This Article is From Sep 14, 2013

The Mystery of Kawwal: Were Muzaffarnagar riots based on distortion of facts?

Muzaffarnagar: In the popular narrative, the genesis of Muzaffarnagar riots sets it up in this way: on August 27, two Jat boys, Sachin and his cousin Gaurav, from Malikpura village killed Shahnawaz, a Muslim from the nearby village of Kawwal because was harassing their sister.

In retaliation, a Muslim mob killed the boys. The administration acted in a partisan manner, which set off a chain of violence and retaliation.

The deaths of all three are a verified fact, as are some serious doubts over the police response.

But the reasons ascribed to justify the killing of Shahnawaz (and by default the riots that followed) -- the supposed protection of the honour of Jat women -- are not borne out by the facts. (Muzaffarnagar clashes: Latest developments)

Sachin's sister Ritu says she has never been to Kawwal nor does she know Shahnawaz. She spoke of harassment by the Muslim youth of Kawwal in a general sense; "we do not like going there on our own," she said.  

Shahnawaz's father, Salim says Gaurav and Shahnawaz clashed when their motorcycles collided in the village lanes.  

In the police records at Jamsath thana, under which Kawwal and Malikpura fall, there is no mention of the harassment of women.

Two separate FIRs were registered. According to the FIR for Sachin and Gaurav's death, registered by Gaurav's father, Ravinder Kumar, he says his son had a bike accident with someone called Mujassim, which led to the altercation. The other accused, apart from Mujassim, are Mujibulla, Furqan, Jehangir, Afzal, Nadeem and Kalua.

The FIR for Shahnawaz's death names Gaurav, Sachin, Prahlad, Vishan, Tendu, Devendra, Yogender and Jitendra. It says all the accused came to Kawwal, forcibly entered Shahnawaz's house and took him out. They were armed with knives and swords. They injured him and left him half-dead. He died later on the way to the hospital.

The other grievance held by the Jats is that the police did nothing to arrest those that killed Sachin and Gaurav, and instead named their fathers in the FIR. The government only two days ago dropped the names of the fathers from the FIR. As for the arrests, the police say they have only picked up one boy, Furqan, but are still verifying the names of the rest to avoid anyone being falsely implicated.

For that matter, the police have not arrested any of the Jat boys named in the FIR for the killing of Shahnawaz.

So how did a possible clash between a group of hotheads from neighbouring villages turn into an alleged assault on the honour of Hindu women? Especially in the Jat heartland, where community identity takes precedence over religious identity?

BJP MLA Suresh Rana, from Shamli adjacent to Muzaffarnagar, claims the harassment of women is what he had heard when he visited Malikpura.

NDTV had reported earlier that Hindutva groups like the VHP have made what they call 'Love Jihad' (the alleged abduction or harassment of Hindu women by Muslim youth) part of their propaganda. The district president of the VHP told us that the Kawwal incident is very much in keeping with this trend, though he had no empirical evidence to prove it.

A fake YouTube video circulated by BJP MLA from nearby Meerut, Sangeet Som, also played on similar themes. It shows two boys being beaten to death by a mob, indicating that they are Sachin and Gaurav.

The video was, in fact, shot in Sialkot in Pakistan, and is two years old. Som has been booked by the police for inciting hatred amongst communities.

A massive Mahapanchayat called by Jats on September 7 demanding justice for the Kawwal incident was labelled a 'bahu bachao, beti bachao' sammelan (Save our wives and daughters meeting). As the meeting dispersed, violent clashes broke out, a cycle of retaliation which continues to this day.

It is perhaps a sobering thought that the basis of this anger rested on distortion of facts.