Bhopal: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is responsible creating communal turbulence in Khargone and Barwani districts of Madhya Pradesh to polarise voters after losing nine out of 10 seats in the 2018 Assembly elections, alleged a joint fact-finding team of eight non-Congress Opposition parties, which visited violence-hit Khargone on April 25, 2022.
"Over half a dozen cases where reported in the last one year in which members of Right wing groups and ruling party men tried to provoke Muslims in Khargone," alleged Jaswinder Singh, state secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) during a press conference in Bhopal on Wednesday.
Recalling one such incident, Singh said after BJP won four states on March 10, the partymen carried out a Vijay Yatra in Khargone. During the yatra, crackers were thrown into the Talab Chowk mosque, where a clash broke out almost a month later, on April 10. Despite police complaints by Muslim community members and the Masjid committee, no action was taken.
"The violence was deliberately stirred and the reason was political. They said there are 10 assembly seats in Khargone and Barwani (the other district that saw riots on Ram Navami in Sendhwa block). If the results of past four assembly polls are analysed, it could be seen that in 2003, 2008 and 2013, the BJP won six to seven of these 10 seats. However, in 2018, the BJP lost nine of the 10 seats (and also lost the polls with a slim margin). It is this defeat that the BJP is not able to digest and therefore it is conspiring to cause communal polarisation to win the (2023) polls,” the joint statement of the fact-finding team read.
The fact-finding team said the first Ram Navami procession in Khargone had passed peacefully. But a heated argument took place between a senior police officer and BJP state vice-president Shyam Mahajan around 11 a.m over the route and barricading of Muslim localities. After the argument, the BJP leader instigated a crowd, urging them to gather at Talab Chowk Masjid under the banner of Gauraksha Samiti. This Samiti first came into limelight in 2019 and carried out their first rally then, the team alleged.
Spelling out details of the fact-finding report, the team further alleged, "It was in 2019 when a Gauraksha Samiti -- which comprises leaders of Right-wing groups and leaders of the ruling party was created and they begun celebrating Ram Navami and other major Hindu festivals. It was in the second rally after 2019 where the clash broke out. The traditional rally carried by the Raghuwanshi community ended peacefully at 12 p.m despite passing Muslim neigbhourhoods and Talab Chowk Masjid. But a clash broke out in the second rally carried out by Gauraksha Samiti."
The team said despite having intelligence inputs that communal tension might arise during Ram Navami, the administration and the police did not make adequate preventive and security arrangements.
Blaming the ruling party, BJP, for creating turbulence in Sendhwa block of Barwani district, the team further alleged that over four to five communal incidents have taken place in Sendhwa block of Barwani district in the past one year. It is 60-km away from Khargone.
"This was the first time in the last four elections that the BJP lost Sendhwa seat in 2018. Since then it's on the boil," said Swarup Nayak, a member of the fact-finding team.
Apart from Jaswinder Singh, the eight-member team comprisesd Swaroop Nayak from Rashtriya Janata Dal, Shailendra Shaili from Communist Party of India, Raju Bhatnagar from Nationalist Congress Party, Pradeep Khuswaha from Samanta Dal, Ajay Shrivastav representing the Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, Devendra Singh Chouhan from CPI (ML) and Yash Bharti from Samajwadi Party.
Speaking on the demolition drive carried out in the aftermath of the Khargone violence, the fact-finding team alleged that all the houses and shops demolished by the district administration belonged to Muslims.
"A few shops were demolished in areas which have nothing to do with the incident but were razed owing to political pressure," Singh added.
Addressing the media in Bhopal, the team alleged: "The four Hindu shopkeepers who were on rent at Talab Chowk Masjid committee shops were allowed to vacate before the demolition, but Muslim shopkeepers were refrained from doing so and those who tried were caned by the police."
Hinting at a conspiracy in the death of Ibris Khan, who became the first casualty in the violence, the fact finding team questioned why the police hid his death from the family until April 18, when they had recovered his body on April 11 itself?
"Even state Home Minister Narottam Mishra and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan were informed on April 15 about Ibris' death," said Jaswinder Singh, questioning why the police needed to keep Ibris' death hidden not only from the family but also from the Chief Minister, Home Minister and Director General of Police (DGP).
Blaming the district administration and Home Minister for failing to restore peace in the region even after 15 days of the incident, the team alleged that "even two weeks after the incident, hatemongering and targeting of a particular community continues unabated. Several videos and photos have surfaced that are openly calling for boycotting Muslims. Religious places are still under lock and relief work is yet to begin."
Pointing at the ‘one-sided action’ by the district administration, the team said: "Over a dozen FIRs have been lodged by victims within the Muslim community but police has failed to find a single accused. On contrary, over 40 FIRs were lodged by the majority community and over 160 Muslims have been arrested."
Demanding a CBI enquiry into Ibris' death, the team concluded: "The police's statements and the first information reports are contradictory, pointing toward a conspiracy behind hiding the death."
"The administration and the state government would be on backfoot if the death of Ibris Khan was revealed at that time. Hence, the district police deliberately kept the death a secret to bulldoze Muslim houses and brand them as perpetrators of the violence," alleged Yash Bharti, a member of the fact-finding team.