A sense of tenuous calm prevails over the restive city of Amravati, belying the brutal wave of violence it had endured for over two days starting November 12. Streets wear a deserted look, giving the city an appearance of a ghost town, as business establishments remain shuttered and people hunkered down at their homes following the local administration’s decision to impose a curfew and suspend internet services in an effort to salvage deteriorating law and order in the city.
“There is calm so far and the situation is under control,” BJP leader Tushar Bharatiya told OpIndia. “The police have started combing operations and are now sifting through the CCTV videos to identify the miscreants who were responsible for plunging the city into chaos and disorder.”
Violence had gripped the state of Maharashtra this week, most notably the city of Amravati in Vidarbha, following the state-wide protests and rallies organised by some Muslim organisations on Friday, November 12, against reported incidents of mosques being vandalised in Tripura.
Besides Amravati, at least two other cities—Malegaon and Nanded—were in turmoil as scores of supporters heeded the call of Muslim organisations and took to streets in protest against the alleged vandalisation of mosques in Tripura. The protests inevitably turned violent, with the mob going on a rampage, destroying public and private properties in their wake.
While the situation was brought under control in Malegaon and Nanded, fresh violence was reported from Amravati, after a shutdown was called on Saturday, November 13, by several organisations, including the BJP, Bajrang Dal, VHP and others to mark their protest against the administration’s inability to prevent Muslim protesters from indulging in violence and vandalism a day earlier.
Revealing details of the turn of events that took place on Friday, BJP’s Tushar Bhartiya told OpIndia that the protest march on November 12, which was led by the Raza Academy was bound to turn violent as the notorious group has a history of being involved in violent protests. “The protests were going to turn violent as the Raza Academy is known for inflaming passions and there have 3 protest demonstrations organised by them, all of which have resulted in violence and disruption,” Bharatiya said.
Followers of Muslim organisations, including Islamist group Raza Academy, the same organisation that was responsible for the Azad Maidan riots in Mumbai in 2012, along with members of a radical group that venerates Islamic ruler Tipu Sultan, participated in a protest rally whose aim was to reach the Collector office and submit a memorandum demanding a probe into the alleged vandalisation of mosques in Tripura.
The protest rally was largely under control until it reached the Chitra Chowk, a Hindu-dominated region, recalls Bharatiya in conversation with OpIndia. Soon it crossed Chitra Chowk, the protesters ran riot, pelting stones at Hindu establishments, vandalising and ransacking shop owned by Hindu residents. Bharatiya said
At least 70,000-80,000 Muslims participated in the protests. As soon as the march reached the Chitra Chowk area of Amravati, the protesters turned violent. They pelted stones at Hindus establishments, damaged properties owned by Hindus and ransacked their shops. A grocery store in owned by our leader and former minister Jagdish Gupta was attacked and plundered,” Bharatiya said.
‘Police used brutal measures against our supporters but not against Muslims rioters’: Tushar Bharatiya
The BJP leader also accused the administration of their lax attitude in bringing the Muslim mob under control. “As against thousands of protesters, the deployment of police personnel was woefully poor. They were vastly outnumbered by the protesters, who exploited their numerical superiority to wreak havoc,” Bharatiya further added.
Then on Saturday, November 13, a bandh was called by the BJP and affiliate parties in response to riots and vandalism witnessed during the protest march carried out by Muslim organisations and their supporters the previous day.
On Saturday too, violence erupted as police officials used baton-charge against supporters of BJP, Bajrang Dal and other organisations who had organised a sit-in vigil to condemn violence that broke out during the protest march by Muslim organisations. The Hindu protesters were carrying sticks for their self-defence while the opponents had swords and pelted stones against us, Bharatiya said.
To understand what led to the clashes between police officials and demonstrators on Saturday, OpIndia got in touch with BJP functionary Badal Kulkarni, Vice President BJYM. The BJP leader said the protest had been peaceful until the police officials used lathi-charge on the protesters who had gathered to condemn the violence meted out on them by Muslim supporters.
Peaceful sit-in protest turned violent after police personnel baton-charged demonstrators: BJP leader Badal Kulkarni on Amravati violence
“BJP, Bajrang Dal, VHP and other affiliate organisations had called for a bandh on Saturday. Our bandh got support from all trade associations, who had been at the receiving end of the violence that erupted during the rally carried out by Muslim supporters. The clashes broke out after police personnel opened lathi-charge against protesters peacefully protesting against injustice suffered by them,” Kulkarni said.
“The protest had been peaceful until police personnel used baton-charge against the protesters. They felt enraged and angry at the administration for subjecting them to violence even as they were the victims of rioting and vandalism by Muslim hooligans,” Kulkarni added.
The BJP leader pointed towards the dichotomy of action taken by police against Hindu protesters as compared to their inaction against Muslim rioters. “No lathi-charge or tear gas or other strict measures were used against Muslim protesters, but the police officials showed no inhibitions in attacking our supporters who were simply protesting peacefully,” Kulkarni said.
Ancient Shani Mandir in Amravati damaged and attacked
Kulkarni also recounted the ferocity of the Muslim mob that created ruckus in Amravati. He said a legion of Muslim protesters, close to 25,000 to 30,000 in numbers, gathered in protest against the alleged mosque vandalisation in Tripura, had turned violent as soon as it passed through the Hindu-dominated region near the Chitra Chowk. Kulkarni also revealed how an ancient Shani Mandir located in Sakkar Saath faced the wrath of a frenzied mob.
“An ancient Shani Mandir was attacked and damaged by a mob during the clashes. The temple is perched right at the edge of the Hindu-majority area of Sakkar Saath and adjoining a Muslim-majority colony. The hoodlums had also barged into the house of the family who takes care of the family. Even the pandit of the temple was beaten up,” Badal said.
Taking cognisance of deteriorating law and order, the local administration imposed a curfew in Amravati town on Saturday. In addition to this, internet services were snapped for three days in the region as a preemptive measure aimed at preventing fresh bouts of violence.
MHA debunks fake news about vandalisation of mosques in Tripura
The violence was triggered by fake news of vandalisation of mosques in Tripura. On Saturday (November 13), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) debunked fake news about the vandalism of a mosque in the Gomati district of Tripura. The development comes amidst deteriorating law and order situation in Maharashtra over alleged violence against Muslims in the North-Eastern State.
In a statement, the MHA informed, “There have been news reports that have been circulating that a mosque in Kakraban area of Gomati district in Tripura has been damaged and vandalized. These news reports are fake and are a complete misrepresentation of facts. The mosque in Dargabazar area of Kakraban has not been damaged and the Tripura Police in Gomati district is working to maintain peace and tranquillity.