"The law is above all else," said Rashid Khan who, on Tuesday, finally saw some progress in his nearly decade-long battle to hold Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath accountable for the communal violence that hit Gorakhpur in 2007.
After nearly ten years, the Supreme Court directed the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Gorakhpur to pass the appropriate order with respect to Khan's complaint accusing Adityanath of giving a provocative speech that led to a Hindu mob attacking the Sayid Mir Hassan Qadri dargah on January 27, 2007.
Khan, who was then the caretaker of the dargah, is now 90 years old and partially paralysed. Adityanath is a five-time Member of Parliament (MP) for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Gorakhpur.
The partial paralysis and a recent fracture made it hard for Khan to speak with HuffPost India for long, but he framed short sentences over the phone. "I'm doing this for my religion, I'm doing this for the Koran which was burnt, and I'm doing this because every person should be equal before the law. If someone does something wrong then he should be held accountable no matter how powerful," he said.
Recalling the terrifying events of January 2007, Khan said that he watched rioters loot and burn the dargah which he had guarded since he was 12 years old. "I was hiding behind a very old peepal tree inside the dargah. They burnt the Koran, they burnt the sheets inside the dargah...," he said.
In 2007, an FIR was registered against several persons including Adityanath on charges of rioting, trespassing on burial places, defiling a place of worship and promoting enmity between groups. After the Uttar Pradesh police said they had sanction from the government to prosecute under Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code for promoting enmity between groups, one of the accused convinced a revisional court that there was a problem with a signature on the order. The Allahabad High Court did not set aside the order of the revisional court. Khan then challenged the Allahabad High Court's order in the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the Supreme Court order, Khan said, "I will not give up on this until I am alive."
In a separate case related to the 2007 communal violence, the Supreme Court has directed the Adityanath government to explain why the chief minister should not be prosecuted for allegedly inciting communal violence in Gorakhpur.
In May 2017, shortly after the BJP swept to power in UP, the Adityanath government refused to grant sanction to prosecute five BJP leaders including Adityanath on charges of inciting communal violence in 2007. Earlier this year, it also began the process of withdrawing cases in connection with the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
In 2013, while appearing in the popular television programme Aap Ki Adalat, Adityanath admitted making a provocative speech in 2007.
On Adityanath becoming chief minister, Khan said, "He has become powerful and he can hurt us if he wants to, but I'm not afraid."
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