Bhopal: The residents of Arjun Talab in Gunnaur in Madhya Pradesh's Panna witnessed an age-old ploy to stir communal tensions on July 3. Some unidentified miscreants painted green a newly-constructed square-shaped Shani Temple constructed close to the boundary of a Muslim graveyard; the majority community attacked the mosque and tore religious books apart.
This is only one among many such instances of communal tensions being fanned in the state. On August 8, right-wing groups prevented the construction of a mosque despite a court decree in Neemuch district. In Betul, a head constable was spotted making inflammatory remarks against the Muslim community to villagers after a tussle over an old Mazar. In Khargone, stones were allegedly pelted at a crowd coming from a graveyard after they buried a religious leader on the night of July 30. And, in Satna, right-wing groups burned tyres and protested over a construction of Imambada.
According to the Panna police, the incident outraged locals and political activists allegedly associated with the ruling party. Meanwhile, a furious mob armed with sticks and swords entered a Muslim village of about 25 homes and shouted religious slogans while having their faces covered. Locals claimed that the miscreants not only broke windows and gates but also caused damage to the two-room mosque. Videos of the incident had gone viral on social media platforms.
A local journalist associated with a Hindi daily said the situation deteriorated after former BJP MLA Rajesh Verma's entry into affairs.
A sense of panic prevailed in the region after the incident and markets remained shut for almost two days following the registration of two FIRs, one each from both side. Massive police force was also deployed in the Muslim-dominated village as well as in the market to prevent any untoward incidents.
The incident was among five other such incidents of communal violence and hate speech that took place in last one month in Madhya Pradesh.
“Ten people were arrested, five from the each community, after two FIRs were registered. Later bail was granted to them to maintain peace in the region,” Awdesh Pratap Baghel, in-charge of Gunnaur police station, told Newsclick over the phone.
According to the FIRs registered, five people were booked under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for painting the idol and temple green while five were booked under sections 147, 295, 153, 454, 427, among others, for attacking the mosque. All accused were granted bail a day after the FIRs were registered, however.
Madhya Pradesh had witnessed a wave of communal clashes in the last week of December, 2020, in Ujjain, Indore and Mandsaur during rallies carried out to collect funds for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The incidents were triggered by similar events – rallies entered Muslim dominated villages, chanted provocative slogans in front of mosques. Homes and minarets were attacked by the mob.
“The reason behind the sudden surge in communal incidents and hate speeches in the state is to divert attention from core issues such as inflation, massive unemployment and migration, especially in rural areas due to the fallout of COVID-19,” said Madhuri Krishnamurty of the Jagrit Dalit Adivasi Sanghatan.
“This is also the result of the constant hatred against a particular community and their faith being fed to the masses by the media or via social media platforms over the last couple of years,” she pointed out.
Newsclick reached out to the Additional Director General, Law & Order, for a comment on these incidents. However, there was no response forthcoming.
Other Incidents -
Stones hurled in Khargone:
On the night of July 30, a group of Muslim men returning from the graveyard after a burial ceremony were allegedly attacked and stones were hurled at them, according to locals. It led to a few vehicles being torched and damage to windows of shops and homes in the area.
According to police, however, the incident occurred over a rumour of stone pelting. “When the crowd was returning from the graveyard, someone spread a rumour in the Muslim colonies that they were attacked. But the police immediately put a lid on the situation and prevented the violence,” said Prakash Vaskale, in-charge of the Kotwali Police station.
The following night, police detained dozens of Muslim youth from their houses. Women from the Muslim community opposed the police action and blocked roads in the area.
“Based on videos and photos of the incident, we have booked 30 people under relevant sections of the IPC, including Section 308,” Vaskale added.
However, Yaseer Pathan, a local, alleged: “Stones were hurled from a cowshed which stood adjacent to the graveyard when the crowd was returning from the burial. But the police didn’t take any action against them owing to political pressure.”
Betul Cop's Remarks
On August 10, Prahlad Dhurve, head constable at Bordehi Police Station, made his way to Kalmeshra Budui village following a controversy over a mazaar and made objectionable remarks against the Muslim community.
During a conversation with the villagers, he remarked, “Tum logo ko bharosa kai kya musalmano per? Wo to bharose wale log hai nahi. Wo hamare sath khayege aur hamari hi thali me ched kar dege. (Do you people trust Muslims? They are not trustworthy....”
As a video of the incident went viral, social activists and members of the Muslim community reported to Betul Superintendent of Police Simala Prasad and demanded action.
“An on-duty cop who had gone to resolve the issue was provoking villagers against the Muslim community,” said Pankaj Atulkar, social activist and office bearer of the Bhim Sena in Madhya Pradesh.
The questionable conduct of the Betul police when it comes to the the Muslim community is not new. On March 23, 2020, city cops brutally beat up advocate Deepak Bundele while he was on his way to a government hospital for treatment, after wrongly identifying him as a Muslim because of his long beard.
When contacted, SP Simala Prasad said: “A probe headed by the SDOP of the region has been ordered into the matter.”
Mosque Constriction Stopped
In Neemuch, close to the Rajasthan border, a right-wing outfit objected to the construction of a mosque on land registered under the mosque’s name since the 1950s. The municipal corporation took away construction material after the objection.
“A large mob donning saffron clothes gathered close to the mosque on the morning of August 8 and raised provocative slogans in front of the police. Although construction started after a decree from the court and following permission given by the municipal corporation,” said Dr. Mohsin Pathan, a member of the committee which is looking after the construction.
He further alleged that the police used force against members of the Muslim community who were witnesses to the incident. It also detained five people who were released after a few hours. “The police did nothing to the protesting mob who were raising provocative slogans. Instead the municipal corporation took away our construction material,” he alleged.
When contacted, Neemuch Collector Mayank Agrawal clarified: “It was mosque land and a decree between the community and municipal corporation in 2018 also proved that. But, the decree was challenged at the ADG court by some groups and the construction also violated decree norms. Hence, the construction has been stopped and the matter is before the court.”
Imambada Construction Prevented
On August 7, Congress MLA Siddharth Kushwaha planted a tree, allegedly on government land. He urged members of the Muslim community to construct an Imambada (construct in the memory of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain) which was removed two years ago by the district administration.
As word spread, members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal opposed it and burned tyres in protest. Local media reports say that the fire tenders which rushed to douse the fire were stopped. Later however, timely intervention by the police prevented a communal clash.
“The planting of trees by the MLA at the disputed side led to a confrontation between both communities. But timely intervention prevented any communal incident,” said a senior police officer from Satna, requesting anonymity.