Hayat Zafar Hashmi, a social activist dubbed to be the main accused and perpetrator of the violence that took place in Kanpur, is now behind bars. Soon after Hashmi's name came up in the media as the main perpetrator, his photographs with leaders from Samajwadi Party, Congress, and Bhartiya Janata Party surfaced but there is no confirmation on his official link to any of these parties.
Hayat is a known public figure in Kanpur, who has been controversy's favourite child in recent years. His name came up during the anti-CAA protests in the city in December 2019. He was accused of mobilising crowds which hit the streets in protest against the controversial laws. He was again booked for taking out a procession in 2021 while violating the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Who Is Hashmi?
Hashmi is the national president of Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar Fans Association, a social organisation. The Facebook page of the NGO claims that it was formed in 2007 with Hashmi as its president and founder. Focus on charity, free education for children, and justice for the poor are among the few of the many objectives listed on the NGO website.
A quick scan of Hashmi's Facebook account shows he has been at the forefront of several protests against inflammatory religious remarks and hate speeches made by political and religious figures, including Yati Narsinghanand. Additionally, he used to take to Facebook Live to voice his opinion on sensitive subjects.
His first brush with activism was in the 2000s when he gave a call for the revival of the iconic Iqbal library in the city. "The library used to be the meeting point of Muslim intelligentsia and critical thinkers in the city and was in a dilapidated state. It has precious books of Urdu literature. Hashmi began working for the revival of the library under the aegis of Jauhar association. He began approaching the local administration for funds for the library's renovation. Several youngsters joined the cause. This is how he got into activism," Haider Naqvi, a senior journalist based in Kanpur, said.
Meanwhile, the summer of 2022 was not the first time Hashmi had a brush with the law. Since 2008, he has been booked at least nine times by the Kanpur Police. As per local police sources, he has been exonerated in one of the cases while charge-sheeted in the remaining ones.
Rise of MMA Jauhar Fans Association
Hashmi used to live in Chamanganj area in the city. In 2010, he claimed that some local mafias and builders were trying to forcibly take possession of his house and in response he threatened self-immolation. On 10 October 2010, his mother and sister immolated themselves in front of the district magistrate's office and the duo later succumbed to it.
"After the incident, he (Hashmi) left Chamanganj and relocated to his in-law's place in Becongunj. He then directed his focus on the Jauhar association. The association began speaking on Muslim issues and increased its proximity with clergy and maulanas. Persuaded by the Barelvi school of thought, they also began organising Jalsas. Hashmi began emerging as a prominent Muslim figure," Naqvi said.
In the recent communal violence in Kanpur, Hashmi, under the banner of MMA Jauhar Fans Association, was leading the 'Jail bharo aandolan' against Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nupur Sharma’s inflammatory remarks. The agitation was initially scheduled for 3 June but was later postponed to 5 June in the light of VVIP visit in the city. Posters mentioning the same had appeared in several parts of the city.