If a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, then these graphic images, showing gun-wielding policemen surging ahead to swoop on agitated Muslim youth without getting hold of Sikh agitators, brandishing swords and knives, give credence to all the theories blaming police of playing a partisan role during riots.
A series of pictures taken by a photographer of Siasat.com newspaper show policemen ignoring the sword and knife-wielding Sikh men as if they both were playing from the same side.
Three Muslims –Mohammed Shujauddin, 42, Mohammed Fareed, and Wajid Ali, 38 – who died in the police firing have received bullet wounds on chest and abdomen. This has also raised fingers at the intentions of policemen who instead of firing in air, obviously to quell protests, fired to kill.
Sikh youths armed with their swords and sticks attacked households of Muslims over an alleged desecration of their religious flag in Kishanbagh area of Hyderabad on Wednesday morning. After their properties were set ablaze and damaged, Muslim youths retaliated by pelting stones at the Sikh mobs.
Instead of hauling up the miscreants, the policemen fired on the Muslim youth, which according to newspaper reports, had assembled in thousands. Dozens got injured in the police action with most of them receiving injuries above the waist level.
MIM president and MP from Hyderabad, Asadudin Owaisi accused the police of taking law into their own hands. “Instead of using the usual methods like lathicharge, bursting of teargas shells and use of rubber bullets, they directly opened fire on the youth, hailing bullets at their chests,” he said in a press statement.
The incident, which could well have been an accident too, as witnesses told Indian Express, was exploited by miscreants who attacked Muslim houses and even uploaded an image of the ‘burnt’ flag on the social networking websites – adding to the rage.
“We are assuming that early in the morning, between 3-4 am, something happened in the shop due to which sparks flew and the flag caught fire. I think it was an accident. This is just our preliminary reading of what may have happened,” a local told the newspaper.
Demanding a judicial inquiry into the incident, Owaisi said: “Instead of controlling the assailants who were brandishing swords and attacking the persons of other community indiscriminately, the police personnel from the Central paramilitary forces opened fired on the locality residents.”
This is not the first time that Indian policemen have been accused of choosing sides when it comes to aiming their guns on Muslim rioters.
Police and government officials were accused of directing the rioters and even giving them a list of Muslim owned properties during the 2002 Gujarat riots in which at least 1000 people, mostly Muslims were killed.
Forty people killed in police firing in Ahmedabad during the riots that continued for three days were all Muslims.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) writes: “Press reports and eyewitness testimonies, including those collected by Human Rights Watch, [are] abound with stories of police participation and complicity in the attacks. Their crimes range from inaction to direct participation in the looting and burning of Muslim shops, restaurants, hotels, homes, and the killing of Muslim residents.”
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who is set to become India’s Prime Minister, according to exit polls, was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time of riots.
HRW adds: “Worse still, officers who tried to keep the peace or act against murderous mobs have been transferred, or have faced the wrath of their superiors.”