As I write these lines it’s been ten days since the conflict in Khargone in Madhya Pradesh on Ram Navami. The situation remains tense. Curfew prevails. No social or political activist is being allowed to enter Khargone. This was not a spontaneous incident. The RSS and BJP systematically engineered this riot for communal polarisation.
BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who had spewed communal poison in Delhi, was present in Khargone, and this was no coincidence. As soon as the Ram Navami procession began, he posted on social media: “Neither Musa nor Burhan, only Jai Shree Ram. Our Ramnavmi Yatra starts from Khargone.” In this post, Kapil Mishra accepts his culpability in the riots. But when Kapil Mishra’s name came up, not only Madhya Pradesh’s BJP leaders but the State Home Minister himself came out in his defence.
Perhaps, this time the BJP and the Sangh Parivar wanted these riots to happen at all costs. Earlier, many such efforts made by them were defeated by the minority community’s temperance.
On March 10, exactly a month before April 10, when BJP had won four Assembly elections, including Uttar Pradesh, it had organised a victory rally in Khargone in which not only ruckus was created outside a masjid but firecrackers were throwninside its premises. The minority community had lodged a police complaint against this. But no action was taken.
The BJP and Sangh Parivar was sad since their efforts to ignite communal tension did not have the desired affect because of the minority community’s wisdom.
Last year, people from minority community or masjids were targeted six times by Sangh Parivar. Complaints were registered against all these incidents. But the police didn’t do anything. This time, other than Kapil Mishra, the responsibility of riots also lay with the state BJP Vice President Shyam Mahajan.
When the Ram Navami procession peacefully reached Talab Chowk, the police erected barricades to stop it from entering masjid and minority-dominated residential areas. This irked Shyam Mahajan. He not only threatened the Additional Police Superintendent Neeraj Chaurasia but also scared him with immediate transfer. This incident happened at 11 a.m and was used to spread a rumour in the city that the police has stopped a Ram Navami procession. Provocative slogans and appeals were sent out calling upon ‘all Hindus’ to reach Talab Chowk at 3 p.m. Thousands of people who reached there in the afternoon were fully prepared. They were equipped with saffron flags, sharp weapons and objectionable posters.
According to Khargone Police Station TI, BL Mandloi, who himself was injured in the communal violence, the gathering was asked to take out the rally first at 2 p.m and then at 3 p.m. But they deliberately took out the rally at 5 pm, when it was time to break the roza and offer the evening namasz.
The rally stopped outside the masjid and objectionable slogans were raised on loudspeakers. This led to a dispute and within minutes rumours spread across the city.
The BJP and Sangh Parivar are behind all this violence. Manoj Raghuvanshi, one of the organisers, said that every year Ram Navami procession takes place and nobody has ever objected. This year the conflict occurred because of BJP and Sangh’s conspiracy.
The police superintendent also sustained a bullet injury in his leg during the violence. Till seven days, it was reported that 12 people, including six policemen, were injured. Now it is accepted that one Idris was killed as well.
Shivraj Govt: Adding Fuel to Fire
After the rioting, the State Home Minister himself came forward to further polarise the communities. Earlier, in an objectionable statement, the minister had said that whichever house was involved in stone- pelting, would be turned into rubble. To further polarise the situation, he used words like ‘us’ and ‘them’ which is not becoming of someone who has taken the Constitution’s oath to serve as a minister.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan went a step further and constituted a commission comprising a retired judge, Shivkumar Mishra, and a former state secretary, Prabhat Parashar, to assess the damage to private and puplic property. This commission has been constituted under the Public and Private Property Recovery Act, 2021, which was cleared by the Assembly within minutes in 2021 without any discussion.
This Act provides that damage to private or public property shall be compensated by those who destroyed it. Instead of making efforts to spread peace, the commission was constituted, which further terrorised the minority community. The Chief Minister himself targeted the minority community by asking the commission to submit its report in two weeks and promising that all damages will be compensated.
Drive to Turn Homes into Pile of Stones
The MP Police arrested 77 people after this incident, all belonging to a particular community. This was followed by bulldozing houses and shops. The administration destroyed 32 shops and 16 homes. Barring one, the rest belong to the minority community.
While the MP Home Minister made statements to turn houses of stone-pelters into rubble, the administration has been saying that bulldozing has nothing to do with the riots, and that it just acted against encroachment. The victims say the municipality had measured the area six months ago, but nobody said anything about encroachment.
The Khargone Administration’s claim that only encroachments and illegal constructions were razed is false, as the houses of Haseena Farooq and her son Amjad Khan, built under the PM Awas Yojana, were also destroyed.
One Waseem Sheikh’s stall was also razed and he was accused of stone pelting. This is even though both his arms were amputated in 2005 due to electrocution. How could he pelt stones?
After Waseem Sheikh’s video went viral on social media, the administration threatened him and another video was released where he is heard saying that his stall was not destroyed. The tehsildar has complicated the matter. He accepted that the stall was destroyed but it was vacant at the time.
Idris alias Saddam went missing since the first day of the violence. His dead body was found on April 17. According to police, around 1 a.m, they were informed about Idris’ whereabouts near Kapas Mandi. He was admitted to the district hospital, where he was pronounced dead and the body was sent to Indore for identification.
His family, however, claims that Idris had gone for the evening namaaz at 7 p.m and never returned. His family had lodged a missing persons report in the police station. For seven days, the police did not take any action even though they knew that a dead body had been sent to Indore for identification. Seven days later, his family was sent to Indore and they identified his body at 3 a.m. At 8 a.m, police made the family bury his body.
Idris’ friend, who is still in jail, says that Idris was taken to police station at 1 a.m but since he had an injury on his head, he wasn’t taken to jail. What happened after that, he doesn’t know. Looks like a case of custodial death.
Till April 14, the police registered 35 FIRs, of these 28 are against people from the minority community. Till now, 121 people have been put in jail and only six of them are from the majority community.
Administration Siding with Rioters
It is strange that the responsibility of these riots has neither been put on the Collector nor the Police Superintendent. Four government officials have been suspended and three of these are employed on contract basis.
Even after this widespread violence, the Collector Anugruha P says that he is not aware why the riots happened? Whereas common citizens say it happened because provocative and objectionable slogans were raised on loudspeakers during the procession and also because it stopped in front of the masjid and created ruckus.
The police superintendent also accepted that there wasn’t enough force around the masjid. But can contract employees be held responsible for all this?