The annual pilgrimage of Kanwar Yatra has hit headlines for all the wrong reasons. While devotees undertook the journey in the month of Shravana to pour Ganga water on Lord Shiva in order to attain blessings, some turned violent and indulged in hooliganism and misbehaviour, creating a public nuisance. While the conduct of some of these so-called devotees has angered people, the soft hands with which police has dealt with the perpetrators of crime and disorder has only made matters worse.
As the videos and photos of ruckus created by a few Kanwariyas started doing rounds on the social media, demands for stringent measures to deal with such vandalism were raised. Here are the incidents which have brought shame to this traditional yatra.
A shocking incident had unfolded on the streets of Delhi on Tuesday. The video of the incident, captured by a CCTV camera installed at a shop, showed the kanwariyas shattering a car’s windshields, windows and headlights with baseball bats even as a policeman tried hard to stop them. The rampage came to a halt only after the unidentified miscreants overturned the car in the middle of the road. The occupants of the car had managed to flee the scene fearing for their lives and refused to give any complaint in writing, the police had said. A case was registered and the accused identified on the basis of inquiries conducted by the police and the CCTV footage. Prime accused, identified as 26-year-old Rahul Billa, was arrested.
Another act of vandalism took place in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr and at the receiving end this time was the police. Reportedly, a group of kanwariyas vandalized the police vehicle following an altercation with locals on August 7. Police had so far registered a case into the matter. However, Prashant Kumar, ADG (Meerut Zone) has rejected that the police vehicle was attacked. He claimed that the incident bears no connection with Kanwariyas and that it was a dispute between two groups. “Police reached the spot immediately and case was registered. We will investigate the matter.”
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) August 9, 2018
Kumar too found himself in midst of controversy after he was seen showering rose petals from a chopper on Kanwariyas. However, Kumar has defended himself saying it is wrong to see a religious angle in this. He also said, “Flowers are used to welcome people. Administration respects all religions and actively takes part, even in Gurupurab, Eid, Bakrid or Jain festivals”.
A village in Meerut also became witness to the violence during the Kanwar Yatra. According to reports, an alleged clash between Rajputs and Dalits broke out in Uldepur village located at Ganga Nagar police station, following which a youth (Dalit) was killed. According to reports, Meerut SSP Rajesh Pandey has confirmed the casualty. He said, “Argument broke out on August 8 over watching the procession of ‘kanwariyas’. Matter was almost solved but then later one went to another’s house on August 9 & stone pelting took place, in which a person died”.
An incident, similar to that of Delhi, came to the fore in Muzaffarnagar yesterday. A group of ‘kanwariyas’ vandalized a car in Muzaffarnagar after it brushed past them on the road. Passengers sustained injuries.
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) August 9, 2018
Taking note of the incident, Supreme Court today directed the police to act against those ‘kawariyas’ who indulge in vandalism and take law in their hands, ANI reported. The remarks came after the Centre admitted that some Kanwarias were creating ruckus and indulging in vandalism.
However, it is the response of the police that has led to maximum outrage over these incidents. Rather than acting against the hooligans, the police has been criticised for trying to shield those involved. Most policemen, when asked about these incidents, did not even admit that it was a law and order issue and blamed it on ‘personal matters’ instead. The response visible is quite the contrary.
There was a report that the police handed out ‘red cards’ as a warning to some Hindu and Muslim families at Khelam village in Bareilly district, which falls on the kanwariya route as there was trouble last year. About 1,500 villagers were also made to sign a “symbolic bond”, committing themselves to pay amounts ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh if they created any trouble, as per reports. Some Muslim families even started leaving their residences fearing violence. However, Bareilly (Rural) SP Satish Kumar said, “They must have gone for some personal work and by now many have returned.”
“We have deployed adequate force in the village to ensure normalcy and there was no law and order problem today,” the SP said.
There were several other videos that were doing the rounds on social media. One such purportedly shows two Kanwariyas were drinking alcohol on the roadside. Over the last few days, travellers have complained of huge traffic disruptions by the Kanwariyas, who are seen walking in large groups or riding two-wheelers and trucks, ignoring traffic rules and sometimes wielding hockey sticks.
Recently, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath too conducted an aerial survey of the kanwariya route which passes through the state.