Bhopal: Communal tension prevailed followed by curfew in Lateri tehsil of Madhya Pradesh's Vidisha district on Sunday night after a standoff between members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and local residents over the death of the husband of a former sarpanch.
The deceased Santram Valmiki, 45, a resident of Murwas village of Lateri tehsil was mowed down by a tractor on March 18 allegedly after he complained about encroachment on forest land by a family in the village. The tractor was allegedly driven by one Rizwan.
Hours after the death, police booked five people, including Farook, Irfan, Umar and Rizwan for allegedly killing Valmiki and subsequently arrested them. The following day police launched an encroachment drive and razed nearly 20 homes allegedly built on forest land.
According to the district administration, the families that were living on encroached land of the forest department were served notices on March 9, 2021 to vacate. The encroachment drive was launched on March 16, two days before the killing of Valmiki.
Hours after Valmiki’s death, local Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Sironj Umakant Sharma visited the village with his supporters and allegedly made objectionable remarks on the Muslim community as well as police officials over the death of Valmiki.
The situation was already tense in the village as the district administration was demolishing the houses. Local residents were upset. Meanwhile, allegedly a group of around 30 VHP men, who had come to pay condolences to Valmiki's kin, went to the demolishing site and reportedly passed comments on the locals and began instructing the officers to ensure that all houses were razed to the ground, said the police.
Their comments added fuel to the fire and led to the heated arguments between the two groups, followed by alleged stone-pelting. Some residents alleged that bullets were also by the group of VHP men, and this all was happening in front of police and forest personnel.
Villagers also blocked the main road in a bid to register their protest after the brawl and demanded action against them, said Anirudh Pandey of Murwas police station. Later, on the appeal of local leaders and district administration, villagers cleared the roads and police “rescued” the VHP men, said local sources.
“Instead of taking action against the VHP men for creating unrest in the village, police registered FIR against locals on VHP men’s complaint for allegedly pelting stones under Sections 147, 148, 149, 427 and 336 of the IPC and detained nearly 15 persons on Sunday night,” said Anees-ue-Rahman, a community leader. After interrogation, police named nearly a dozen of villagers in the FIR.
However, in a statement issued on Sunday, VHP alleged that their convoy was attacked by the villagers and demanded immediate action.
When contacted, Vidisha Collector Pankaj Jain said: “The situation is under control and locals have ettled their issues during a peace meeting held on Monday evening.”
When questioned about reports of VHP’s men visits to the village and subsequent tension, Jain said: "Allegations of stone-pelting and firing have been levelled from both sides and police are investigating the matter. It would be early to comment on it.”
As far as the anti-encroachment drive is concerned, the district administration along with a team of forest officials, has so far demolished homes spread across 140 hectares and it will continue, the collector said.