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.