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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Varanasi Streets Were Taken Over by Intimidating and Belligerent Cadres

Varanasi Streets Were Taken Over by Intimidating and Belligerent Cadres

The tense situation obtaining in the streets of Varanasi, after the Modi Rally was refused permission by the District authorities, is graphically described in this article. Read on...
Tension in Varanasi

Residents Go Indoors As Belligerent Mobs Take Over Varanasi, Tensions Escalate Under Modi, Shah And Jaitley

Source: The CitizenVaranasi was overtaken by nerve biting tension when belligerent RSS and BJP cadres took over the roads in power -led protests against the constitutional body, the Election Commission of India. With the party’s prime ministerial candidate leading the charge, and leaders Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah orchestrating the protest, the residents of Varanasi went indoors anxiously keeping in touch with each other as they waited for news that the slogan shouting mobs had retired for the day and peace had returned to the ancient city.

A wide section of residents, cutting across class, caste and politics, told The Citizen reporters that the tension was immense, and they would remain worried until Modi and his men finished the yatra that they had embarked upon through the congested mohallas of the city, and finally went home. The almost unruly crowds struck fear through Varanasi and gave the residents a taste of what to expect if Modi and the RSS/BJP’s will was thwarted at any level. The mobs shouted for the removal of the Varanasi District Magistrate, and against the Commission that BJP leaders described as “timid or biased or both”.

The ‘cry for blood’ as a local Professor at the Banaras Hindu University described the protests that paralysed the city for most of the day, gave the city some nerve wracking moments with the decibels increasing when Modi arrived to wind his way through the congested by-lanes of the old city.

The Samajwadi government has given strict instructions to the district authorities and the police all across the state to ensure that preventive measures are taken immediately and attempts to create an environment conducive to violence thwarted. The young Varanasi DM, following intelligence reports of increasing tension, decided to withdraw permission for a public rally at night in the minority dominated Benia Bagh. Sources said that the district authorities were on ‘high alert’ and determined not to open a door that could be exploited to generate tension and thereby polarize the environment.

Varanasi elders, including retired officials, academics and others, insisted that the authorities had acted wisely. As a Professor who was a BJP supporter said, “it is best not to have allowed this rally, there could have been trouble and Varanasi would be up in flames.” Local political leaders who were all in touch with each other over the telephones in a bid to monitor the situation said that they had not witnessed this kind of tension for a long while now. As they said, “ it has been so tense that even a small incident could have sparked off large scale violence.” Instead of helping douse the embers, the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate went on a full out offensive, allowing the streets to be overtaken by aggressive, slogan shouting mobs for hours at end.

The Election Commission, in an unprecedented move, held a press conference in Delhi to make it very clear that it would not accept this kind of attack and allegations, and that it was a constitutional body doing a rather difficult job. It made it clear that it concurred with the advice of the district authorities of Varanasi in not allowing Modi’s meeting at Benia bagh, as law and order was a sensitive issue and the EC had decided not deviate from professional assessments of the situation.

The tension in Varanasi has increased dramatically following reports of a definite erosion in Modi’s support base. He is still seen in the lead by the wizened old Varanasi politicians but every single person spoken to admitted that Aam Aadmi party leader Arvind Kejriwal was giving a “good fight.” This despite the thousands—according to some estimates 30,000— RSS cadres who have flooded Varanasi and are carrying out a door to door campaign a la Kejriwal style. The rural vote in this Lok Sabha constituency is reported to be responding well to Kejriwal’s concerted campaign with even the backwards in particularly coming out in fairly visible support. In the city the Muslims could form a powerful segment of AAP’s support base, but officially the minorities are holding their counsel lest the atmosphere be further communalised by the interested parties as a result.

Sources said that the district authorities had definite information of possible trouble being incited before the elections and had decided not to allow any opening that could be exploited for this end. Interestingly except for the BJP the entire political community in Varanasi has supported the DM and the EC action with the Congress, BSP, SP, AAP, Communists endorsing the decision not to allow the Benia bagh rally.

Varanasi will poll on May 12 in an election that assumed high voltage proportions. Shah who had been bragging about record victory margins is looking a little worried around the edges, with the orchestrated protests on the streets of Varanasi being seen as a throwback to the politics of aggressive intimidation. The targeted attack on the DM and the Election Commission has not been received well by the ancient city that was just about getting used to vehicle with number plates of Gujarat, only to find its streets being overtaken by mobs it did not recognise.

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