On-the-spot study by People’s Forum in Kanth episode
Introduction- People’s Forum is a Lucknow based social organization which works mainly in the field of transparency and accountability in public life and Human Rights. This study was conducted by me, social activists Saleem Beg, Dr Nutan Thakur, Danish Khan, Abhishek Singh and others. Here the two concerned parties, various political persons, administrative officers and intellectuals were approached and an attempt was made to study the matter through an academic perspective. At the same time, suggestions have been given to reduce such incidences in future. The detailed report shall be sent to the Central and State government.
1. The most important conclusion is that for various historic and social reasons, today the harsh reality is that communal feeling and an internal distrust has become a fact in this region which always comes to the fore at the slightest pretext. This fact is apparent from the exactly opposed version given by the villagers about the temple and the loudspeaker where one group said that loudspeaker was in use for years, the other group said that till recently there was not even a gate and boundary in the temple and the loudspeaker was used only on few special occasions
2. Hence the administration of these regions need to accept that communal feelings like deep in the psyche and they need to be extremely alert about this
3. This incidence also makes it clear that for people of these regions, communal feelings become more important than many other issues related with day to day life and they get more deeply and more quickly affected by communal feelings vis-à-vis many issues related with their livelihood
4. Hence we need to come out of our thinking that only political parties and vested interests are responsible for these incidences and we need to accept that religious and communal feelings are very deeply ingrained in common people
5. Political parties are aware of this reality and hence they are always in search of them because they know that poor, semi-literate people can be swayed more easily through such issues as can be seen from Kanth episode. Here again the political parties supported the issue assisting it to acquire larger context but they could do it only because the local people gave them a fertile ground
6. This episode once again makes it clear that since vote is the most important thing for political parties and religious feelings are the easiest and most effective means to garner votes, hence they are naturally in search of every such occasion. Here again efforts of polarization were very apparent. The matter which might have ended easily blew out of proportion because of political involvement
7. Since the basic aims of administration and political parties are different and while vote and people’s support is more important to political parties and law order and rule of law is more important to administration, hence administration must accept this basic reality. Thus whenever such incidence take place, the administrative officers shall focus themselves on their own work and strategy instead of pointing fingers at one or more political parties because fundamentally their work and purpose are not the same
8. In this episode, certain administrative officers seem to have forgotten this cardinal principle and instead of focusing on their work, they were found commenting on political parties which could have been easily avoided because firstly it was not needed, secondly this gave an alibi for subordinate staff to hide their faults and thirdly this acted as a catalyst to enhance the issue. Hence, knowingly or unknowingly some administrative officers became a party where certain groups started questioning their neutrality, having its detrimental effect on their functioning.
9. Even if there was internal communal feeling among people and the political parties came in between but the administrative responsibility was definitely found for whatever untoward events happened. The episode went for a long time and there were many things that could have been avoided at different ends. Better communication, more direct contact with the affected people and more balanced approach could have certainly yielded better results. When loudspeaker had already been installed then knowing the sensitivity of the month, taking off the loudspeaker in presence of large police force should have been avoided
10. Since there was large police force present on the day of taking off the loudspeaker, hence even if some villagers were protesting this act, there does not seem to be any reason to arrest them because arresting women and others in presence of such large police force sent wrong signals and they started believing that the administration was not neutral in their action and was acting to please the other group. Once this impression was formed, many such events happened later which assisted in strengthening this thought
11. There were three aged women among those arrested and they made definite complaints about their improper arrest and about Human Rights violations before police and in jail
12. The stopping of Upasna express and the Good train at Kanth could have been avoided because at that time there was not much crowd on the spot and if the train could have gone ahead, such large crowd might not have assembled there, avoiding the DM and stone pelting incidence
13. Many police and administrative officers anonymously accepted that on many occasions many officers did not protect themselves to the required standard, resulting in their getting hurt. Many officers were negligent in properly wearing helmet and body protector and most of them avoided hand and leg protectors resulting in such injuries
14. If these people had properly protected themselves then they could have been better placed to face the hostile crowd and many hurried police action could have been avoided