Rajasthan: All You Need to Know About the Karauli Violence
While most news reports from the ground are reporting that the situation is now under control in Rajasthan’s violence-hit Karauli city, the curfew here has been extended till April 10. According to a report in The HIndu, the curfew that was imposed on April 2 was relaxed for three hours on Friday April 8.
The police were quoted in various news reports saying the rally was taken out by Vishva Hindu Parishad(VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal. Director General of Police (DGP) ML Lather told the media that when the bike rally reached the minority-dominated area, and “some participants raised provoking slogans”, that the stone pelting from nearby houses began. He added that “about 100-150 people from the colony attacked them with sticks,” and eight policemen, 11 locals were injured. In the arson, that ensued “properties of more than 80 people from both sides were damaged”, said the senior police officer, adding that an FIR was also registered “against anti-social elements for spreading misinformation.”
The state government has now handed over the enquiry to be held under its Home Secretary. According to news reports, around 23 people have been arrested so far out of the 44 identified accused of the communal violence where over 40 were injured and shops set ablaze. DGP Lather confirmed on Friday at a press conference that “so far 23 miscreants have been arrested by the police in connection with the incident that happened during the bike rally being taken out on April 2 on the occasion of Nav Samvatsar in Karauli." A total of 10 FIRs have been registered.
According to a report in the Indian Express, the FIR lodged by Karauli Police Station SHO Rameshwar Dayal Meena, stated that the procession to mark Nav Samvatsar, or the Hindu New Year, was taken out through the town by “400-500 persons on 200-215 bikes”. Slogans such as 'Jai Shri Ram' were raised, and songs “of Hindu organisations” were played. However as they reached a Muslim locality near Masjid Maniharan, they were allegedly pelted with stones from rooftops, causing injuries to the people on the bikes and the policemen accompanying them, police told the media. According to IE, the FIR says the stone-pelting appeared to be “a pre-planned conspiracy”. However, the report added that local residents alleged the crowd raised slogans such as “Topi wala bhi Jai Shri Ram bolega (One wearing the skull cap will also chant Jai Shri Ram)”.
The key conspirators identified as Matloob Ahamad and Rajaram Gurjar however, are still absconding. Rajaram Gurjar’s wife Somya Gurjar is the mayor of Jaipur, and he is a former Karauli Municipal Council chairperson. According to a report in Indian Express, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders “are no strangers to controversies.” According to the report, Rajaram’s name “cropped up in connection with alleged kickbacks related to the clearing of bills by Jaipur Municipal Corporation (Greater)” in 2021. Remember, the Municipal Corporation is headed by his wife Somya. It was alleged that Rajaram was filmed “demanding a Rs 20-crore commission from a representative of garbage collection company BVG to clear the firm’s outstanding bills worth Rs 276 crore.” The video went viral, and IE reported that an RSS leader named Nimbaram was also purportedly seen in the clip, eventually he was also named as an accused in the corruption case. The mayor Somya Gurjar, was once a member of the Karauli municipality. The couple has often been in the centre of multiple controversies. The other key accused, Independent Councillor, Matloom Ahmed, was booked for allegedly inciting the violence and is also absconding.
On Friday, DGP Lather told the media that Rajaram’s role in the communal riot “is being investigated”. In the Congress governed state, Rajaram’s alleged involvement has also fuelled a political debate as expected. Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi has asked that the “BJP should answer why, despite Rajaram being named in so many cases, the party continues to reward him, let alone take an action against him.” The BJP, which is the Opposition has demanded “a judicial enquiry”, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, Rajendra Rathore told the media, “We don’t trust the police as it is trying to manipulate the case and demands for judicial enquiry.” As expected the BJP State president Satish Punia demanded that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot resign.
However, according to a report in The Wire, communal tension continues in the area and members of the minority community continue to live in fear. A 14-year-old was quoted saying, “I was asked by Karauli Police that what's stopping you from saying Jai Shree Ram and then I was physically assaulted the whole night."
The right wing ecosystem meanwhile has activated all its channels to somehow blame Muslims for the violence. Rajasthan BJP president Satish Poonia told the media that “due to the appeasement politics of the Gehlot government it looks like there is Taliban rule in Rajasthan." Rajendra Rathore, had claimed that violence “was pre-planned as hundreds of stones were collected a day before the bike rally in Karauli.” He is part of a three-member fact finding team the BJP has constituted. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot accused the BJP of communalising the issue. After BJP president J P Nadda visited the adjacent area of Sawai Madhopur the day violence broke out in Karauli, the CM said, “Ye aag lagane ke liye aate hain, poore desh mein aag laga rahe hain. Aaye, aag lag gayi (They come to light the fires, they are setting the entire country on fire. [He] came, and the fires were lit),” reported IE. The CM said BJP was “already in election mode in Rajasthan”.
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