KANPUR: It is an altogether familiar pattern where poor innocents, usually from Minority communities, become the victims of communal bigotry and hate propaganda. The latest such incident occurred in Kanpur on 11th August.
The victim was Afsar Ahmed, the driver of an e-rickshaw, living in an unauthorised slum under Barra Police Station. He was returning home for his midday meal when a gang purportedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal (BD) attacked him without provocation, forcing him to chant the religious slogan “Jai Sri Ram”. A video went viral on social media showing his seven year old daughter pleading with the attackers to spare the life of her father.
Magsaysay awardee, Dr Sandeep Pande, founder of the Socialist Party India (SPI), contacted me to do a fact check on the incident together with his party workers. Accordingly, six citizens, from various political and religious persuasions, visited the victim’s tenement on 18th August. The road leading there was barricaded by the police and all visitors had to enter their names in a register. There was 24x7 police bandobast to ensure the safety of the persons concerned and to prevent anybody from trying to draw political capital from the same.
One needs to record that immediately after the incident Ms Raveena Tyagi, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, South, (DCP) had arrested the ring leaders of the attack despite pressure from the ruling establishment. She had also immediately visited the victim family and comforted the traumatised child.
This slum settlement has about 80 families of whom about 20 are Muslim. At the time of our visit the victim was not there so we spoke with his wife Rubina Begum. She stated that neither her husband nor her family had any enmity with anybody else in the neighbourhood. They were poor people eking out their existence. There had been a minor altercation between Rani Gautam (whose house faces Afsar’s) and Quraisha Begum and her sons Salman and Saddam. Unfortunately their anger and frustration was taken out on Afsar. The police corroborated Rubina’s version of the events.
What is not clear is whether Rani Gautam called the BD workers, or they were just passing by and took advantage of the situation. It is alleged that Rani is connected with Hindutva forces. It is worth noting that all these families are quite poor; their houses built with plastic sheets and bamboo lattices etc. This further confirms what sociologists tell us, that “Violence is the option of those who have nothing to lose”.
The delegation was led by KM Bhai of the SP(I), chhotebhai and Dr Minhaj Jafri of the Kanpur Nagrik Manch, Mohd Suleiman, National President of the Indian National League, Pratap Sahni of the CPM and Bharat Rajyogi of AAP. They felt that their visit was an act of solidarity with the victim family, sending out a clear message that they were not alone. On her part Rubina wants justice to be done against the attackers.