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Communal Violence in India during 2018 — A Brief Report

Peoples Voice on January 7, 2019 - 5:38 pm in Governance

 

Nazia Khaleeque
Assistant  Professor, Dept. of Political Science, Aligarh College of Education, Aligarh.

Communal Violence has been the bane of this country, gratitude to our politicians and their selfish interests. Ironically most of the riots are engineered by those politicians who claim to be the most patriotic. Their patriotism is designed to win power by propagating hate politics against minority communities.

Communal Violence under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government since 2014 led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) increased 28 percent over three years to 2017 – 822 “incidents” were recorded that year where 111 people were killed and 2,384 others injured– but it was short of the decadal high of 943 in 2008, according to an India Spend analysis of Home Ministry Data.

India was ranked fourth in the world in 2015 – after Syria, Nigeria and Iraq – for the highest social hostilities involving religion, the Huffington Post reported. As many as 7,484 communal incidents have been reported over the last decade – between 2008 and 2017 – or two every day, killing over 1,100 people, according to data released to the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament). U.P, which reported the most incidents, was followed by Maharashtra (940), Karnataka (880), Madhya Pradesh (862) and Gujarat (605).

Communal incidents in U.P have increased 47 percent from 133 in 2014 to 195 in 2017. Uttar Pradesh, the state headed by Yogi Adityanath {Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)}, witnessed 195 communal incidents, in which 44 people were killed and 542 others were injured. After his swearing as the Chief Minister, Adityanath stated that U.P will witness no communal riots under his government. However, the numbers of incidents have been on the rise. In 2016, U.P had 162 incidents and 29 deaths. The year 2013 saw the most incidents in U.P – 247 – also the most by any state over the last decade.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge criticised the Narendra Modi government, alleging that “communal forces were raising their head, weaker sections were being suppressed, the freedom of speech was being snatched and women and children were not feeling safe.” Indian lawmaker Shashi Tharoor has also hinted at Communal Violence in India ahead of general elections 2019. He said that “Indians will have to brace for unpleasantness in the coming months, as the ruling elite could stoke communal tensions for electoral gains.” He further said that “I think we have to brace ourselves for some more unpleasantness in the months to come because there has been a correlation, in the not so distant past, between the advent of elections and the stoking of religious passions, communal rioting. That’s indeed my worry.”

The year 2018 also, like previous years witnessed several communal riots throughout India of which some were minor and some major. The below is a brief empirical data of the major Communal Violence incidents of 2018, which are as follows.

The first Communal Violence began in Mumbai early in the new year of 2018 i.e. on 3rd January. An event marking the 200th anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle in Pune turned violent when Dalit activists allege members of two Hindu nationalist groups attacked processions near an obelisk installed by the British to commemorate the battle. Reported that some local groups in Pune had expressed opposition to the celebration of the “British victory.” Violence broke out after a local group got into an argument with a crowd on its way to the Koregaon Bhima battle memorial in Shiroor tehsil. Suddenly stone-pelting started after the argument. Either to this, some vehicles and a house in the vicinity were damaged. One person was also reported to have died in the violence. More police personnel, including companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), have been deployed.  Section 144 had been imposed around the Koregaon Bhima Park in Pune as a precautionary measure before the riots broke out. After the riot, 49 people were booked on the charges of violence and arson.

On 17th January the body of Asifa Bano, an 8-yearold child, was found, beaten severely to death. Four days earlier, Asifa Bano had followed a man into the forest, who offered her help in finding her lost horses. Her lifeless body was found, in a horrific way thrown into the meadows of Kathua, in Jammu & Kashmir. She was raped repeatedly by two men and a juvenile. The police say, she would have been strangulated much earlier since her abduction, had it not been for the lust of these men to rape her for one last time. As per the initial investigation, Asifa Bano was so heavily sedated that she was hung by a thread for three days, as the men violated her in the most horrific ways.

In the months to follow, the incident has initiated a communal divide between the Hindu Community and the Muslim Community, as details of the case that perhaps Asifa Bano may have been raped and killed for a planned communal purpose emerged. As per the Police report, the incident might have been triggered due to the long-standing friction between the local communities in Kathua, the majoritarian Hindu community and the minor nomadic Muslim tribe of Bakharwal. Their motive had been to drive Asifa’s nomadic community out of the area.

Anti-Muslim demonstrators shut down much of the town of Kathua in northern India on Wednesday. One woman said that if Hindu men accused of raping and killing a Muslim child are not released, “We will burn ourselves.’’  But in the months since Asifa’s murder, the case has become another battleground in India’s religious wars.

Hindu nationalists have turned it into a rallying cry — not calling for justice for Asifa, but rushing to the defence of the accused. All of the men arrested are Hindus, and Asifa’s nomadic people, the Bakarwals, are Muslim. Some of the police officers who investigated the case are also Muslim, and for that reason, the Hindu activists say, they cannot be trusted. But police officials say they have physical evidence and DNA tests linking the defendants to Asifa’s death. They also say they have interviewed more than 130 witnesses, who “unequivocally corroborated the facts that emerged.’’

Kasganj in U.P. has become another sensitive area where Communal Violence breaks out on 26th January. Republic Day Celebrations in Kasganj district were marred by a spurt of violence, when two communities clashed to each other, leading to the death of a 16-year-old boy, and leaving several people injured. The incident was reported that one community objected to the Tiranga Yatra (flag march) by another community in their area. Around 36 volunteers of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had taken out a bike rally with tricolours in their hands and were booed at while passing through a locality of another community. The group had reached the Mathura-Bareilly highway near the Bilram Gate area when some unidentified people hurled stones at them. A verbal altercation followed, which soon turned violent. The angry mob went on a rampage, damaging more than 12 vehicles and property. The agitated people also tried to set afire a place of religious worship and some religious texts. Additional police forces, including Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were deployed immediately.

Bihar has witnessed a spurt in communal clashes for several days. On 17th March, violence broke out in Bhagalpur, where a religious procession was being led by Arijit Shashwat, the son of Union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey. Next, on Ram Navami procession, the members of two communities had clashed in Aurangabad. Similar kinds of incidents were also reported from Sitamarhi, Nalanda, Sheikhpura and Munger districts over the next few days. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) have been trading charges over the issue, blaming to each other for the sudden rise in such incidents. Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Tejashwi Yadav Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has alleged that those associated with the Sangh Parivar are fomenting communal passion in the state and that they were “trained” to do so by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Chief Mohan Bhagwat during his week-long tour of Bihar last month. According to the police, more than 100 people, including policemen, have been injured in the violence over the past 10 days and several shops and business establishments set on fire.

The fire of Ram Navami communal clashes also reached to the West Bengal state. The communal incidents started with Arsha in Purulia, Kakkinada in North 24 Parganas and then spreading to Raniganj and Asansol in West Burdwan district. In each of these, the armed Ram Navami procession triggered the sequence of tensions with indiscriminate violence, looting, arson leading to deaths of three people and six injuries, while the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued to trade charges. It was reported that the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) organised rallies and processions to celebrate Ram Navami in various parts of West Bengal, with the saffron party dubbing these rallies as the first step towards “uniting the Hindus” of Bengal. The Bajrang Dal held a Ram Navami rally in the area and they were armed. The report added that no permission was granted for the rally. On the other hand the ruling Trinamool Congress, meanwhile, was busy in widening the communal divide with its own confused identity politics. Clashes in the state between supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party and those of an opposition party snowballed into Hindu-Muslim rioting, with three people killed and dozens injured over two days of violence.

The fresh and new communal incident once again took place in Bihar district of Navada on 29th March. Trouble erupted in Godapur village under the Town police station area, where an idol of a Hanuman was found vandalised. Navada continues to be tense. Heavy deployment of police force has been made in the district. Members of the two communities resorted to stone-pelting and damaged scores of vehicles on the National Highway 31. A hotel was also set on fire by the rioters. Police was reported to fire at least 10 rounds in the air to bring the situation under control. Journalists covering the clashes were also roughed up by rioters.

Next violence took place in Gujarat district Surat on 30th March.  The fight for domain in the illegal liquor business led to communal riot as supporters of bootleggers — Hashim Pathan and Lal Singh Rajput, both migrants from Uttar Pradesh — clashed, pelting stones and soda and liquor bottles at each other in the Kosad area of Amroli in Surat. A large number of police staff reached the spot and tried to control the situation by lobbing teargas and resorting to lathi charge. The police lobbed 17 teargas shells and booked 300 persons for the riot and detained around 84 youths from both the groups. A heavy police force deployed to avoid further trouble.

Another riot took place in Rajasthan on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti on 31st March. Communal tension was spread to Rajasthan’s Pali district when stones were thrown at a procession taken out to mark Hanuman Jayanti. The religious procession was passing through a minority-dominated area when it came under attack from stone throwers after a heated argument over “objectionable” slogans shouted by some participants. Several people were injured and shops and vehicles set on fire. Immediately prohibitory orders were imposed in the area. N.R.K. Reddy, additional director general (law and order) has examined that “There was some sloganeering by those in the procession which was objected to by members of the minority community. Following the altercation, some persons pelted stones at the procession. Those in the procession retaliated and violence broke out.”

Next communal clash was seen in Agastyamuni in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand on 6th April. It was wracked by Communal Violence, for the first time in years, by following a rumour that spread on social media that a minor local girl had been gang-raped by boys belonging to the minority community. Shops belonging to members of the other community in Agastyamuni market were singled out and burnt by a mob as angry protesters led by right-wing groups hit the streets of the quiet hill town. A heavy police force has been rushed to the town to ensure peace and a manhunt launched to nab the culprits. Ashok Kumar, additional director general of police (law and order), said, “a few people caused the unrest in Agastyamuni town. It was triggered by a fake message circulating on WhatsApp which claimed that a 10-year-old girl had been raped. No such incident ever took place while mischievous elements tried to flare up the situation.”

On 2nd April Dalit groups called a Bharat Bandh against a Supreme Court order allegedly diluting the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.  At least nine persons were killed and hundreds injured in violence across several states. The violent protests hit life across the country with some states ordered the closure of educational institutions and curtailed communication and transport services, including rail, incidents of arson and vandalism were reported from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab, among other states.  Protesters blocked trains, clashed with police and set fire to private and public properties, including the police posts.

However, Bharat Bandh clashes were not being called as communal clashes but the fire of it led certain communal clashes in the city of Phagwara of Punjab. Trouble began when after appealing to the people to close their shops several Hindu activists, including Ram Chadha, Inderjit Karwal, Tilak Raj Kalucha were taking rounds of the town but meanwhile hundreds of Dalits led by Jarnail Nangal and Harbhghan Suman suddenly assembled near Sarai Road and sat on dharna on Cinema Road alleging the people were being forced by Hindu activists to close their shops while on the other hand, Hindu leaders assembled near Gurr Mandi alleging that Dalit leaders were trying to sabotage their Bandh call by forcing the people to open their shops. A heavy police force was deployed at sensitive places in the town. However, police succeeded to pacify protesters of both sides. Dalit activists submitted a memorandum to S.P. Bhandhal and alleged that Hindu leaders were forcing people to shut down their shutters of the shops. Official machinery had to face a tough time in Phagwara as the entire machinery could not take any preventive step even after issuing of advisory and alerts by Home Ministry. The tension in the area again got a hike on 13th April, when a group of Dalit youths installed a flex board bearing a photo of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and renaming “Goal Chowk” as “Sambhidhan Chowk,” a move objected to by several Hindu organisations. Four persons were injured and dozens of vehicles, including cars and scooters, were damaged in the violent clash that followed initial brawl and stone pelting. Fire shots were also heard during clashes. People of both the communities faced off and the situation became tense when police intervened.

A communal clash took place in Gujarat’s Vadodara city on 16th May over a petty issue of currency change late night. The eight persons who have been arrested have been booked under charges of rioting and damage to property. The town in Vadodara district saw mobs from two communities clash night after a group of Hindu youths had a quarrel with a Muslim soda vendor. Police say that the presence of a large number of Muslims in the area owing to the first night of Ramzan created some misconceptions and led to the clash. Superintendent of Police Saurabh Tolumbia said “the quarrel essentially occurred between the group and the vendor. No one else was involved. But the large presence of Muslims on account of the first night of Ramzan gave the group of boys an impression that they were being cornered. So, they called their friends. Soon, mobs from both communities gathered and a clash broke out.”

The communal situation in Jharkand state found to be a hike in the month of June. In Hazaribagh situation got tensed when two religious groups in Jhanda chowk of Hazaribagh over an “objectionable” Facebook post. The social media post sparked a large-scale violence in the region, leading to the deployment of police to contain the situation. Few vehicles were set ablaze and shops were shut down. Both the communities were reportedly involved in heavy stone pelting, resulting in injuries on both sides. The injured were rushed to the local hospital. As per the sources, the Facebook post regarding Prophet Mohammad snowballed into a communal flare-up in the Hazaribagh district. A boy from the Hindu community had posted a “derogatory” post on Prophet Mohammad on 5th June, which reportedly angered people from the Muslim community. Few people from the community went on to file a complaint regarding the social media post. Five arrests were made, including the person who had written the post in question.

In another city of it ‘Ranchi’ was been founded to be communally tensed for four days. The first of the three communal clashes occurred on 10th June when a crowd at the jam-packed Eid-bazaar in Hindpiri’s Main Road, got into a fight with a group of people holding a bike rally celebrating four years of Modi government. One of the bikes reportedly hit a woman, triggering clashes in the area. The incident, fanned by social media posts and rumours of the death of a cleric, flared up quickly from there on. The area remained communally volatile for almost four hours. Later that evening, two clerics were attacked on their way back from a Madrassa in Nagri, on the outskirts of the capital and were allegedly forced to chant the name of ‘Jai Shri Ram,’ further inflaming communal passions. Four days on, the tension continues to simmer with over 100 policemen deployed in the area, after two incidents of stone pelting between members of two communities were reported. The incident occurred after a rumour spread that banned meat was found at a temple. A Muslim cleric was allegedly thrashed by a group of men in Jharkhand’s Ranchi. Earlier on 1st June, a group of men allegedly thrashed some people, who were offering Namaz at a mosque in Haryana’s Karnal. The victims alleged that a group of 20-25 people walked in, vandalized the mosque, broke speakers and thrashed those offering Namaz.

Next communal tension found in the capital of the nation i.e. the Delhi on 10th June. Personal differences between two families of different groups triggered the incident. The ongoing quarrel between them turned so intense that they stepped out of their houses and the situation was later allegedly hijacked by some anti-social elements. They went on a rampage and threw stones and bottles at each other for 15 minutes. The mob damaged some private properties and cars as well. The situation returned to normalcy after police personnel were deployed at the spot inadequate number. Five people were injured in an incident of bottle and stone pelting by two groups to each other.

Another riot took place in Gujarat’s Vadodara on 19th June. Communal Violence rocked the walled city areas yet another time a late night when mobs of two different communities pelted stone at each other. Trouble first broke out in Panigate area and soon it spread to Yakutpura and Fatehpura where the rioting mobs even attacked the cops. One State Reserve Police (SRP) man received injuries while a citizen too was attacked near Sarasiya Lake by some unidentified persons. When asked the reason behind the communal clashes, D. G. Sosa, police inspector, City police station said that it was a fallout of the communal riots that happened near Nyay Mandir on June 16 during Eid. A procession taken out by Rajput Karni Sena for celebrating the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap had caused the trouble on the evening of Eid celebrations. Some members of the procession changed the route and reached Dudhwala Mohalla where stone pelting started. A police complaint filed in connection with the incident stated that members of the procession began stone pelting and shouted provocative slogans.

 International Christian Concern (ICC) has examined that on 2nd July, 20 Christians were seriously injured in an assault on a prayer meeting in Raikashipur village, located in the Pratapgarh district of U.P State. According to local reports, a mob of 35 Hindu radicals stormed the meeting and beat the group of over 150 Christians gathered for prayer. Following the assault, the village Pradhan (village president) filed multiple false criminal charges against six of the Christian victims. Ram Kumar Gautam, a 42-year-old Christian, has led prayer meetings in Raikashipur village every Monday for the last five years. On average, 300 people participate in these services in a makeshift shed.

On 2nd July, around 2:00 p.m., the mob arrived at the prayer meeting in several vehicles. The radicals stormed inside the meeting hall and beat the Christians gathered there with wooden lathies and sticks. The attackers also fired a gun into the air five times to frighten the Christians. When the attack ended, 20 Christians were seriously injured, 10 motorcycles were damaged, and the furniture inside the makeshift shed, including musical instruments and chairs, was destroyed.

Next communal tension arises in Shahjahanpur in U.P on 25th August. Tension erupted when a watchman objected putting up a cart to sell ‘rakhis’ by a 14-year-old girl outside the Gurudwara in the Banda area of the district. The watchman also allegedly hit the girl with a stick on her leg, the police reported. As the news spread, Hindus and Sikhs reached the spot and indulged in stone pelting. One police vehicle and two other vehicles were damaged in stone pelting. Immediately heavy police force deployed in the area to maintain law and order.

A new communal conflict was seen in Assam’s Tinsukia district on 13th September. Actually, there were two communal clashes. One of the incidents was triggered by a Facebook post. A youth posted a statement on Facebook against a particular community. After it went viral on the social media, some people were staging a protest by blocking a national highway at Borhapjan. Soon, a group of people, allegedly friends of the youth, attacked the protestors leading to a fight. Later, personnel of the police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) restored normalcy by firing blank shots and tear gas shells.

In another incident in neighbouring Doom Dooma town, two groups of people, belonging to two different communities, clashed. Six people were injured in both the incidents. The clash was said to have been triggered by an altercation over festivals of two communities.

Two districts of Jharkhand state i.e. the Ranchi and the Koderma have once again faced communal clashes on the occasion of the Muharram on 21st September. At least five people, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), were injured in stone pelting between two communities in Ranchi’s Kumhartoli area in the morning while over a dozen, including five police personnel, were injured in Koderma’s Jainagar area after a clash broke out during immersion of Vishwakarma Idol.

In Ranchi tension had been brewing in Kumhartoli area for the last couple of days after a youth allegedly urinated at the premises of a temple in the area on 15th September. “When few children raised an objection, the youth and his friend threatened to kill them,” claimed a local youth of the area requesting anonymity. Locals alleged they lodged a complaint with the Sukhdev Nagar police station four days back demanding arrest of the two youths, but police did not take any action. Tension remains continued for a couple of days but the situation was aggravated when few youths allegedly from the other community allegedly pelted stones on the protesters. Thereafter, both the sides started pelting stones at each other and police had to resort to lathi charge to bring the situation under control.

The incident in Koderma took place when a procession for Vishwakarma idol immersion was passing through Jainagar Jhanda Chowk area and bursting crackers to celebrate the march. People from another community allegedly pelted stones on the procession alleging that firecrackers were thrown at the premises of nearby Imambara, a Muslim religious place, police said. The two groups soon began pelting stones at each other. Over a dozen people, including five policemen, received injuries in the incident. Adequate police forces have been deployed in the area.

On this Muharram festive U.P alone faced various communal clashes and tension in different districts like as Ballia, Moradabad, Allahabad, Amroha, Faizabad, Barabanki, Gonda, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Ushninagar, Maharajganj, Meerut etc. With law-enforcing agencies having a tough time averting clashes during Moharram processions, at least six people were killed and around 50 others injured in separate incidents related to Moharram across the state in the last 24 hours. There were around six incidents in which tazias caught fire that left several people with burns while some youths suffered injuries while doing aerobics during the procession.

Another communal tension was seen in Gujarat’s Anand district village of Pipli on 23rd September. The groups resorted to stone pelting clashed after a dispute over playing music and bursting firecrackers near a mosque located in the village. The processions were going on peacefully in the morning. Earlier, in the day, two mandals had already taken out immersion processions from the same route that passes from the heart of the village. But fight erupted when a Ganesha Mandal, with youth from the Darbar community, took out a procession from near the Masjid. There was a heated altercation the mandal members and a group from the minority community standing outside the mosque. Soon, a group allegedly started abusing members from the minority community. The situation turned ugly when some members of the procession threw stones on the mosque, which led to heavy stone pelting. Police, who was accompanying the procession, tried to control the crowd from both the sides, but after their attempts turned futile, they alerted both Anand district control room and Bhadran police. A heavy police force was deployed immediately to control the situation as soon.

Next communal tension was seen in U.P district of Mirzapur on 20th November. Trouble started between the two communities engaged in stone-pelting after a minor dispute during a Ram-Janaki bike yatra taken out by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) through minority-populated areas. Mirzapur District Magistrate (DM) Anurag Patel told to the reporters that the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) did not have permission to hold the bike rally. The local Station House Officer (SHO) and two constables had been suspended for negligence. No action has been taken against the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists.

Another clash has erupted in U.P district of Kanpur on the occasion of Milad un Nabi on 21st November. Clashes were reported in Kanpur’s Kalyanpur area too. About four people reportedly received minor injuries after two communities clashed with each other during a procession on the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad. Kanpur S.S.P. Anant Deo reported that the incident took place after members of a community tried to take out a procession through a lane, leading to objection by another community. “The matter was resolved by the police but some miscreants threw stones from their homes.”

On this occasion, Gujarat also faced once again a communal tension in this year.  Clashes erupted between two communities after Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists objected to some members of the Muslim community who were trying to plant a religious flag in Matar town. Four persons were injured and some shops and vehicles were set on fire during the clashes. Personnel of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) were deployed in the village to control the situation immediately.

Around 15 lakh Muslims had assembled in Bulandshahr for three days i.e. from the 1st to 3rd December, “Islamic congregation – Tablighi Ijtema.” The event concluded on 3rd December and around six to nine lakh participants have since left the area. But until the evening, around five to seven lakh participants were still in the city and police were “extra cautious” in view of the large Muslim presence. Trouble had started to brew Monday morning when residents of both villages informed Siyana police station about alleged cow carcasses being found in the fields. Demanding prompt action, around 50-60 villagers loaded the carcasses in tractor-trolleys and parked them outside Chingravati police booth, blocking the highway leading to Bulandshahr. When Siyana station in-charge, Subodh Kumar Singh, reached the spot between 10 am and 11 am, he was accompanied by only three support staff, including a driver. The policemen requested agitated villagers to clear the traffic, promising to file a First Information Report (FIR) and prompt action.

But some hot-blooded elements were not happy the matter resolve such as, and thus reasoning soon gave way to arguments, and as the back and forth got out of control, some in the crowd resorted to stone pelting. According to police, the station house officer (SHO) and his aides were cornered by a violent mob. An initial round of firing in the air to disperse them only angered them further. In this whole violence, a brave Police Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh (He was working as an investigating officer of Akhlaq lynches case-2015) and a youth were dead and some other officer injured.

However, this mob versus Police clash was not a communal clash but it tired to construct as communal sense. Bulandshahr Police tweeted from its official handle after people started linking the violence to the Ijtema congregation that “please don’t spread misinformation. This incident is not linked to the Ijtema procession in any way. The Ijtema concluded peacefully. The current incident happened 45-50 kilometres away from where the Ijtema was held. Some rowdy elements are the perpetrators of this incident. Statutory action is being taken in the case.”

The above empirical study concluded as Communal Violence and communal politics are an infinite feature of Indian politics. The history of all communal incidents data recorded that it increases all-time in comparison to previous years. This report of 2018 communal violence also shows that communalisation of politics will increase more by the sight of general elections of 2019.

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