Tripura shows how to stand up against bigotry
A joint fact-finding team of four Muslim organisations on Saturday said Hindus and Muslims in Tripura provided an example of how to stand up to bigotry by neither getting swayed by the narrative of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal nor being provoked into retaliation over the recent targeted attacks on mosques.
The team had visited the violence-affected areas of Tripura earlier this week.
Briefing journalists here after returning from Tripura, the office-bearers of the four organisations were all praise for the residents of the affected areas for maintaining peace and amity in the face of repeated efforts by the VHP to spread hate and provoke Muslims into retaliation.
The delegation conceded that the VHP and the Bajrang Dal would not have been able to identify the Muslim-run establishments without local help. But the group maintained that by and large, the Hindus of the affected areas refused to be swayed by the hate campaign.
The president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), Navaid Hamid, said: “The Tripura people have shown that ordinary citizens will have to stand up to bigotry when institutions responsible for upholding constitutional values fail to step up.’’
Commenting on suggestions that the attacks on the minority community were a retaliation to the violence against Hindus in Bangladesh during Durga Puja, Hamid said: “If the VHP were sincere about protesting the attacks on Durga Puja pandals in Bangladesh, it would have organised a protest outside the Bangladesh consulate in Agartala instead of attacking Muslims in the state.”
The delegation felt that the communal violence had been engineered with a view to building a polarising narrative for the upcoming Assembly elections in states like Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
All the delegation members accused police of not just dereliction of duty but also, at times, of conniving with the assailants.
“The police are claiming they cannot identify those who instigated the violence as the assailants snatched their cameras and phones,” said Shams Tabrez Qasmi, a representative of the All India Milli Council (AIMC).
The delegation was in Tripura from October 31 to November 2 and visited several of the affected areas across four of the eight districts of Tripura, including Panisagar which saw the maximum violence.
According to the delegation, the attacks on mosques began on October 19 and continued till October 26. One of the 16 mosques damaged in the violence had been built by the CRPF when it had a camp in the area, the vice-president of the Jamat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), Mohammad Saleem, said.
In most cases, the mosques were targeted in the dead of night by people who moved around in small groups, the delegation said.
Apart from visiting the damaged mosques and meeting the affected people, the delegation also tried to meet chief minister and BJP leader Biplab Kumar Deb but was not given an appointment.
The delegation subsequently sent a letter to him, underlining the law-and-order machinery’s failure to anticipate and stop the violence, and also the way it was now intimidating journalists and fact-finding teams by threatening to invoke the UAPA against them.
Besides the AIMMM, AIMC and the JIH, the Markzai Jamiat Ahle Hadees Hind was part of the delegation.
Tripura govt stand
Asked about the delegation’s statement on the inability to meet Deb, Tripura minister and government spokesperson Sushanta Chowdhury told The Telegraph he was not in a position to comment on the claim made by the Muslim organisations.
“Yes, there was a communal build-up following the attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh during the Puja festivities but under the initiative of our chief minister and the police department, we managed to control the situation. The reports that were spread across the country about violence in Tripura were an exaggeration and far from the truth. That is what we have told the high court, too,” he said.
“I invite people from the national media, leading citizens and organisations to visit Tripura and see the law-and-order situation for themselves. There is complete peace and tranquillity.”
Additional reporting by Umanand Jaiswal