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Jamshedpur riots report - The Statesman

S. Sahay ()
September 24, 1981

Title: Jamshedpur riots report
Author: S. Sahay
Publication: The Statesman
Date: September 24, 1981

It can be said without any hesitation that the summary of the
Narain Commission's report released by the Bihar Government was
highly selective, and in that sense tendentious. It dwelt at
great length on the RSS involvement in the riots, especially the
role of Mr Dina Nath Pandey. It briefly touched on the
commission's findings against the officials. It wholly ignored
the commission's findings on the immediate and surrounding
causes, or the role of extremist Muslims who clearly started the
riots by throwing stones on the Ramnawmi processionists.

Limitation

Nor did the summary make any mention of the self-confessed
limitation under which the commission had to function. The
commission itself has devoted a whole chapter to it. It had said
for instance, that the proceedings were unduly protracted
because lawyers came from different places, that the Bihar
Government's request, after modifying the relevant rules, to
hold the sittings in camera led to the non-cooperation or
boycott of the commission, that even the commission's request
for lawyer was granted belatedly. It is true that, on the
commission's insistence, the Government ultimately withdrew its
request that the proceedings be held in camera, but by then the
damage had been dons and some organizations had refused to
cooperate. Thus it fell to the lot of the commission's lawyer on
behalf of the minority community, to examine some of the
witnesses. These are significant limitations and need to be
borne in mind in judging the final report.

One need not tarry over the allegation, in particular by the RSS
elements, that since Mr Justice Jitendra Narain chose to attend
the jamboree of intellectuals organized by Mr A.R. Antulay in
Bombay, his report needs to be viewed with suspicion. Although
participation by judges in conference with a pronounced
political bias and motive is to be deprecated the Narain
Commission's report must stand or fall on its merit.

Of the facts first. On April 11, 1979, the Ramnawmi Jhanda of
the Dimna Akhara was taken out and was expected to follow the
routes ultimately allowed by the authorities. However, when it
reached the Yadava Patrol Pump on New Purulia Road, it got
stalled because a demand was made by the Mr D.N. Pandey, that
certain person taken into custody some days earlier be released
before the procession decided to move on. The Deputy
Commissioner persuaded Mr Pandey to announce on the microphone
that the procession should move on. This Mr Pandey did but the
commission has a lot to say on his actual intention. The
procession move about 50 yards, got stalled again but was made
to move. But by that time a large crowd numbering about 2,000
and armed with lethal weapons, had joined the procession. It is
at that point of time that brickbats were thrown on the
procession from the adjoining areas inhabited by the Muslims. A
riot had begun to be followed by another and yet another. All
hell was let loose.

These are the bare facts about how the riots started. But a lot
of things had started earlier. In any case, Jamshedpur had a
history of communal tension and there had been serious riot in
1964. The main problem was that the Dimna Akharawalas had been
insisting on taking out the procession through a route which was
near a mosque. Officials were able to persuade both Hindu and
Muslim leaders that only a few persons should accompany the
jhanda while it passed by the mosque. The rest should join the
procession later. It is the commission's finding that the Hindu
extremists never meant to implement the agreement, which
explains why the difficult demand for the release of certain
detained person was made when the procession was mid-way and
people armed with lethal weapons had begun joining it.

Where does the RSS come into all this? It is the commission's
finding that the RSS has a well-organized unit in Jamshedpur,
with nearly 15 sakhas and 500 swayamsevaks. It held a divisional
conference on the Cooperative College Campus only five days
before the Ramnawmi celebrations. It was addressed by Balasaheb
Deoras who is reported to have said that while Hindus in their
own country were not allowed to take out processions, the number
of mosques was increasing day by day in the Arab countries. He
is also stated to have referred to the disputed route, Road No
14, along which the Dimna Akharawalas insisted on taking their
procession. Further, a leaflet was distributed calling upon the
faithful to take out the Dimna Jhanda on the intended route,
come what may. (A controversy developed before the commission
over the admissibility of a pamphlet showing what Mr Deoras has
said. However, the commission preferred the police report on the
subject to the pamphlet because the relevant tape had not been
produced, and in any case, considering the time lapse, the
doctoring of the tape was a possibility.)

it needs to be remembered that it is by no means the
commission's finding that the RSS, as an organization, had
caused the riots. The finding is that the RSS, with its
extensive organisation in Jamshedpur and with its close links
with the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh had positive hand in
creating a climate which was most propitious for the outbreak of
the communal the outbreak=94. But this has to be viewed in the
light of the commission's further finding that the riots were by
no means pre-planned, although certain sections may have been
arming themselves and there existed a mood of assertion by
extremist Hindus.

Weakness

A further weakness of the commission's finding is that it has
inferred rather than found evidence of Mr Pandey's connection
with the RSS. Because the erstwhile Jana Sangh became the
Bharatiya Janata Party and because the BJP allows dual
membership (of the BJP and RSS), the commission concluded that,
onsidering the totality of materials placed before us=94, Mr
Pandey had links with the RSS. And what is the otality of
circumstances=94? Not all BJP members are members of the RSS. The
commission may have special reasons to disbelieve Mr Pandey, his
commission may have special reasons to disbelieve Mr Pandey, his
conduct may have been suspicious, even reprehensible, but that
does not necessarily make him a RSS man, not for a fact-finding
commission demanding credible proof.

Having persuaded, itself that the two communities, Hindus and
Muslims, had by no means declared war against each other, that
only some extremist elements had gone berserk, and that there
was no preparation by either community to cause riots, the
commission was confronted with the task of blaming some
organisation for the riots and it chose the RSS.

And this brings us to the commission's observations on the
Muslims. One notices a good deal of sympathy, undoubtedly well-
deserved, for the Muslims because in most cases it is they who
were the victims. The commission has concluded that, cting
under panic, for which there was sufficient cause, the Muslim
minority had planned to the extent of preparing themselves
against an attack by the Hindu communalists. The anti-socials
among them turned this preparation into aggressive action. The
riot at Mango broke out in full fury after some provocative acts
had been committed by the Muslims when an armed procession of
Hindus, swelling in number with an influx coming on towards it
pitched itself at the very approach to their residential areas=94.

However, panic alone cannot explain why the Ramnawmi
processionists had to be stoned. The commission is to be faulted
for not making a clear distinction between decent, law-abiding
Muslims, and the Muslim hooligans and for not going deeply into
their strength and activities, especially when the death of an
anti-social, Anwar, in an encounter with the police, had caused
resentment among the extremist section. This is the more so
because the commission's clear finding is that is the Muslims
who started the riot by throwing stones on the procession. What
is the strength and character of the Muslim organizations? More
needs to be known.

It needs to be emphasized that riots are caused by ruffians. And
ruffians cut across communal categories. The sympathy goodwill
and consideration for the minority community can be no means
imply softness for anti-social elements to whichever community
they may belong. This needs to be emphasized because
politicians, being politicians, consider it politically unwise
to blame, even where there is direct proof, anti-socials if they
belong to the minority community. Quite a few reports of
commissions inquiring into riots have just not been released. It
would be interesting to know why.

The commission seems to have been unduly harsh on officials
except for some Bihar Military Police personnel who deserve to
be condemned in the severe terms for having cooperate with the
extremist Hindus in attacking Muslims. It has itself found that
neither the Hindu nor the Muslims were planning to cause a riot
and that, if there was an element of preparation it consisted in
the extremist Hindus preparing to bring out the jhanda on their
chosen route come what may, and in the resultant climate of fear
and suspicion, Muslims, out of fear arming themselves. Were the
officials far wrong then in concluding before the occurrence
that there was no suspicion of apprehension of a communal
disturbance? After all they had taken the precaution of asking
for more reinforcements, decided to round up anti-socials, met
citizens of the two communities and make them agree on the
procession route and the manner in which the jhanda was to have
been carried near the mosque. What else could they do?

The commission's own finding that the officials failed to
realize the death of the communal feelings existing in
Jamshedpur goes ill with preparation to perpetrate a riot and
that two whole communities had by no means gone berserk.

Demoralization

A missing link in the whole narration is the role of
politicians, and those alleged to belong to communal
organizations, in fanning communal passion or hatred, and the
resultant demoralization in the police and the bureaucracy. Not
that the officials were correct or their judgement was always
sound - they were able to round up over 110 Hindu anti-socials
but only one Muslim oonda - but it needs to be emphasized
that the commission's sweeping verdict on officials is not
wholly borne out by its own analysis, at places contradictory.

As for the commission's recommendations those specifically
relating to Jamshedpur are worth consideration. Among these are
the posting of a Deputy Commissioner in Jamshedpur, creation of
separate district and greater surveillance of the communally
active areas. The suggestion that meeting of communal
organizations like the RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami in educational
institutions be banned is a valuable one, but much else has been
said which is no more than platitude.


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