Bhopal: Located about 150 km apart, two mosques and the adjoining homes of Muslim families were vandalised on Tuesday (December 29) afternoon as rallies of right wing groups, organised with the aim of collecting funds for the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, swept through Mandsaur and Indore districts of Madhya Pradesh.
The latest report comes four days after the first clash was reported in Ujjain, about 70kms from Indore where rallies carried out by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, passed through Muslim-dominated Begum Bagh, allegedly shouting slogans and abuses at the local residents that resulted in stone pelting.
In response to rallies called by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in a nationwide drive to collect funds for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, thousands of right-wing workers had turned up in Ujjain, Mandsaur and Indore districts with saffron flags and swords. These right wing rallies stopped before mosques chanting provocative slogans leading to severe clashes between the two communities.
Ujjain, Indore and Mandsaur where the spell of communal clashes have erupted falls under the Malwa region, a stronghold of the RSS.
After the first clash in Ujjain, the following day, on December 26, district collectors ordered the demolition of a two-storey building of Abdul Rasheed, a resident of Begum Bagh, claiming that his family was caught on video hurling stones at the workers.
The demolition drive of Rasheed’s house was aimed at breaking the miscreants such as Rasheed economically, claimed Ujjain Collector Ashish Singh. However, the stones were reportedly pelted from the adjacent building of Mira Bai. Her tenant Heena was booked by the cops but instead of Mira’s house, the collector demolished Rasheed’s house.
Also read: MP: Unrest Prevails in Ujjain’s Begum Bagh after Stone-Pelting During BJYM Rally
A day after the demolition of Rasheed’s house in Ujjain, Home Minister Narottam Mishra while addressing reporters in Bhopal remarked, “Patthar jaha se aayege wahi se to nikale jaye ge (Those who engage in stone pelting will be evicted).”
Even as before the dust could settle down on the Ujjain clash, a similar clash broke out in Indore’s Chandan Khedi where in a similar rally carried out by right wing groups, there were attempts to vandalise the village mosque resulting in stone pelting on both sides. The next day citing a road widening drive, the district administration partially demolished 15 homes while the police arrested at least 27 residents of the villages, as per reports.
The police have reportedly arrested five persons and registered an offence against 58 others based on complaints by the villagers; another 30 in Indore, of which at least 27 are villagers; in Begum Bagh locality of Ujjain, 18 have been arrested with charges under National Security Act invoked on 10.
However, an independent investigation by NewsClick has revealed that dozens of the locals and eyewitnesses of all three incidents agree that everything happened under the supervision of police and specifically, in Indore, police supported the mob.
Details of Incidents: Mosque vandalised, Muslim Homes Set on Fire
In Chandan Khedi village of Indore, the mob set the house of a Muslim family on fire after vandalising the minaret of Eidgah situated on the outskirts of village. However, the police claimed that the clash broke out after a few villagers objected the filming of videos of their houses,
“Soon after the objection, the violence broke out and stone pelting started from both sides. It created a mayhem in the village and the mob disappeared,” Harinarayana Chari Mishra, DIG Indore was reported as saying. He added, “Meanwhile, the mob rushed towards the Eidgah and vandalised the minaret before police intervened.”
The videos of vandalising of the minaret in Indore which went viral shows that the rioters used the police’s vehicle to climb on the minaret of Eidgah and put a saffron flag atop before vandalising it. The crowd was chanting "Ek hi Jhanda ek hi naam, Jai Shree Ram, Jai Shree Ram (one flag one slogan, hail Ram, hail Ram)”, while the police stood as a mere spectator.
According to eyewitnesses, hours later, the mob reappeared and set the house of Saddam Patel, 26, on fire which is on the outskirts of the village. Three tractors, two bikes and tons of crops were gutted down in the fire.
“As many as 25 people were in the house including seven women and eight kids when the mob attacked. After hurling stones, around 1 PM, they set my house on fire,” Saddam said.
He added, “On police’s assurance, around 2 PM when we opened the door to douse the fire which was getting closer, the mob was there and they dragged us from the door. They not only brutally assaulted us with swords, trishuls and iron rods, but also opened fire on us. When we sought help from the nearby standing cops, they moved away.”
According to Indore police, five members of Patel’s family were injured and one person has been shot twice in the leg by the mob. The injured were referred to MY Hospital, Indore.
"The incident was shameful and a team has been formed to identify the attackers,” said Inspector General of Police Indore, Yogesh Deshmukh adding that the situation is under control and section 144 has been imposed in the city by the collector.
“Four FIRs, two from each side, have been registered so far and 29 people have been detained,” he added.
The DIG has suspended DSP Pankaj Dixit and SHO of Gautampura police station, RC Bhaskar holding them accountable for the incident.
When asked about the police's inaction despite their presence in the rally, he replied, "In comparison to the mob, the police force was less in numbers and failed to control the situation. As far as the police's involvement in the incident is concerned, we are probing it and if we found any substantial proof or video, we will take strict action."
Message Circulated Says Teach Lessons to Descendants of Aurangzeb
The same day as the incident in Chandan Khedi, a rally of around 5,000 people called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) entered in the Muslim-dominated Dorana village of Mandsaur district and began chanting the Hanuman Chalisa. Meanwhile, some members of the rally allegedly climbed on top of the mosque and put up the saffron flag on the minaret of the mosque before vandalising it.
Villagers claimed that a day before the rally, they had petitioned the Superintendent of Police Mandsaur and sought protection, citing messages allegedly being circulated on social media which called all “Hindu brothers” to join the rally from Amlawad to Dorana village in large numbers with saffron flags to teach the “descendants of Aurangzeb” a lesson for stopping a Hindu rally from passing through Dorana, reported The Indian Express.
On December 25, a rally was stopped from playing loud music outside the mosque in the village by locals during the Friday prayers.
Also read: Poverty, Unemployment Behind Rising Communal Violence in MP: Civil Society Organisations
Dorana has 500 odd houses with 82 Muslim families. As per reports, the inspector of the nearest police station had asked the residents of the village to remove flags atop their homes and mosque and remain indoors on the rally day, and remain assured the police will take care. However, the villagers had shifted the women residents to an adjoining village on the fated day.
According to The Indian Express report, “as the mob entered the village on Tuesday, they began ransacking houses, parked cars, CCTV cameras and even hit the cattle tied outside. They looted the jewellery and cash including the house of Mandaur BJP Minority Cell chief Abdul Hakim, claimed Nazar Mansoori, a resident”.
An eyewitness of the incident, who is an English teacher Umar Patel, was reported saying, “Everything happened under the nose of ASP Amit Verma and now the police have booked dozens of villagers for inciting violence.”
Meanwhile, Mandsaur SP Sidharth Choudhary said that eight FIRs have been registered in connection with the incident, including four cases on complaint of villagers, two by organisers of the rally and two people have been booked for fanning rumours through social media. He, however, denied the allegations of police inaction at the site.
Sohanji Vishwakarma, regional minister of the Malwa region for VHP, too denied the involvement of VHP members in the vandalism as well in the circulation of communal messages. He claimed, as per a report, that some unidentified people took saffron flags and joined the rally.