Connivance by the State machinery alleged in the escalation of violence

The recent riots in Dhule, Maharashtra, which resulted in the death of six persons of the minority community, reflect the changing nature of communal violence in the country, human rights activist Ram Puniyani said here on Tuesday. “It shows the communalisation of the State machinery. The police launched an inhuman, one-sided attack on the members of the minority community,” he said at a press conference here.

He, along with Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad, Apoorvanand of the Delhi University and some others, visited Dhule recently for two days as part of a citizens’ fact-finding committee. According to its interim report, the police allowed a minor incident to escalate into a riot-like situation. “They intervened very late. And when they did, they targeted only Muslims,” Ms. Hashmi said.

The activists alleged connivance by the State machinery in the escalation of violence. “Why did it take the Chief Minister and the Home Minister nine days to visit the victims and order a judicial inquiry? There is a great sense of alienation and frustration among the Muslim community due to the callous response of the State,” Dr. Apoorvanand said.

“It is time to put the police in the psychiatric couch to understand what makes them brutally attack the minorities,” said film director Mahesh Bhatt. “The mindset of the entire police force is contaminated and reflects a fascist attitude.”

A video clip taken on a mobile phone, showing police personnel damaging private property and setting a house on fire, was shown to the reporters.

“When we checked the medical records of the victims,” Dr. Puniyani said, “we noticed that the bullet injuries were above the waist in 90 per cent of the cases. The police did not aim to disperse the crowd. It was targeted killing.”

The members of the fact-finding committee pointed out that the police personnel suffered only minor injuries.

Dr. Apoorvanand said that the locals were afraid to even file a case. In the rare event of some victims gathering the courage to act, they were told by the police that a case had already been registered naming them as the accused and they could not, therefore, file a case.

He said fear within the community was so palpable that the victims refused to go to the civil hospital because riot victims in 2008 were allegedly beaten and driven away by some members of the majority community.

“The Dhule incident mirrors our society. If it is not taken seriously, the country will face a very severe struggle,” he said.

Another member pointed out that the police refused to prepare a panchnama in areas dominated by the minority community. “The police did not even acknowledge complaints submitted by the victims.”

Demands

The committee demanded that the judicial inquiry ordered by the Chief Minister should finish its investigation in a time-bound manner. “The District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and the Deputy Superintendent of Police should be immediately suspended,” Ms. Hashmi said.