Syed Shahabuddin’s Speach on Moradabad Riot
UMM is producing below Syed Shahabuddin’s verbatim speech delivered on 18th August 1980 in response to the Statement of the then Minister of Home Affairs Giani Zail Singh in Rajya Sabha on one of the most savage anti-Muslim riots in India.
Interestingly Shahabuddin’s speech was supported by L.K. Advani
SHRI SYED SHAHABUDDIN (Bihar): Mr. Chairman, Sir, I have been to Moradabad. I speak, Sir, with a very heavy heart and deep anguish. I have seen the dance of death and destruction. I have seen the fear writ large on the faces of the people everywhere in Hindu mohallas and the Muslim mohallas. Sir the tragedy of Moradabad is nothing but Jallianwala Bagh re-enacted. Both happened on a day of rejoining. Both occurred in a closed space, and the firing in both instances took place from the only exit and the point of entry that was there against the people congregated there. Mr. Chairman, this massacre of innocent people, men and children, after a small alteration, a little commotion, to my mind, is inexplicable, except in terms of over-reaction by the police, I am told, Mr. Chairman, that a shot was fired from inside the Idgah. I was told by a leading citizen, a 70- year old doctor, President of Aman Sabha, Moradabad, who received a brickbat— and he said that after became back to his senses and he walked across the road from the Shamiana into the Idgah Maidan, he found that the Idgah was still peaceful and the people did not know what had happened outside. Mr. Chairman, we do not know whether the pigs came in by themselves or they were led in. We do not know who threw the brickbat.
All this happened on the fringe of the congregation and involved a very very tiny section of the congregation that had spilled over the Idgah out into the street. And, Sir the shots were fired indiscriminately at the people inside the Idgah killing at least 50 people and causing a stampede as a direct and immediate result of the firing in which nearly 50 more people lost their lives. Mr. Chairman, I hold the police responsible for this carnage, for this massacre.
Instead of trying to find out what was the reason behind it, what is the social malaise, what is the sickness we are suffering from and what is the virus within our bodies, our Ministers, our newspapermen and our public figures theories on conspiracies, theories on foreign hand, theories against the R.S.S. and the Muslim League and I do not know against whom else. Is that fair, Mr. Chairman? Is that in keeping with our tradition? I appeal to you in the name of Gandhiji and in the name of Jawaharlal Nehru. How long will it go on?
Mr. Chairman, I am very happy, very glad and very thankful that the Home Minister visited the place the very next day. I think if he had not visited the place, the effort to this violent confrontation between the Police and the Muslim community to give a communal colour would have succeeded and would have given rise to a communal holocaust which would have reduced Moradabad to ashes. I am happy that he did go there. I hope he applied the brake. I am happy that he applied a strong hand.
I do not know why the Ministers of the Government talk about foreign hands and deep-laid conspiracies and say that the Muslim community which went inside the Idgah were armed with firearms and daggers and so on and so forth. I would like to ask the Home Minister whether he knows that apart from the policemen who lost their lives, in the Gul Shaheed incident when a police outpost about 300 yards from Idgah was burnt by the infuriated mob returning from the Idgah, only 32 policemen received injuries. Out of that, 16 were released after first-aid. Out of the 16, nine are said to have received serious injuries and 7 are said to have received minor injuries.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to know whether there was an incident between the Balmikis and the Muslim community on July 24.
Was it not proper for the local administration to take adequate precautionary measures when they knew that the Balmiki community which rears pigs lives just next to the Idgah? Could they not have posted some extra police constables there to see that no trouble took place? Was it done? I would like to know whether there was a lathi-charge before this mass firing was resorted to. I know that there was no lathi-charge. I would like to know whether there is any evidence to show that a shot was fired from inside the Idgah. Has the Police at Idgah received any gunshot injuries? I would like to know whether there is any evidence to show as to who ordered the firing. I spoke to several Magistrates. They are shaky. They have a guilt complex. None of them I talked to owned up and said. “Yes, I ordered the firing. I thought that the situation demanded the firing”. Nobody has turned up to say that. I would like to know from the Home Minister whether the Police later attacked the Muslim community and their property just next to the police outpost of Gul Shaheed in a massive reprisal.
Did he not himself see the houses burning in that locality 24 hours after the Idgah incident? Did he not ask whose houses they were? Was he not told that they were the houses of Musalmans? Did he not ask why was the fire brigade not called and the local officers had no reply? I would like to know whether the Home Minister visited the hospital and saw the dead bodies. Even the dead deserve our respect. They have their dignity. Will he tell us how they were being treated and in what condition they were? Mr. Chairman, Sir, I know that s0 far there is no casualty list. We do not even know about how many people died or were injured, where and how? What was the cause of death? What was the cause of injury? Where did they receive the injury? Where were the bodies found? The Administration is mum on these things.
Sir, I pay my tribute to the people of Moradabad. Their good sense has prevailed over the communal virus that infects the Police and the Administration. Their good sense has seen to it that despite tension, despite mutual suspicion and fear, not one major incident has taken place inside the city of Moradabad although it is like an armed camp. People are afraid. There are slogans on both sides. People are afraid to go out, stray into other areas. And, yet, people have remained calm and kept peace. Nobody is longing for a battle, for a struggle.
They want to live in peace. Moradabad has seen great prosperity in the last five years. In this prosperity, both the Hindus and the Muslims have shared. They have tried to develop an atmosphere and tradition of amity. They jointly celebrate their festivals. Outside the Idgah maidan, the Municipality, the Aman Sabha, the local social and political organisations had put up pan-dais to receive the worshippers and the Imamsaheb, after the prayers were over, and to felicitate them, to garland them and to offer pan and supari. It is this tradition which is valuable. And I would like the Government to see to it that in the Peace Committee, individuals like Dr. Aggarwal, like the 85-year old man who stood outside the Indira Chowk and saved the entire Harijan Basti from the mob fury, and those Hindu friends who escorted those Muslims in safety to their mohallas, those people should be brought in and given every strength, and the power to deal with the situation.
Mr. Chairman, Sir, I will take just one more minute. Sir, I think, it is a case of administrative failure, a crisis of confidence.
The Muslims have no confidence in the PAC of Uttar Pradesh. This has happened not only in one place. For the last ten years, it has happened from place to place, in every place where a riot has struck. The Muslims do not have faith in the PAC. And why? I know that the ruling party in its manifesto, and we in the Janata Party, both said that in order to deal with an abnormal situation, there should be a special police force, an anti-riot police force. So far no steps have been taken by the Government to have it. Do you know, Mr. Chairman, Sir, that in this PAC, out of two lakh strength or more, there are merely 300 Muslims in the entire force? The Muslims compose 13 per cent of the population of UP, and they are less than 0.1 per cent in the entire PAC of UP. And this Force is imbued with communalism. It has an anti-Muslim bias. It treats the Muslims and the Harijans like flies. It has no compunction in firing at them and exterminating them. This is what explains the Idgah massacre.
Mr. Chairman, Sir, I would like to ask one more question. People have talked about incidents taking place everywhere, the theory of simultaneous flare up. Will the Home Minister tell this House how many incidents took place in this country on the Id day? Nowhere, Sir, except in Moradabad.
And it is only on subsequent days when protest meetings took place and when obviously there were agent provocateurs or confrontations this violence spread. This does not bear up the theory that there was a planned conspiracy to put India to fire at the behest of the Arabs or the Pakistanis or the CIA. We are trying to delude ourselves,
Mr. Chairman, Sir, we are trying to divert the attention of the people. We are not dealing with the disease, with the malaise, with the virus. Let us not, therefore, make it a political issue. Let us not, therefore, try to throw the blame at somebody else’s door. Let us not talk of conspiracies and plots and foreign hands. This hand is not foreign, Mr. Chairman, Sir. This hand is ours. This hand is mine. This hand is yours. And this hand ought to be struck down. Thank you, Sir.
Shri Lai K. Advani on the Statement by Home Minister Giani Zail Singh on 18 AUG. 1980, regarding Incidents of violence at Moradabad on 13th August, 1980.
SHRI LAL K. ADVANI (Gujarat): Mr. Chairman, Sir, I share the anguish expressed by Mr. Shahabuddin just now at the incidents that have taken place. (Interruptions) 15th August, 1980 would, perhaps, be the saddest Independence Day that we have observed since 1947. Sir, the 15th of August, 1947 was a day of celebrations because India became free on that day, but it was also a day of sorrow because of the incidents that took place in various parts of the country. Since 1947, this is perhaps the most sad day and sorrowful day because at various places incidents of communal violence have occurred. I entirely agree with Mr. Shahabuddin when he says that even in Moradabad the incidents have not taken the shape of two communities fighting against each other. There are suspicions, there are tensions, there seem to be two warring camps, but by and large, the whole thing is confined and there is a desire to confine the whole thing. Dr. Aggarwal was referred to. An 85 year old Muslim gentleman is referred to. All accounts bear out that they exerted hard to see that the whole thing was contained that the episode was contained.
But, at the same time, I am not inclined to agree with Mr. Shahabuddin when he puts the entire blame on the police. I do not agree, And, in this case, this is a matter about which one can have different opinions.
I am sure that the judicial inquiry that has been ordered into the incident would bring out the facts of the situation. So, let us not try to blame the police for it or a community for it. A community as such is not responsible. In fact, it should be for Mr. Shahabuddin and Members like him, who think like him—they should be equally interested as the Government is, as we are to find out if there are any miscreants who have deliberately engineered this kind of a thing. I have a feeling from all that has happened that there is a deliberate design to pitch the community against the custodians of law and order. It is not the flare up of communal violence in the country. No. I would say that this time the nature of the incidents that took place in Delhi or in Moradabad, or slightly earlier in Srinagar, reveal a deliberate design on the part of some elements. He is very right when he says that these elements are in a minority. They are a small section. But if the Government or the country, or the press men—whom he has criticised, are keen to identify these forces, identify these elements, who may be in a minority, I think they are doing a national service. Everyone who tries to identify these elements and tries to separate them, sparate these miscreants from the rest, they are doing a national service.
Sir, in Delhi itself I know that incidents of dishonouring the National Flag took place. I know that. But this also I know and I mentioned it to tho Prime Minister when we had occasion to meet her and I mentioned it to the press that in one Specific case, in Ballimaran, where the National flag was hoisted, a procession came there and it pulled down the National Flag and hoisted a black flag instead.
SHRI LAL K. ADVANI: The Muslims of the area intervened and forced the miscreants to hand back the National Flag, and they expressed their apologies and the National Flag was duly hoisted once again. So, these incidents only point out that the community as such is not involved.
Let not any one say After all, there are reports in this regard and let the Home Minister say whether it is not true that incidents of dishonour to the National Flag took place in Delhi, took place in Kanpur.
He cannot deny that and I am sure he will also bear it out though he will also agree with what I have said that a community as such are not to blame. There are certain miscreants who must be identified.
Sir, it is in this context that some of us have given expression to the suspicion that perhaps there are people outside who are interested in seeing that the country is destabilised and situations are created in which their interest can be better served. It is not a theory, it is not a bogus theory of conspiracy. I for one would be the last person to say that but I would say that we should be careful. I have some press reports. I would like to know specifically from the Home Minister what is the truth in these reports. It was said— I quote from the Times of India; “Officials here..”— the paper is referring to the officials in the Home Ministry in Delhi and so I am asking the Home Minister— “… are also inclined to believe that these riots were engineered by some organisations, mainly to thwart an amicable settlement of the foreigners problem in Assam . . .” —I do not know; I have no way of believing this; but this is a matter of concern if it is true.
Further, “Officials do not rule out concentration of arms and ammunition in the hands of a community in Moradabad due to pumping in of a large amount of money by some West Asian countries. These countries are investing crores of rupees in an institute, five kilometers from Moradabad.” I do not know about this institute, what institute it is, and I would like the Home Minister to enlighten this House what this institute is and whether crores of rupees are being pumped from outside . . .
SHRI SYED SHAHABUDDIN: It is not the industrial training institute!
SHRI LAL K. ADVANI: I just do not know. But if there are suspicions, and the suspicions are expressed, I do not think that anyone who is concerned with national security, should not be concerned about these matters, and identify where the blame lies, without blaming in a sweeping way. Sir, it is my belief that by now, during the last 30 years, communal violence could have been contained fully if the political parties had never tried to exploit this kind of an incident politically.
My friend, Shri Bhola Paswan Shastri, referred to the feeling of a large section of the people when he said, that it seems that the Government has broken down; there is no Government. This Government had come into office on the mandate “Elect a Government that works”, but here is a Government that not only does not work, it just does not exist in the eyes of many people in the country, Shri Shastri not a person who would make a statement of this kind lightly. But this is the feeling of many people in the country, and it is particularly the minorities—he said—who feel that this Government which has come into being on the basis of our support, has let us down, which Shri Shahabuddin referred to as a crisis of confidence, a crisis of faith
THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF SHIPPING AND TRANSPORT (SHRI BUTA SINGH): It is a motivated statement.
SHRI LAL K. ADVANI: What I would like to say is that if you try to exploit these things for political ends, the problem would not be solved. Someone told me that suppose this kind of August 15 incident had occurred in 1978, or in 1977, when the Janata Government was in existence, how would the present ruling party which was in the opposition then, have reacted; and they recalled how they reacted! When the Aligarh incidence took place they recalled how they reacted when Jamshedpur incident took place, and they said: “Why is it that you are not reacting in an identical manner?’* I said that I honestly believe that a communal incident should not be taken political advantage of, I feel that the Government also would be interested in seeing that communal harmony is established. I believe that the bulk of the political parties are interested in seeing that communal harmony is established. But there is a temptation to which many of us fall a prey, and that temptation is to try to take advantage of the block votes, of the vote banks. My humble plea is—and I would like to stress with all the emphasis at my command—I would plead with all political parties that for God’s sake, keep politics out of this communal business. Communalism is a vice; it is a disgrace for the country. Communal riots are a shame and they take the country many years backward.
I was really shocked when I read yesterday in the morning papers a statement made by the General Secretary of the Congress-I blaming the Bhartiya Janata Party for these incidents. I could not understand how this kind of a statement—an irresponsible statement—could be made by any responsible office bearer; but it was made. Sir, this is one aspect. I pointed out this morning to the Leader of the House that last night, I witnessed on the television a programme—I am glad, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting is here —in which accusations had been made against the R.S.S. even for these riots. The name of the R.S.S. has been dragged. If the R.S.S. is to be blamed anywhere, surely, blame it- But -without any iota of evidence anywhere, if you go on dragging the name of the R.S.S. or the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Jan Sangh, I am afraid, you are not doing any service even to the minority community. You may be taking some slight political advantage. But today, your credibility, on account of raising the R.S.S. bogey over and over again, has slumped very low. Please, for God’s sake, in this matter of communal harmony, keep it out. One more fact, I would like to know from the hon. Minister. It has been said the intelligence reports received by the Centre and the U.P. Government had warned of some trouble on the occasion of Id. I do not know if this is correct. This is the Times of India report of yesterday.
It says that the Central Intelligence as well as the State Intelligence had apprised the Government that on Id. some trouble is likely. Is this true? If this is true, then, what precautions had been taken by the Government? Sir, in regard to Moradabad, a judicial enquiry is on. Hence, 1 will not say on that. But so far as Delhi is concerned, I hold, it is gross administrative failure. Otherwise, if due precautions had been taken, this incident which took place on the 15th August and which marred the Independence Day Celebrations in the country would not have happened, could not have happened. The Police failed to take necessary precautions and, therefore, this had happened, After all, two days earlier, there had been an incident here, in which the Harijan community in Bhangi Basti had been attacked. A very reprehensible aspect of this had been brought to my notice by some lawyers. They said, “When the attackers, the group of attackers, who had been arrested were I brought to the court, they were brought, as citizens normally are.
But in the case of the Harijans who had been arrested, it was not so. The Harijans had been arrested only, perhaps, to balance, because, among the Harijans who had been was a teacher, another was a Government servant and so on. They went to the police station where they had been called by the Police Officials ostensibly to ascertain what had happened. When they went to the police station, they were summarily arrested. When these arrested people were brought to the court, they were brought in handcuffs. This is something which is understandable. I do not want anybody to be handcuffed, except those criminals about whom the Police have apprehension that they may run away. In other cases, there is no need for handcuffing anybody. But if handcuffs are to be used and you make invidious distinctions of this kind, there is bound to be resentment among the people; this incident also I brought to the notice of the hon. Home Minister. Sir, there is one last point. This is in continuation of my appeal that this is a matter in which a partisan approach, adopted either by the political leadership or by the administrative leadership is bound to be counter-productive! Two days back, my colleague, Shri A. B. Vajpayee, got a telephone in the evening from the Lt. Governor’s house, requesting him to attend a meeting of the Peace Committee in Delhi. He enquired ‘Who are the members of this Committee who had been called to attend this meeting’?
He was told, the M.Ps. of Delhi had been called to attend this meeting.
SHRI JAGANNATHRAO JOSHI (Delhi): I was not called.
SHRI LAL K. ADVANI: I am coming to that. He is also a MP from Delhi, in the Rajya Sabha. He was not called. Mr. Vajpayee further enquired ‘Is it only the MPs?’ The Lt. Governor’s office told him, ‘There are some prominent citizens also who have been invited’. Thereupon, the question asked by Mr. Vajpayee was ‘Do these prominent citizens include the former Chief Executive Councilor of Delhi, Mr. K. N. Sahni, or Mr. V. K. Malhotra, or the former Mayor of Delhi, Mr. R. K. Gupta’? The Lt. Governor’s office told him, ‘No; they have not been invited’. Then, Mr. Vajpayee said ‘There is no point in my coming’. He did not go to the meeting.
We have also drawn the attention of the hon. Home Minister to this. I do not know whether he has already instructed them. But this is a matter in which, you should invoke the assistance of all political parties.
I do not know whether the Congress (U) had been invited, or the Janata Party, or the Lok Dal, or the CPI(M) or the C.P.I. I do not know whether these parties had been invited. If they were not invited, what is the point in this kind of Peace Committee or Citizens’ Committee? Here is a matter in which every one of us should rise above party considerations and when I say ‘every one of us’, I am sure, you will appreciate that the largest responsibility in this regard rests with the ruling party and the Government. Thank you.
(Sourse: Rajya Sabha Debates, 18th August, 1980)