New Delhi: A joint delegation of Muslim organisations, back from a fact-finding trip to Tripura to look into reports of communal violence in the state in the last part of October, presented its report at a press conference in Delhi Saturday. The fact finding team was led by the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMM), an umbrella body of Muslim organisations in India.
Speaking at the press conference, AIMM President Navaid Hamid and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Vice President Salim Engineer, alleged that incidents of violence, arson and loot against Muslims in Tripura were carried out by Right-wing Hindu groups such as the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Hamid also alleged that as part of the violence, many shops owned by Muslims in remote parts of Tripura and about 16 mosques in the state were vandalised and torched, resulting in some of them being completely burnt down. One such mosque which was completely burnt down was located within a CRPF camp, claimed Engineer.
“This was a political conspiracy and agenda to target Muslims. The police did not just oversee the violence, but even acted in connivance with the rioters and supported their acts,” alleged Hamid.
Violence broke out in Tripura after a mosque was allegedly vandalised and shops and houses owned by Muslims torched in Tripura’s Panisagar town on 26 October. The violence had started during a rally taken out by VHP members against alleged communal violence against Hindus during Durga Puja celebrations in Bangladesh. Following this many other case of alleged attacks on mosques and shops and housed owned by the minority community were reported from across Tripura.
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‘Probe role of Tripura police’
The delegation of Muslim organisations spent three days in Tripura between 31 October and 2 November and met victims and opposition leaders from the CPI(M) and Congress, in an attempt to understand the nature of the violence. They were, however, unable to meet Tripura Chief Minister and BJP leader Biplab Kumar Deb.
In a letter to Deb on 5 November, the delegation demanded an impartial judicial inquiry into the violence “with a mandate of probing the role of Tripura police” as well.
Engineer, who was a part of the fact-finding committee and leading the press conference, said that till now six people had been arrested in cases relating to the violence and 11 FIRs filed, but alleged that the state of investigation was very poor.
“Not only are they letting culprits go free, but targeting voices who were raising awareness about the violence,” he alleged.
The Tripura Police had invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against two lawyers conducting a fact-finding and legal assistance mission on behalf of the human rights organisation the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
The letter to CM Deb also expressed shock at this action of the police, said Engineer.
The only positive finding relating to the violence, according to the delegation, was that despite repeated provocations and attempts to instigate, the local Muslim population in Tripura did not react nor retaliate, and that common non-Muslims stood up to the rioters to defend the Muslims.
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Comparisons with Gurugram
Drawing a comparison to alleged targeting of Muslims in the National Capital Region’s Gurugram, Hamid alleged, that as designated places for Muslims to offer Namaz in Gurugram were closed down following protest by Hindu groups, similarly mosques were being targeted in Tripura.
He claimed that both incidents (the violence in Tripura targeting mosques and protest in Gurugram) were the outcome of two main agendas of Hindu groups.
While the short-term agenda, according to him, was to rake up Hindu-Muslim issues ahead of upcoming assembly elections in states like UP and Uttarakhand, the “larger agenda was to ingrain in Hindus to not toelrate any Muslim places of worhsip”.
“And the agenda behind this provocation is that they want a civil-war,” alleged Hamid.
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