‘Secular’ political parties try to milk situation in Greater Noida village even as versions differ on how the mosque wall in contention was razed, leading to SDM Suga Shakti Nagpal's suspension
Pankaj Kumar | August 5, 2013
A nondescript village getting along in the midst of hectic real estate development till just the other day, Kadalpur village in Greater Noida, barely 40 kilometres from the national capital, seems set to redefine the political and administrative contours of western Uttar Pradesh.
It is emerging as a new political Mecca for "secular parties" as the demography of the village classifies it as Muslim-dominated pocket.
The village of about 7,000 people, with 80 percent of the population being Muslim, is being projected as a symbol of victimisation of the minority community by a set of “highhanded bureaucrats” who are out to destroy communal peace. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s decision to summarily suspend sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Durga Shakti Nagpal, a young woman IAS officer of 2010 batch, is being touted as vindication of the Samajwadi Party's ‘secular’ credentials.
And despite Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s much-publicised letter to the prime minister, requesting him to ensure that Nagpal is not wronged, local party leaders are not exactly shying away from exploiting the situation by portraying the suspended SDM as the villain of the piece.
From all accounts, the forceful and determined manner in which Nagpal went ahead in enforcing the rule of law had challenged the stranglehold of the region’s land and real estate mafia, who thrive on the patronage of politicians and bureaucrats. Thousands of metric tonnes of sand are being supplied as raw material for the real estate sector, which has been growing at breakneck speed in and around the national capital region (NCR).
In Greater Noida alone, at least 5 lakh dwellings have been planned, spawning a huge underground economy sustaining on black money. Sand mined from the Yamuna, Hindon and their tributaries are the sole source of supply of the raw material.
At the same time, urbanisation of this predominantly rural region bordering Bulandshahar, Aligarh and parts of Haryana led to growth of unauthorised colonies – handiwork of land-owning farmers who find the real estate business more lucrative than agriculture. Nagpal was determined in demolishing this spree of unauthorised construction, much to the chagrin of the powerful rural class that cuts across party lines.
Politicians try to outdo each other
That Nagpal's action rubbed the political class the wrong way is evident by fulmination of local Congress leaders against the officer. Are Sonia Gandhi’s party men listening to her sentiments, as expressed in the letter to Manmohan Singh? A cursory glance at the statements of local Congress leaders would expose the hidden political hypocrisy.
“I am not here to do politics. I have come here to alert you that the people in power did not do anything for your mosque. Otherwise how could a lady officer dare to stop you from offering prayers?” Dhirendra Singh, a spokesperson of the Uttar Pradesh Congress committee (UPCC), told the villagers when Governance Now visited Kadalpur on August 3, exactly a week after Nagpal was served the suspension order.
At the sight of journalists, he suddenly vented his ire on the media: "The media, too, is playing a negative role and not writing the truth about how the administration stopped people from offering prayers in the month of Ramzan. The media is making an officer look like Durga (the goddess).”
Soon enough, the situation turned chaotic as a supporter of Samajwadi Party leader Narendra Bhati started shouting at Singh – the place, where people were offering namaz till only a few minutes back, got charged; politicised even.
Incidentally, Bhati was recently shown in a video purportedly bragging that he got Nagpal transferred in merely 41 minutes.
"How can you accuse the ruling party (SP)? Our leader (Bhati and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav) showed commitment towards the Muslims. She (Durga Nagpal) was shown the door within a few minutes and now you have come to shed crocodile's tears,” said Taufiqe, a villager who appeared close to Bhati, who is fast carving a niche for himself in the region.
One could sense the arrival of political leaders in the otherwise nondescript village by the number of big and expensive vehicles, including SUVs, parked near the mosque where the wall was destroyed, allegedly by the SDM, though the district magistrate’s report said it was razed by locals.
Police bandobast has been raised in the village but the situation overall seemed to be cordial.
The blame game
Several Muslim villagers Governance Now spoke to claimed that the mosque was being constructed with the help of all locals – and that Hindus, too, had contributed towards it.
But the land on which the mosque stands belongs to the gram panchayat, and no permission was either sought or granted by the administration to construct a mosque.
“SDM Durga Nagpal was doing an exercise against all illegal constructions in surrounding areas. She also took action against (unathorised) temples constructed on government land. But no one made an issue out of that,” said Surendra Singh, journalist with a local newspaper.
But enraged by the SDM’s action, local resident Younus Khan said: “The SDM had come (on July 27) with five vehicles carrying lots of policemen. Two vehicles were, in fact, carrying PAC jawans. We requested her to give us a few days (to vacate the place) but she threatened and compelled us to break the wall.”
Shafiqe Khan, husband of Kadalpur’s village pradhan (head) Afroza, said the station officer (SO) of the local police station had come on the night of July 26 (the wall was razed the following day) and asked people to evict the place. “All officers, including the CO, arrived the next morning and forced us to leave. They broke the wall subsequently.”
Clearly, there is contradiction in the words Younus and Shafique Khan regarding who broke the wall, and whether it was razed right away. But the question that remains unanswered is, why only Durga Nagpal was suspended while no action was taken against any other officer. Significantly, the same Akhilesh Yadav government took no action against any errant official when communal riots broke out in Ghaziabad almost a year back. Six people had died and there were heavy losses to public property in the rioting.
Similar inaction was seen in Meerut as well after one person died amd 12 were injured in rioting there in late July.
What’s the real story?
Narendra Bhati, who has asserted himself as the biggest political leader of the region, is being seen as the real beneficiary of Nagpal’s suspension. Sources said she had left Bhati’s supporters to deal with immense losses – she had registered as many as 15 cases of illegal sand mining, and many of the accused were Bhati’s supporters. She impounded more than 40 vehicles, including dumpers, tractor trolleys and machinery, engaged in illegal quarrying.
According to data obtained from the mining department, 66 FIRs were lodged and 104 arrests made in the last six months. In all, 81 machines involved in illegal mining were impounded, sources said. These include cars, two-wheelers, earth movers and trucks.
So the day Durga Nagpal went to Kadalpur to discharge her duties, Bhati exploited the opportunity in his favor, sources said. He reportedly called up Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, and convinced chief minister Akhilesh Yadav as well, to inform that her actions have created tension in the region after minorities were stopped from offering prayers and the mosque wall was destroyed.
Asked over telephone about his assertion at a meeting in Gautam Buddh Nagar on August 2 that he had got Durga Nagpal removed in less than 41 minutes, Bhati said “The media quoted me out of context. The administration acted on its own report and it has nothing to do with the mining mafia.”
But members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) protesting outside the collectorate office alleged that Bhati took advantage of the situation and communalised the issue. "Narendra Bhati donated Rs 51,000 to raise the wall and managed to send her (the SDM) to the village on some pretext to make the whole issue controversial. He made a mountain out of molehill and succeeded in getting her transferred,” said Narendra Yadav, one of the two AAP members on a hunger strike to have Nagpal’s suspension revoked.
Sitting next to Yadav, fellow AAP member Savita Sharma, also observing the protest fast, said: “The authorities demolished an eight-year-old temple in Beta 1 sector but no action was taken against the ‘errant’ official/s. I also do not want to communalise this issue but it has been communalised in Kadalpur with a specific purpose: to favour the mafia (and their political patrons).”
Meanwhile, the district magistrate is rarely available these days. He also avoids taking media questions after submitting his report over the demolition of mosque wall.
The buzz is the DM’s days, too, are numbered; that he will have to pay the price for submitting the report giving a clean chit to Durga Shakti Nagpal.
While Kadalpur has got sudden publicity, and attained notoriety, the good takeaway from the ground zero is the locals are not letting the issue affect communal harmony. “We want permission to continue our prayers; nothing else. We don't want this to become a political issue and have the common man trapped in political mischief,” as Rahmat, a local resident, put it.
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