Bhopal: To recover the losses incurred by the victims during the Khargone violence that broke out during a Ram Navami procession on April 10, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh government has set up its first claim tribunal within 48 hours of the incident.
According to the gazette notification issued on Tuesday, a retired district judge Shivkumar Mishra and former state government secretary Prabhat Parashar will head the tribunal and hear cases pertaining to the assessment of damages during the violence in Khargone city on Sunday.
The tribunal was set up under the provisions of the Public and Private Property Recovery Act-2021. The act was passed in December 2021 within two minutes without any debate soon after it was tabled in the Assembly by the Home Minister Narottam Mishra.
The claim tribunal is being set up simultaneously with the police registering FIRs from those affected in the clash.
According to the police, till April 14, over 35 FIRs have been lodged - seven from the minority community - pertaining to stone-pelting, riot, arson, attempt to murder and other relevant sections of the IPC. Over 121 people have been arrested so far - only six from the majority community for attacking, looting and threatening rape to a Muslim family on Tuesday night in Kukdol village, located eight kilometres from Khargone city. In a village of over 1000 homes, there are only three Muslim families.
"The claims tribunal will be set up within two weeks once the curfew is lifted," said Anugrah P, Khargone collector, over the phone.
"The tribunal will ensure the recovery of damages from the rioters involved in such cases," she added.
A day after the violence, CM Chouhan had said that the tribunal would be set up to assess the losses and recover damages from the rioters.
The claims tribunal was necessitated after massive violence broke out between the two communities on April 10 during the Ram Navami procession. Over 26 houses, 10 bikes, five shops and a godown were gutted down in Qazipura, Sanjay Nagar, Tavdi Mohalla, Anand Nagar, Bhausar Mohalla and Khaskhaswadi locality.
"We have issued a WhatsApp number (9111388824) inviting applications for those who lost their properties in the April 10 Ram Navami violence. The applicant has to send photos/videos of their properties with an application, and the district administration will verify it. The verification process started on Wednesday," Khargone collector said.
The clash broke out on April 10 around 5 pm at Talab Chowk locality after the report of stone-pelting. However, the district authorities have failed to explain what triggered the incident, but the locals and eyewitnesses claimed that provocative songs and the inaction of police led to the incident.
"They were carrying swords, sticks and saffron flags and indecently playing provocative songs," said the eyewitness.
According to official sources, a call was given to gather at communal sensitive Talab Chowk ground near the mosque after a heated argument broke out between the police and state vice president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Shayam Mahajan over the partially barricading the entries of Muslim colonies and mosque to prevent any untoward incident. The barricading shrunk the road which was allegedly causing a problem to carry out Ram Navami procession carried out by the Raghuwanshi community.
The heated argument occurred around 11 am, and the alleged call was given to gather at Talab chowk at 3 pm. After the heated argument, the message that allegedly spread was that the "Police stopped the Ram Navami procession at the Muslim-dominated Talab Chowk locality."
With posters of recently released Anupam Kher's film, The Kashmir Files with a catchphrase 'Jago Hinduo Jago (Wake up Hindus)', over 15 tableaus began pouring in at Talab Chowk under the banner of Gauraksha Samiti – a joint banner of the right-wing groups which was carrying out Ram Navami procession for the second time.
Several videos and CCTV footage of Talab Chowk showed the procession carrying DJs while standing before the mosque waving saffron flags and playing loud music. It continued till 5 pm when the stone-pelting began.
"For fanning rumours that allegedly fueled the clash, the district authorities sacked three contractual government workers, and a permanent government official was suspended," the Indore commissioner, Pawan Kumar Sharma, told reporters in Khargone a day after the incident.
The town inspector of Kotwali police station BL Mandloi who received a severe head injury in the clash near Talab Chowk, explained, "The procession was asked to leave between 2-3 pm, but it got delayed until 5 pm and clashed with evening prayers at the mosque. It was around that time that a crowd of over 1,000 people assembled in procession outside the Talab chowk mosque, after which the situation grew tense, and stone-pelting began soon."
Within hours after the incident, the district collector clamped curfew in some pockets of Khargone city, which were under fire, to bring peace. The incident left over three dozen people injured, including seven cops, said Tilak Singh, DIG Indore division.
Disturbed by the news of the demolition of over 50 properties owned by Muslims arbitrarily, Shaher-E-Qazi, Bhopal Mushtaq Ali Nadvi met with Home Minister Mishra in Bhopal and submitted a memorandum.
Urging not to make the people homeless, the memorandum demanded relaxation in curfew owing to the ongoing Ramadan. The memo also raises questions about the demolition drive and the anti-Muslim stand of the government.
The following day, attacking the BJP for failing to prevent communal incidents, former Union Minister Arun Yadav, who hails from Khargone, said, "The Home Minister is only good with his tongue. He doesn't know how to run the administration, and the failure leads to the communal violence."
He further said, "The law for the ruling party sympathisers is different from the other. The government did not take action against their supporters irrespective of their crime."
Yadav, who met with the DGP Sudheer Saxena on Wednesday with a delegation of Congress leaders, said, "I have urged the DGP to uphold the law. Do not discriminate against people based on religion and caste."