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India: UP: Where armed communal vigilante groups prowl the streets

Tuesday 15 June 2021, by siawi3

Source: https://sabrangindia.in/decoding-hate/where-armed-communal-vigilante-groups-prowl-streets

UP: Where armed communal vigilante groups prowl the streets

An old man is abducted, assaulted in Loni; meatseller thrashed in Moradabad; vegetable vendor killed in Unnao; reporter threatened in Gorakhpur… all in the past one month!

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Sabrangindia

14 Jun 2021

The elderly Abdul Samad Saifi who has just survived a brutal attack by five goons led by one Pravesh Gujjar in Loni, Ghaziabad is lucky. Lucky that he is alive, lucky that he has survived abuse, and a merciless beating by five criminals, who then chopped off his beard, threatened him, allegedly at gunpoint. But perhaps his being alive is a part of the larger plan of the communal goons, for them Saifi telling and retelling his horror of being called communal slurs, of being forced to chant slogans before being beaten, and having his beard forcefully chopped off is the message of terror they want to send far and wide.

The goons know that this act, now being reported widely after the video went viral on social media on June 14, has helped them reach their target group of fellow communal criminals in waiting. That is the reason they filmed the entire assault where a younger man is seen attacking the vulnerable old Muslim man. Another attacker then hacks off the old man’s beard. They are not the first to film such abuse. They won’t be the last. The arrest of the gang leader is just a minor bump for them. After all, the old man did not die did he?

According to Ghaziabad Police, a case has been registered and one Pravesh Gujjar - the man believed to be the main accused has been arrested. The police said they are still looking for the others.

The victim, Abdul Samad Saifi was still shaking while narrating his ordeal to a group who came to see him and said into the camera, “I was made to sit in the auto when I was coming from the [UP-Delhi] border. Two more men then got in (the auto rickshaw) and told me to stay. Then they took me to a room and locked me up and thrashed me. They forced me to chant slogans... they beat me more when I took Allah’s name… they beat me so badly, and cut my beard.” He alleged his attackers showed him videos of “other Muslims being attacked," and they warned him they had killed Muslims before. The person filming the ordeal of the violence seems to be doing so with practised ease.

Attackers seemed to be on a hunt to find a Muslim to beat up

This attack, seems to be planned, and the attackers seemed to have been on a hunt to find a Muslim to beat up. The aged, and visibly vulnerable Abdul Samad dressed in a kurta pajama with a checked scarf, long beard, was an easy target. And it seems that they then let the old go after traumatising him, so their ‘terror’ got publicity. The old man once home safe, bared his back to show purple welts and swelling on his torso, and hand, and reportedly on the rest of his body too. “They hit me with whips and clubs,” he recalls, breaking down once again.

The attack took place on June 5 in Loni in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district that is on the Delhi-UP border. According to news reports Abdul Samad was on his way to a mosque to offer prayers when he was forced into an autorickshaw and taken to a shack in a forested area. According to a report in NDTV, the attackers reportedly shouted ’Jai Shri Ram’ and ’Vande Mataram’, and told the old man to chant it as well. He said he refused and called out to Allah instead and they beat him even more. The attackers reportedly also accused Samad of being a Pakistani spy, reported NDTV.

This was a crime that came to light after the videos of the attack and then the victim’s statement went viral, and was picked up by journalists. The tactics of communal attacks being filmed by the goons is a pattern, often seen in attacks reported from Uttar Pradesh. A state that is going to the polls in 2022.

Uttar Pradesh is being projected by these viral videos by communal forces as a state where vigilante groups feel no fear of the law. They are often armed, and are roaming freely targeting members of the minority communities.

‘Gau rakshaks’ attack humans, make videos viral

On June 4, a man was killed in Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh, allegedly by those claiming to protect cows. The victim, Sher Khan alias Shera (55) was shot dead, and six of his associates were injured. Even the local police had reportedly alleged the men, who were from Bulandshahr, were “cattle smugglers”, and were “attacked by the villagers for smuggling cows in their vehicle.” The Additional Superintendent of Police (Addl SP) Shrish Chandra told the media that a preliminary inquiry revealed that “residents of Jawa village came to know that a few cattle smugglers were transporting cows” and they “alerted their neighbours in Tumaula village. The villagers then blocked the road with a parked vehicle in and “forced the men transporting the cattle to stop.” Police claim that the alleged “cattle smugglers started firing and the villagers retaliated” they “ caught the men in the vehicle and started assaulting them with sticks and stones”. Khan was declared dead on arrival, according to the news report it is suspected that he was shot in the stomach.

In May another video of vigilante violence went viral of the public thrashing of one Mohammed Shakir, a meat seller and transporter. The attack took place in the daytime, in a public place as many watched and filmed it in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district. Shakir was mercilessly thrashed with a big stick by a man who declared himself a "gau rakshak” or a vigilante cow ‘protector. The victim was being held by the collar by two others while scores watched the attack in silence, till the victim collapsed under the blows. The attacker also filed a counter case, against the victim, and charged him of ’mischief by killing an animal’, ’committing an act likely to spread infection’, and ’violation of Covid lockdown guidelines’. Some arrests were eventually made. But that clearly did not deter any vigilantes.

What do the cops do?

Sometimes the worst attacks come from those in uniform too. In the last week of May, in Unnao district, a teenage vegetable vendor was mercilessly thrashed allegedly in police custody for "violating the ongoing corona curfew’’. The 17-year-old boy identified as Mohammad Faisal succumbed to the injuries caused. Unnao police suspended the policemen accused of the crime and a case was registered against them. SabrangIndia’s sister organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) started a petition demanding justice for Faisal.

So why does the mainstream media not ask the UP Government some tough questions?

Because journalists who question the state, are themselves vulnerable to harassment and taakc in Uttar Pradesh. One was recently asked his religion, and allegedly threatened with arrest. Masihuzzama Ansari, a Delhi-based journalist who hails from Uttar Pradesh realised he was at ‘risk’ of becoming a headline himself, while reporting on the disputed “evictions” of Muslim families near Gorakhanath Temple in Gorakhpur. It was the Gorakhpur District Magistrate, DM K Vijayendra Pandian who allegedly asked the reporter his religion, accused him of spreading rumours, encouring Hindu-Muslim divide and told him he can be booked under the IT Act. Ansari had called to verify the claim made by 11 Muslim families that they were allegedly asked to vacate their homes located near the Gorakhnath temple. Ansari, later said he feared for his safety and has written to the National Human Right Commission (NHRC), Press Council of India, Press Club, and the Editors Guild of India, to intervene before it is too late.

Related:

You are a Ansari, rise above your religion: Gorakhpur DM to journalist
Being Muslim in the Workplace: A report by Parcham Collective
CJP complains to Zee Media over broadcast of “Vaccine Jihad” show
Were minority community families asked to vacate homes near Gorakhnath temple?
One killed, six injured in UP for allegedly smuggling cows