Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s recent announcement to release the long forgotten report on 1980 Moradabad riots has sparked debate about a crucial chapter in the state’s history. These riots were UP’s first large-scale communal violence since India’s independence. Despite the turbulence caused by partition, Uttar Pradesh had remained mostly peaceful until the awful events in Moradabad. With the government’s decision to release the report, let us delve into the specifics and comprehend the significance of this historic occurrence.
Moradabad riots began with conflicts between Muslims and Hindus in a West Uttar Pradesh neighbourhood. It was a time when V P Singh, a first-time chief minister, was leading Congress-led administration in the state. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was preoccupied with the developing Punjab conflict and the emerging tensions in Assam. Both the state and central governments struggled to properly contain the violence, which continued to spread across various parts of Uttar Pradesh and lasted for months.
The Tragic Beginnings and Escalation
The riots broke out on August 13, 1980, coinciding with Eid-ul-Fitr, near an Idgah located between Hindu and Muslim neighbourhoods. The incident began with rumours of a ‘stray animal’ near the Idgah, which led to clashes between Muslim devotees and police. As tensions rose, the police and the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) opened fire, killing numerous people.
The Commission and the Hidden Report
In response to the turmoil, the V P Singh government appointed a commission to investigate the riots, led by recently retired Justice Mathura Prasad Saxena. In November 1983, the commission issued its findings. Unfortunately, the report remains classified till date. Yogi Adityanath’s decision to table it in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly is part of a special initiative to reveal previously concealed findings of this report into the public domain. This long-awaited report offers insight on the events, reasons, and consequences of the riots in Moradabad.
Widespread Impact and Political Ramifications
The Moradabad riots had far-reaching ramifications, spreading to Sambhal, Aligarh, Bareilly, Allahabad (now Prayagraj), and rural Moradabad. These sporadic events persisted for the rest of the year. The official death toll, as announced in the Assembly by UP Home Minister Swarup Kumari Bakshi, was 289, comprising both confirmed and assumed dead, including District Magistrate DP Singh. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi first said a “foreign hand” was behind the violence, implying a plot to destabilise the country. She then retracted her statement after visiting the impacted communities.
Controversies and Political Blame Game
Various tales evolved regarding the rioters’ instigators. Yogendra Makwana, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, blamed the disturbance on the newly founded Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). V P Singh testified in front of the UP Assembly that intelligence personnel had warned about potential trouble owing to the gathering of Muslims at the Idgah. Amid mounting criticism, VP Singh tendered his resignation but was ultimately persuaded to continue serving as chief minister.
The release of the long-awaited Saxena report on the 1980 Moradabad riots is expected to be an important turning point in Uttar Pradesh’s history.