A S Meerut and adjoining riot-affected areas limped back to normalcy there was growing concern at the realization of the ominous and unprecedented nature of the 10-day long orgy of murder, rape, loot and arson, which slowly came to light.

On all counts, the ritos in Meerut last month stand out in the entire history of communal violence in the country. They have been surpassed in sheer savagery only four times, in the past the Partition holocaust, the Assam massacres, the Golden Temple attack, the anti-Sikh carnage after Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the Ansari Baug Massacre in Bhiwandi in 1984.


There are few takers in Meerut and elsewhere for the official death toll 133, as reports show that in Malliana village alone, the Provincial Arm Constabulary (PAC) along with Hindu hoodlums slaughtered over 100 men, women and children in cold blood. While unofficial estimates of more than 20,000 dead may well be exaggerated (not unusual in the aftermath of a bloody riot), it would not be if the actual death toll is well over four-figure mark.

Yet the number of victims, however gruesome the toll, is less horrific than the criminally manifest negligence of the Central as well as state administration in checking the wave of communal violence. Equally horrendous has been the blatantly communal role of political parties, most notably the Congress (I) in the riots. And most frightening of all, normal law-abiding citizens, for the first time actively participated in the frenzy of killings and depredation.

The colossal administrative failure to stop the spiral of violence in Meerut is highlighted by the fact that top ministers, politicians and officials were probably ineffective despite being on the spot. Home Minister, Buta Singh, Minister of State for Home Affairs P. Chidambaram, Urban Development Minister Mohsina Kidwai (whose Parliamentary constituency is Meerut), Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Veer Bahadur Singh and State Director General of Police S.K. Bhatnaggar were all present in the city and had first-hand knowledge of the orgy of violence, Yet the . riots continued,

Mr. Chidambaram for instance, reached Meerut on the third-day of the riots. He has visited the city

twice since but has still failed to provide a correct assessment to the Central government about the extent of the rioting and what needed to be done to bring it under control, Buta Singh arrived on the day when the official toll had reached 54. Despite repeated reby local officials, he felt it was unnecessary to hand the town over to the army. The day after he told the journalists that the situation in Meerut had been brought under control, the Malliana massacre took place.

Mohsina Kidwai, who normally should have played a key role in defusing communal tension, proved to be a virtual liability and in fact a source of added tension herself. As soon as she arrived a large number of prominent Hindu citizens including many local Congress (I) leaders warned that there would be more violence if the MP from Meerut was allowed to visit curfew bound areas. Mrs. Kidwai was greeted with abuse by her own party men in front of Mr. Chidambaram and Chief Minister Veer Bahadur Singh. She was later sidelined completely and not allowed to either go around Meerut or participate in official meetings between central leaders and local administrators.


If the Central leaders proved wholly inadequate in dealing with the situation, the state-level leader ship was embroiled in its political games. Several officials in Meerut complained about the way the Chief Minister showed amazing complacency about the mounting violence in the city. Many believe that he deliberately soft-pedaled the taking of drastic measures against rioters because violence fitted in well with-his bid to divert attention from the public enthusiasm which V.P. Singh was arousing.

The Chief Minister is also believe to have taken particular pleasure in carrying out a slander campaign against Mohsina Kidwal and reportedly egged on local Hindu Congressman to humiliate and insult her in front of Mr. Chidambaram. Mr. Singh is believed to be an old political rival of Mrs. Kidwai and’ has been seeking an opportunity to cut the Central Minister down to size.

As far as ministers and officials like Home Minister Gopinath Dixit and SK Bhatnagar are concerned, they seemed to be unaware of even elementary details of the law and order situation, Persistent attempts by reporters to get their assessment of the riots met with the standard answer. “The District Magistrate is the spokesman of the administration, you talk to him”,

The District Magistrate, RS, Kaushik, overwhelmed by the presence of such top Central and state dignitaries and pressured by local communal lobbies, looked 4 tired and broken man by the first few days. Soon his lack of authority was apparent from the way he was being openly pushed around by junior police officers and small time local politicians.


It is not surprising therefore that despite the deployment of the army from the second day of the riots, the violence continued for more than a week. Army officers privately complained that troops had received no clear cut orders and sounded confused on the extent of their authority. They were also aghast at the level of communication of the local admiration.

An army Major, preparing his men to launch a house-to-house search in the Suraj Kund area of Meerut, was so exasperated by the behavior of a sub-District Mapistrate who kept insisting that only the Muslims were responsible for the violence that he finally told ‘the latter to shut up. “Even educated, responsible officials here have been affected by the communal madness”, the Major remarked bitterly.

Further, a lack of coordination between the troops, Para-military forces, and the local police was evident. Central Reserve Police Force Commandant AS. Khan waited in his hotel for four days before he was called for a coordination meeting for the first time. “The riots could’ have been contained within the first few days had the local administration gone about in the proper way,” he said:

In the confusion, the true communal color of the PAG, notorious for its anti-Muslim bias all over Uttar Pradesh, was exhibited with gruesome consequences: Apart from the ghastly outrages committed at Malliana, the PAC was involved in innumerable other communal attacks allover Meerut and in many cases it was an open confrontation between them and Muslims, The communal frenzy of the PAC did not even spare itself according to one report, 2 PAC Unit turned against its solitary: Muslim member and butchered him on the spot in the Shastn Nagar area of Meerut.

As far as the political parties and groups are concerned, almost all have reportedly played a dirty role in either directly or indirectly whipping up passions. The Congress (1) which has traditionally controlled the city’s politics by winning every single assembly election from Meerut since independence is the niftiest. : 2 The Congress (I) Rajya Sabha member Shanti Tyagi, also from Meerut, and the local MLA Jai Narain Sharma, on i.e. other hand, have been active in fomenting Hindu militancy in the city. It is under their protection that the Shiv Sena, the Hindu Sena, Manav Dharam Samaj and other fundamentalist organizations have taken advantage of the Muslim festival Shab-e-Baraat. This time, the riots succeeded in sucking large sections f ordinary citizens from both Communities.


Muslims claim they have tape- recorded filthy communal abuses hurled at them by PAC jawans and local Hindus threatening them with, among other things, complete genocide. They alleged that a common rallying call of the PAC on the rampage in Meerut was, “Orders from Veer Bahadur Singh are to kill every Muslim in sight”. What frightens an outsider is that the fact that the ugly communal mood in Meerut continues even after the worst of the rioting is over today.

Whatever the immediate catalyst to the communal madness at Meerut last month, there is little doubt that its roots lie in the basic policy of the government in appeasing Hindu communalism.

Said Ved Aggarwal, a veteran freedom fighter in Meerut, “Rajiv Gandhi is trying to walk a tightrope by appeasing both the communities at the same time. It is a dangerous game. Once people see through this game, they will stop Cutting each other’s throats and turn against the government”.

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 3, 1987