Hyderabad Riots : Report of the Fact Finding Team

April 25, 2012

Civil Society Organisations of Hyderabad constituted a Fact Finding Team at a meeting held on 12th April to enquire into the riots and disturbances in Hyderabad between 8th to 12th April 2012.

The Team Comprised of Mr. Jeevan Kumar (HRF), Syed Bilal (HRF), Ms. Audhesh Rani, Mr. M.A. Hakeem, (ICAN), Mr. B. Ramakrishnam Raju (NAPM), Ms. Noor Jahan (COVA) and Dr. Mazher Hussain (COVA). The Fact Finding Team received local facilitation from Mr. Azeem Khan (Advocate), Mr. Vijay Kumar (AITUC), Mr. Yadgiri Reddy , Mr. Samad and Mr. Waheed Ansari.

The Team made field visits on 16 and 17 April 2012 and met the following:
(i) Members of the Hindu and Muslim communities in Madannapet, Kurmaguda and Saidabad
(ii) Mr. Sahadev Yadav, Local Corporator
(iii) Mr. Iqbal Siddiqui- ACP Malakpet
(iv) Mr. Amit Garg IPS, Additional Commissioner, Law & Order, Hyderabad City Police
(v) Mr Madan Mohan Rao District Revenue Officer, Hyderabad.6.

Earlier, on 14th April a team of Interfaith Forum had visited all the 7 places of worship that were desecrated between 8th and 12th of April and had met the priests and community leaders of these areas.

Events

At about 6.30 am on 8th April the priests of Sri Abhaya Anjaneya Swami Devalayam located in a by lane in Kurmaguda noticed green colour (associated with Islam and Muslims) sprayed on the walls of the temple and burnt leg pieces of a cow placed on the grill. The priests informed Mr.Sahadev Yadav, the local Corporator from the BJP party who in turn informed the police who reached the spot by about 7 am.

By 7.30 am a crowd of locals started gathering around the temple and by the time the police called the dog squad for investigations, the crowd is reported to have swelled to over 200. The dog covered a distance of about half a kilometer and stopped near the local petrol pump. Time was about 8.15 am. At this point, the crowd got agitated and started pelting stones at some Muslim shops located near the petrol pump and some RTC buses plying on the roads at the time. Police swung into action to disperse the crowds. After retreating, the crowds attacked 4 houses and one shop belonging to the Muslim community. In most cases, it was stone pelting causing damages to doors and window panes. In the house adjacent to the temple that was desecrated, it is reported that the inmates had left in the morning immediately after the incidence came to light (as they had planned to visit a holy shrine), and some miscreants entered the house and damaged some utensils and furniture including a DVD player.

In the mean time, trouble spread to other surrounding areas of Pusalbasti, Zakir Hussain Colony Ameen Jung Colony, Madannapet Mandi and Jaihind hotel including stone pelting on houses, attacks on pedestrians walking by, burning of 2 / 3motorcycles and damage to buses on the Saidabad main road. There are reports of women traveling in buses being assaulted, stabbing of two persons and an attack using boulders on one person. In all 8 persons were injured, two of them seriously.

It is reported that at about 10. 30 am crowds from Pusalbasti had gathered at the Pusalbasti- Zakir Hussain Colony Junction and started pelting stones. Crowds of the two communities gathered at both sides leading to brick batting even though two police vans with 15 to 20 policemen were present on the spot. Situation could be brought under control after about an hour with additional police reinforcement. In all, 6 houses of the area, belonging to both communities suffered damages to the doors, window panes, coolers, water tank and drain pipes due to stone pelting.

It was around 11.30 am- after about 3 hours of trouble in the streets that police was able to bring the situation under control and by about 12.30 pm, curfew was declared in the three affected localities coming under 2 police stations.

Provocations in other Places

Even as the situation in Saidabad- Kurmaguda- Madannapet areas was brought under control on 8th April 2012, reports started coming of desecration of 6 more places of worship in different areas of Hyderabad- 4 Masjids and 2 temples between 9th and 12th of April pointing to a clear and obvious conspiracy to foment communal violence by instigating the religious sentiments of both Hindu and Muslim communities.

Fortunately, religious leaders and elders of both communities in all these areas, along with timely action by the police, diffused tensions in these localities and prevented any untoward incidences from taking place.

Background and Conspiracy

During the past 3 years, the political scenario in Andhra Pradesh has become fluid and uncertain on multiple counts. The most significant seem to be the Telangana agitation, exposure and investigation into a number of scams involving top ranking politicians and bureaucrats and infighting within the ruling party. Past experience has shown that communal conflicts have been instigated and riots engineered in Hyderabad to divert attention from burning political issues to even affect change of government.

Complicating matters are the General Elections to the Parliament and the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly scheduled in 2014- just two years from now and the prospects for some parties to reap political benefits through polarization of votes by engineering communal riots.

In the light of all these factors it is not surprising that concerted and consistent efforts are being made during the past few months to spread disaffection between the Hindu and Muslim communities to engineer communal riots not just in Hyderabad but in other cities and towns of the State, especially in the Telangana and Rayalaseema areas.

Attempt was made in the same Madannapet- Saidabad localities to instigate communal violence during the Ganesh festival in September 2011 by desecrating not one but four Ganesh idols in the area but fortunately the conspirators did not succeed in their nefarious designs due to the good sense shown by the local people and timely action by the police. After this, there was a series of targeted attacks on lone Muslim youth during nights by members of the Hindu Vahini (as per the investigations of the A.P. Police) to instigate communal riots but these attempts did not succeed. This was followed by burning of motorcycles parked outside houses during nights but these instigations also failed to generate any communal backlash. Unfortunately, the conspirators finally succeeded in instigating communal violence on 8th April 2012 through the desecration of the temple at Kurmaguda detailed above. This success was possible perhaps due to the growing communal tensions in the Madannapet- Kurmaguda areas during the past 5 years that the conspirators were able to exploit to their advantage.

Role of Police in Containing Violence

In most cases of provocation in the past few months and during the recent disturbances, the role of the Hyderabad city police was good in containing communal tensions in a short span of time, restricting their spread to other areas and preventing them from assuming proportions of a full scale riot.

In the case of the incidence at Kurmaguda, there was a time gap of at least one and a half hours between the reporting of incidence and the outbreak of mob violence in the affected and the neighbouring localities of Saidabad and Madannapet. Police could have prevented this violence by preventing crowd mobilisation near the affected temple and rushing reinforcement to the sensitive areas in the neighbourhood in the time available. After this initial lapse, police seemed to have acted fast and brought the situation in the area under control within 3 hours.

Failure to Expose Conspirators: The Consequences

However, the police seemed to have failed in matters of investigation and unearthing the conspiracies behind the series of provocations over the months to foment communal violence in the city and other parts of the State. Baring the unearthing of the culprits behind the series of targeted night attacks on the members of a community, the police has not been able to expose the conspirators behind the 2010 riots in Hyderabad, or the desecration of the Ganesh idols or the group behind the series of motor cycle burnings amongst others. Even in the present instance, catching some stray stone pelters will not help and what is required is exposing the entire conspiracy behind the systematic desecration of a number of places of worship of both communities within days ostensibly with the sole objective of fomenting communal riots in the city.

If the police investigations fail to unravel the conspiracies and bring to book all those responsible, irrespective of their power or position, such provocations will continue to occur and perhaps increase in the light of the forth coming general elections in 2014 and the city of Hyderabad along with many other cities and towns of the State could be converted into communal flash points and hotbeds of riots.

Compensation

The Government has given compensation to the 8 persons injured. However, no assessment of the damage to houses and property has been undertaken so far by the revenue department concerned.

Arrests of Muslim Youth

After every incidence of communal violence, the Muslim community cries hoarse at the partisan attitude of the police force and says that despite coming under attack and suffering more injuries and damages, more number of Muslim youth are picked up by the police and implicated in false cases. The memories of Macca Masjid bomb blasts and the arrests of over 100 Muslim youth on trumped up charges, their torture and subsequent acquittal by the courts still rankles fresh in the minds of the community.

In the present instance of trouble in Saidabad –Kurmaguda areas, most of the houses that were attacked belonged to the Muslim community. According to newspaper reports, 14 Muslim youth have been arrested while the number for the youth of the Hindu community is stated to be 4 and 28 Hindu youth are being shown as absconding. Though police officers are stating that investigations are still in progress and eventually every one responsible will be caught, prima facie, from the facts available at the moment, it appears that the police are more vigorous in pursuing the cases relating to the Muslim youth.

This is causing dread amongst Muslim youth about the police force and the recent tragic incidence of a Muslim youth Mr. Syed Ghouse, who is reported to have died while trying to escape from a police party searching for him, illustrates the point. All this is leading to feelings of insecurity, alienation and loss of confidence in the neutrality of police force that is dangerous for all concerned including the Muslim community. Matter have come to a stage when some very respected and highly placed members of the Muslim community have petitioned the State Human Rights Commission to address this issue.

Immediate steps and action should be taken to restore the non- partisan image and functioning of the police force.

Media

The role of some media has been partisan and at times grossly inaccurate leading to increase in tensions and the possibility of spread of violence to more areas. Media gave the names of those injured that revealed community affiliations to further stroke passions and violence. One TV channel wrongly reported the death of a youth injured that heightened tensions at a critical time in many areas.

Observations

* Despite the grave provocations, people in the affected areas belonging to different communities continued to maintain cordial relations and ascribed the disturbances to vested interests

* Cases of members of one community saving members of another community have also been reported- like it happens in most instances of communal disturbances.

* The mobs that had gathered for attacks numbered between 50 to a couple of hundred and comprised mostly of 15 to 25 year olds- with their faces covered with handkerchiefs.

* In many sensitive locations, elders of the area were able to control the groups and prevent untoward incidences even before the arrival of the police.

* Despite the repeated attempt to provoke communal feelings by desecrating places of worship of both the communities, people seemed to have retained their balance and seen through the design to engineer riots for some vested interests.

Appeal

Members of Civil Society Organisations and the Fact Finding Team appeal to all people of Hyderabad and of the State to maintain peace and harmony between all communities and frustrate the nefarious designs of vested interests that seem to be bent upon fomenting communal violence for political gains.

We also demand that the government should immediately table the Recommendations of the Ramana Chari Commission Report of 1991 and take all steps necessary to prevent communal violence and promote inclusive and equitable development of all sections of society.

Jeevan Kumar (HRF)
Audhesh Rani
Ramakrishna Raju(NAPM)
Mazher Hussain(COVA)
Syed Bilal (HRF)
Noor Jahan Siddiqui (COVA)
M.A. Hakeem (ICAN)