Reports suggest Kasganj’s Chamunda temple could have been the epicenter of communal tension, days before Tiranga Yatra

Kasganj has been the subject of a lot of conjecture and surmise. A youth named Chandan Gupta was murdered in communal clashes which erupted over flag march in Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh. While this is quite clear, the exact cause of the flare up is still being debated. Every side has their own version.

The sequence of events reminds one of the celebrated movie maker Akira Kurosawa and his movie named “Rashomon”.  In the critically acclaimed film, a murder is described in four mutually contradictory ways by its four witnesses. This phenomenon, where the same event is given contradictory interpretations by different individuals involved, is now known as the “Rashomon effect”. The unravelling of the Kasganj case is a real life example of that.

The event here is the murder of Chandan Gupta. The build up to the murder, the reasons, the causes, are still being investigated and each day a new version emerges. Media houses are split vertically on ideological lines, each trying to push a particular version ahead. The versions are sometimes of the people involved, and sometimes that of the media houses itself.

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Chandan’s parents have claimed that their son was killed for refusing to chant “Pakistan Zindabad”. Media “ground reports” on the other hand spoke to the muslims in the area, who claim that an “unathorised” bike rally disrupted their Republic Day function, ‘objectionable slogans’ were raised, and matters escalated. Bareily DM hinted at a “strange trend” of moving into Muslim dominated areas and provoking them. Yet another report claims that the initial fight began 6 days before on social media, and then descended on to the lanes of Kasganj. The alleged shooter is also said to have links with Samajwadi Party, as per some reports.

Amidst this heavy cocktail of information, the truth is lost. One more version to this gruesome murder is emerging. While all the above theories came to the fore after the murder, this version was first reported on 23rd January 2018, much before any such yatra etc took place.

A report in Amar Ujala on the above date, states that communal tensions had begun rising on 23rd January itself, when an incident took place at the Chamunda temple gate in Kasganj. Initially, a complaint was filed with the local administration that the movement of heavy vehicles from right in front of the Chamunda temple must be stopped. Hence, as per the report, it was decided to place barricades on half the gate, to block heavy vehicles.

However, the home guard on duty installed the barricades on the full gate, thereby blocking the movement of heavy as well as light vehicles. The report claims that this angered the “other community”. They reportedly went to the gate and protested this move. As matters heated up, the home guard called Inspector Padma Singh, who seeing the tension, removed the barricades.

However, he instructed the crowd that only light vehicles will be permitted and the police will act if any heavy vehicles are found moving on that road. Superintendent of Police Sunil Kumar Singh also later clarified that the intention was to barricade only half the gate so as to block only heavy vehicles.

The above report in Amar Ujala is significant because it was published way before the tiranga yatra and the murder. This report is not an attempt to re-imagine and retrace the steps to the eventual incident. Hence the facts presented here do not suffer from the ideological biases which may have crept into reports post the incident.

Was this the starting point of the communal tension? Was the tiranga yatra just the final straw which broke the camel’s back? Some media reports have hinted at this possibility. It may be noted here that this are around the Chamunda temple has been in the news earlier too. It has been a place known for crime and demands have been made to increase security in the area.

Where does this version fit in the various “truths” and “ground reports” of Kasganj? Can there be a more complicated truth which complements all the various versions? It may take a while for the full story to emerge.

As of now, it seems like the truth too is deemed to be a casualty. Just like Chandan.

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