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Published On:09 July 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

ANALYSIS: Bihar becoming saffronisation hub, Urdu Media turns blind eye

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: It seems that Bihar under the rule of Nitish Kumar has become the hub of saffronisation.The cruel episode of Forbesganj in Bihar gives bitter memory of Gujarat 2002 riots. This writer Abdul hafiz lakhani is from Modi-land can better understand the plight of victims.

The dividing line between the government and the saffron brotherhood in Bihar has become so blurred that the two are now virtually indistinguishable. What makes this exercise – aborted, at least for now – particularly scary is the fact that a similar exercise had preceded the Muslim genocide in Gujarat and, of course, much earlier, the Jewish Holocaust in Germany. Attacks on Muslims and their places of worship are on the rise in Bihar.

Without much sound and fury, the BJP supported government in Bihar is busy converting the geographical heart of India into a saffron land. After Gujarat, it seems, another Hindu Rashtra is in the offing.

The firing on Muslims in Bihar's Forbesganj in which four villagers including a pregnant woman and an infant were killed, is fast turning into the biggest political challenge for the JDU-led coaliation.

The opposition has geared up to corner the state government over the issue. Meanwhile, social organisations, Muslim groups and civil rights bodies are also gunning for the police officials who ordered the firing on villagers.

This is the biggest challenge for Nitish Kumar who came to power with a resounding majority and formed the government with BJP's support. The incident has become a rallying point for the opposition parties including the RJD, LJP and Congress.

Ram Vilas Paswan, Lalu Yadav and prominent Congress leaders have joined hands to embarrass the government, as except one victim, the family of no other victim killed in the firing was handed over any financial compensation.

The firing took place in Araria's Forbesganj in the first week of June. But Baba Ramdev's fast overshadowed it. However, protests continued over the manner in which police opened fire at villagers. A video that showed a policeman stomping over and kicking a man who had been hit with a bullet, caused mass outrage.

Opposition hopes that Forbesganj issue would hurt Nitish Kumar, as he had cultivated his image carefully as a secular leader. By not letting Narendra Modi enter Bihar for campaign, Nitish had sent a signal to the minorities.

The latest incident is bound to give him a headache. Clearly, all is not well in Bihar. Though Nitish succeeded in improving law-and-order situation, this incident has come as a blot for the administration.

If the State government had taken firm action on the guilty it would not have faced such protests from Patna to Delhi. For now, the Opposition has got a stick to beat the JDU-BJP government with. Let's see if the Bihar government goes for a damage control and accepts the demand for CBI inquiry.

Nitish Kumar is able to brazen out the police killings in Forbesganj, thanks to the silence of the media.suprisingly even Urdu media.

Urdu media always claims to be the voice of the Muslim community but at least in Bihar and looking at their coverage of Forbesganj police firing case, it seems Urdu newspapers have become the voice of the state government not unlike English and Hindi media.

The apathy and negligence showed by Urdu media in coverage of Forbesganj police firing belie their claims to be voice of the Muslims and proves that they are failing in even simple journalism task of covering stories of importance.

On the afternoon of 3 June, the police in Forbesganj block of Araria district of Bihar shot, stomped on and beat to death four unarmed villagers and injured at least nine others, in what is, by all accounts, a wanton act of state violence.

The dead include a pregnant Shazmeena who received six bullet wounds in her hand, spine and stomach, six-year-old Naushad who was shot twice in his spine, 22-year-old Mukhtar Ansari who was shot in his head, chest, stomach and spine and 18-year-old Moham- mad Mustafa, who was shot six times and then when not yet dead, had a policeman repeatedly jump and stomp on his injured body and kick it mercilessly to make sure he died.

All the bullet wounds of the dead and injured are in the head, chest, stomach, hands and spine. Not only do these indicate a clear intent to kill in the firing, it also shows that those who were running away or had fallen down were shot by a trigger-happy police.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appears to have decided to brazen out the incident, alleging that some activists were making a mountain out of a molehill. Police officials have said that they only fired in “self-defence” when villagers supposedly threw stones and brandished firearms. However, testimonies of the victims, video footage and photos show that the Bihar police shot unarmed villagers who were not even protesting at the time.

Given the manner in which the state machinery already appears to have absolved the killers of Forbesganj and is busy building alibis for them, there can be little hope that the victims will receive any justice from the judicial inquiry that Nitish Kumar has reluctantly ordered.

The villagers of Bhajanpura village, on the outskirts of Forbesganj town, have been protesting against construction of a boundary wall for a proposed factory which is linked to an important leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Ashok Agarwal, who is a lieutenant of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi.

The boundary wall would block Bhajanpura’s only access road. On 1 June, representatives of the administration and the factory assured the villagers that the wall would only be built once an alternative road had been provided to them. However, on the morning of 3 June, the residents of the village found that their road had been blocked overnight by a newly constructed factory wall.

They gathered in large numbers, broke down the wall and started accessing the road as they had been doing for at least the past six decades. The police arrived a few hours later and, it appears from witnesses, fired randomly at those using this road.

Thus the dead include a pregnant woman on her way to the hospital and a young man going to buy vegetables.

While the entire incident is shocking, the conduct of the political leadership of Bihar has been outrageous. What has added an edge to the police violence is that the victims are all Muslims while the instigators of the violence appear to be among the state leadership of the BJP with links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Some activists have charged the latter organisation with creating the conditions for a re-enactment of Gujarat. This incident is now being used by political opponents of Nitish Kumar to hit at his support among the Muslims of the state.

Nitish Kumar has foregrounded the demands of the Pasmanda (dalit and back- ward class) Muslims and has thus managed to fracture the Muslim electoral base which had traditionally been led by the elites of the community. His electoral success has depended crucially on bringing the Pasmanda Muslims into an alliance with upper caste Hindu groups, the latter forming the core support groups of the BJP and the JD(U).

However, the killing of Pas- manda Muslims in Forbesganj to help an upper caste factory owner close to the BJP leadership can unravel the alliance and it appears that the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress are using this incident precisely for this purpose.

Unfortunately, such cyni- cal political games may further deny the victims of Forbesganj the chance of getting justice.

Apart from such self-serving support, few have stood up for the victims of Forbesganj. It has only been the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), led by its chairman, Wajahat Habibullah, and member Syeda Bilgrami Imam, which visited Bhajanpura and heard the testimonies of the victims. Nitish Kumar refused to meet the NCM team and has so far not even announced compensation for those killed in the police firing or suspended those policemen who have been shown to be prima facie guilty.

The silence of the mainstream media about the Forbesganj killings, even when photos and videos of police brutality were available is not only disturbing but a pointer to the very nature of Indian media today. Nitish Kumar is the anointed “best” chief minister of India and nothing, it appears, can pierce his Teflon coating.

While the poor, unarmed villagers of Forbesganj were being shot dead to facilitate the operation of the factory of a ruling party leader, the mainstream media was busy hyperventilating on the theatrics of a yoga guru and sundry “civil society”.

A dispassionate analysis of the media’s role in this entire affair will suggest a deliberate attempt to protect Nitish Kumar and his government. This exposes the politics and prejudices which underlie our “free press”.

Is it still possible for India’s civil society, properly defined,and its democracy to find justice for the victims of Forbesganj? Can we hope that the perpetrators of the murders – not just the policemen involved, but also those who gave the orders for such action – are brought to stand trial.

The terrible incident took place on June 3 in Muslim dominated village Bhajanpur under Forbesganj block in Araria district of Bihar. The villagers were protesting against blocking of a road that they have used for a long time, by an upcoming glucose factory when police opened fire upon them killing 4 people including six-month child and five-month pregnant women.

Forbesganj police firing and apathy of Urdu dailies of Bihar

The worst part of the incident was home guard Sunil Kumar Yadav who stomped and kicked still alive Mustafa Ansari while other police officers looked on. The video that captured the horrible scene may bring tears into the eyes of those who have beating hearts. In short, the incident was a worst example of khakhi terrorism against the minority, violation of human rights, women rights and child rights.

Despite these facts, the issue it seems was not important for Urdu media. They did not show interest in highlighting the brutal incident and failure of the state government. They failed to publish pictures of the victims of the incident and also they did not bother to send their reporters to meet the villagers and publish any news gathering the ground-level facts. Even they did not try to know the painful stories of the injured in the incident being treated at PMCH in the state capital despite all the Urdu dailies have their head offices here.

Bihar with about 17% Muslims (2001 Census) is one of the most Muslim populated states in the country. Majority of them depends on Urdu newspapers when it comes to connect with rest of the state. But due to lack of coverage, they might be unaware of the seriousness of Forbesganj incident which has created long-lasting trouble for the natives of the area.

This analsysis of Urdu dailies follows the same pattern adopted by Dilip Mandal in his “analysis” of Hindi dailies on their coverage of Forbesganj firing.

Rashtriya Sahara, largest selling Urdu daily in the country, did not give importance to the incident at all. Leave alone publishing the news on front page, it did not even publish any news about Forbesganj firing in its sixteen-page edition on 4th June—the day after the incident.

In later days, it only published the statements of the opposition parties and some organizations that too on their inside pages. Yes, the news about judicial enquiry announced by Nitish Kumar managed to find space on the front page.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on July 09, 2011. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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