and threatened them to chant slogans like “Pakistan Zindabad, Bharat Murdabad”.

But this point is not mentioned in either of the two chargesheets that the police filed in April in connection with the violence. While one chargesheet was about the murder of Gupta, and was ostensibly filed on the basis of a First Information Report registered by his father, the other was related to the violence that followed the murder.

The report said, when Gupta resisted, the Muslim group started firing in the air, and that Salim specifically targeted Gupta.

The police report also alleged that news reports pertaining to the incident spread communal tensions in neighbouring areas. While Naseem has been charged for spreading rumours of attacks by Hindu youth present in the motorcycle rally in the Muslim-dominated localities, Waseem has been identified as an accomplice.

The report also claimed that Naseem has no criminal history but his actions prove that he is capable of hatching a conspiracy that can divide communities. He is also alleged to have created “fear” and “terror” among locals. But they failed to explain how a person with no criminal history can create an environment of fear and terror among residents in any locality.

The report by the local police was sent to the offices of the senior district police officers. In their subsequent report, forwarded to the district magistrate on August 5, the senior police officers mention a motorcycle rally but there is no reference to the rally disrupting a Republic Day programme in a Muslim locality, contrary to earlier claims made by the police. This report said that members of the motorcycle rally tried to remove some chairs before the Republic Day programme in the Muslim locality had started, which led to a dispute. It, however, failed to answer why a rally was allowed to pass through a sensitive colony without the police’s permission in the first place.

What led to NSA?

The August 6 order of RP Singh, the divisional magistrate of Kasganj, pressing charges under the National Security Act, does not take into consideration any instance of retaliation by Hindu groups. But there is a First Person Information report with regard to retaliation by Hindus, with several arrests made in connection with it. The order puts the entire blame of the chain of events that led to at least 10 incidents of arson and vandalism on the first instance of firing, which, according to the police, was done by the Muslim group of which Naseem, Waseem and Salim were a part. With that, the three accused have been termed as “threats” to public order.

The National Security Act empowers the Centre or the state governments to detain a person for upto 12 months in order to prevent them from acting in any manner considered prejudicial to the security of India, relations of India with foreign countries and the maintenance of public order.

The order has now reached the state’s advisory board, an executive body that gives non-binding strategic advice to a state government regarding the imposition of the National Security Act. The board is yet to give its approval to the order, said Mohammed Javed, legal counsel for the three brothers. “If the board gives its approval, it also gives a chance to the defence for responding,” he said. “If it still sticks to its decision, the entire matter has to be challenged in the High Court through a separate petition.”

In such a scenario, until the High Court takes a call, the accused will remain in judicial custody, he added.

First for Kasganj and Adityanath

The region had witnessed communal violence after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. But Kasganj, which was made into a separate district in 2008 by the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, had not specifically seen communal violence before. This was also the first communal incident in Uttar Pradesh since Chief Minister Adityanath took charge of the state in March 2017. Senior police officials said Adityanath was closely monitoring the case and that the suggestion to press charges under the National Security Act had come from the top.

By the time the situation was brought under control in January, OP Singh, the Director General of Police in Uttar Pradesh, had told the media that the National Security Act could be invoked against the culprits. While Singh has kept his word, the course of action adopted by the police seems to be one-sided as groups of Hindu men too had indulged in violence in January, during which one Muslim man had sustained a bullet injury. However, the Hindu men so far only face charges under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.