Local officials, intel agencies to blame for Muzaffarnagar riots, finds probe panel

Absolving the Samajwadi Party government of direct responsibility for the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, the Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission has blamed the “negligence” of the local administration, the “failure” of the intelligence agencies and exaggerated reporting in the social and print media for the communal riots that left over 60 persons dead and 60,000 homeless in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining districts.

The commission was constituted to probe the reasons for the riots and the administrative lapses in controlling the violence.

The 775-page report was tabled in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly on Sunday.

A file photo of tents at a relief camp for riot victims at Bassi Kalan in Muzaffarnagar.

Though the former Allahabad High Court judge identified 14 causes for the violence, he has not indicted any SP leader or senior official or police officer.

The commission said no further action would be taken against BJP MLA Sangeet Som, who had uploaded on YouTube a provocative fake video that was shot in Pakistan, until the investigation was completed. No penal action would be taken against the then BSP MP for an inflammatory speech.

The report called out local officials for negligence and criticised the intelligence agencies for misjudging the “gravity of the situation.” “The failure of the intelligence agencies was a major cause for the riots,” it said, referring to the under-estimation of the crowd gathered at the Nagla-Mandod mahapanchayat on September 7, 2013.

While intelligence inputs said 15,000-20,000 people would attend it, 40,000-50,000 people assembled for the meeting, the commission said, criticising intelligence officials for not making available the videorecording of the mahapanchayat.

It held responsible the then SSP, Muzaffarnagar, Subhash Chandra Dubey, and local intelligence inspector Prabal Pratap Singh and recommended administrative action against them for negligence.

The commission also went into the role of the then DM, Kaushal Raj Sharma, and sought clarifications from him. It pointed to the fallout of the transfers of the then Muzaffarnagar DM, Surendra Singh, and the then SSP, Manzil Saini, as they triggered anger among the Hindus, especially Jats.

The report said inflammatory speeches were made by members of both communities and put the blame for the riots on the “acute communal divide” in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts because of the Kanwal incident of August 27, 2013.

“The riots resulted from the ‘polarisation’ between Hindus and Muslims as a consequence of the Kanwal incident, in which a Muslim youth Shahnawaz and two Hindu youths Sachin and Gaurav were killed,” the report says. The commission also pointed to the role of the social and print media in rumour-mongering and exaggerating reports but did not single out any group.

Senior lawyer Asad Hayat, a co-petitioner in a Muzaffarnagar riots case in the Supreme Court, called the report a “cover-up.”

“What was the use of the commission if it cannot take action against leaders like Sangeet Som? What legal use will it serve for victims? Over 80 murders were not considered part of the riots. Why has the commission failed to reach out to those people?” Mr. Hayat said.

Shehzad Poonawalla, a petitioner in the case, condemned the report for giving a “clean chit” to the government and BJP leaders.