How fair is it to convert Chowk named after Param Vir Chakra winner Abdul Hamid into battleground?

In 70 years of independent India, the Kasganj riot stands apart in several ways though casualty-wise the violence was not very serious.

-Soroor Ahmed

Compelling Muslims of Kasganj to shout “Pakistan Murdabad” while they were celebrating Republic Day at the road-crossing named after Param Vir Chakra award winner Abdul Hamid, who knocked down half a dozen Patton tanks of the enemy in 1965 war before sacrificing his life, is something very shocking.

In 70 years of independent India, the Kasganj riot stands apart in several ways though casualty-wise the violence was not very serious.

The occasion, the timing and the place where the rioting started were wrong. It not only took place on the auspicious occasion of 69th Republic Day but also when the Muslims were busy unfurling the same ‘Tiranga’ flag at Vir Abdul Hamid Chowk.

Those who planned, backed and executed the Tiranga Yatra totally missed this point. As if that was not enough: these foot-soldiers of the RSS affiliates failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. We were clashing on the streets of Kasganj on the issue of Tiranga Yatra on this day of national importance when we had hosted 10 leaders of the ASEAN countries to attend the Republic Day parade in New Delhi. And on the eve of this day, that is January 25 (and before), the storm-troopers of Karni Sena was creating ugly scenes all over the country to stop the release of Padmaavat.

If there was nothing objectionable in the film––and Karni Sena finally disappeared from the scene days after its screening––where was the need to pass the Tiranga Yatra through that narrow road when the people were not engaged in any anti-national act, but busy hoisting the same tri-colour? Should Muslims of Kasganj only hoist the Tiranga brought by the vanguards of Hindutva and is it necessary for them to shout the slogan “Pakistan Murdabad” at this point of time?

No doubt we celebrate Republic Day and Independence Day with much fanfare yet it is a fact that they are solemn occasions too. Nation-loving and jingoism are two different issues and there is little scope for the latter during such festivals.

On this occasion countrymen and women bury all their differences, recall the struggle made for the independence of India and highlight the achievements made since 1947. The sacrifices of the likes of Company Quarter Master Havildar Abdul Hamid are remembered. But the tragedy is that the Chowk named after this brave soldier from Ghazipur in the same Uttar Pradesh, who laid down his life at the age of 32, was converted into a battleground for no good reason.

Yet there is silence all around from the ruling establishment and nobody is glorifying the deeds of this man who won the country’s highest gallantry award.

Perhaps they only believe in lip-service.

(Soroor Ahmed is a freelance journalist)

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