Monday 23 May 2022
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Khargone Hindus were angry but Muslims attacked first

The Twitter handle of Khargone Jansampark Office confirmed that not only were these properties illegal but they also housed the stone-pelters

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The faces of rioters who attacked a Hindu procession in Khargone of Madhya Pradesh on Ram Navami are now out in the open. As the procession crossed the Talab Chowk area near Jama Masjid in the town, as it does every year on Ram Navami, the Muslims attacked.

The Raghuwanshi community, who claim to be descendants of Rama, conduct this annual yatra. As usual, the police were extra vigilant, given the dominance of notorious Muslims in the area. On 4 April this year, the Talab Chowk was expectedly barricaded before the procession began.

There was a minor glitch in the procession earlier when an argument broke out between the police and one of the organisers of the procession, but the procession went ahead peacefully. However, the news of the momentary stop in the progress of the procession reached far and wide in distorted manners. A second possession, angered by the rumour, tried to reach out to their brethren at the Talab Chowk. But they did not initiate the riot.

Their timing clashed with the time of namaz, and trouble began. Members of the second procession said that Muslims emerging from their namaz first made provocative statements about Hinduism and then started pelting stones at the jhanki.

“There was a huge crowd. We had made big arrangements for this year’s Ram Navami, but at the Talab Chowk, stones were pelted at us and we had to defend ourselves,” India Today reported, citing a member of the second procession.

But the secretary of the Jama Masjid at Talab Chowk, Hafiz Mohammad Mohsin, said both the sides threw stones at each other. He blamed the Hindu side for provoking them. He said, “Earlier, we had alerted the administration and also written to the PMO that the Talab Chowki near the Jama Masjid is a sensitive zone. Communal flare-ups often happen over here. Stones are also pelted at the masjid and hence such processions or celebrations shouldn’t be allowed to maintain communal harmony.”

Police tried to disperse the crowd with lathi-charge and tear gas shelling. This pushed the crowd to the narrow lanes of Tavdi Mohalla, Sanjay Nagar, Gaushala Marg, Anand Nagar, Bhausar Mohalla, and Khaskhaswadi.

Sixteen-year-old Shivam, who is presently battling for his life, resides in one such mohalla called the Zamindar Mohalla. His cousin said, “We were excited to be a part of the procession that day, but suddenly people started pelting stones from the houses behind ours. The rioters also had weapons. Caught in between, Shivam received serious injuries to his skull.” Currently, Shivam is recovering in a private hospital in Indore.

The scenario in and around Shivam’s house remains tense. His neighbour Neeraj Bhawsar said he wanted to sell his house. At the age of three, he saw his house come under attack and was saved by his father. This time he had to save his son and now he doesn’t want to stay in this house any longer.

Like Shivam’s family, Nasir Ahmed’s house also came under threat from his own neighbour, whom he has known since his childhood.

The retired assistant sub-inspector of police in Khargone, a Muslim, said when the crowd was moving towards his area, he saw his neighbour Anil pelting stones at his house. Nasir said, “I told Anil that we are neighbours and we shouldn’t be behaving like this, but he didn’t want to listen. Even his wife signalled to burn the only household in the area.” Nasir is currently trying to get an FIR registered.

CCTV footage from the Talab Chowki area, where the chaos that followed after stone-pelting during the Ram Navami procession, and another video from Gaushala Marg show how huge stones were thrown from atop -owned houses to attack the procession.

Despite a curfew, in Khargone continued throughout the night. A resident of Sanjay Nagar, Ismail said, “Our kirana store was torched late in the night around 1 am. Most of the shopkeepers shut their stores in the evening, but when we asked what’s happening, no one alerted us.” He said, the shop was located in a Hindu-dominated area and it was the second time that it had come under attack. The last was in 2018.

The next morning, as promised by Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra, the administration started felling illegal houses and razing shops encroaching on public property in Khargone. A total of 16 houses and 32 shops that were found to have violated civic laws — all belonging to Muslims — were razed on Monday and Tuesday. These illegal dwellings were also the locations from where stones were thrown at the Ram Navami procession.

The Twitter handle of Khargone Jansampark Office confirmed that not only were these properties illegal but they also housed the stone-pelters. But some Muslims say that is not entirely true.

A resident Sajid said, “In 2011, I was legally made aware of the size of the boundary of my house. After that, I didn’t get any notice. Suddenly, people came with bulldozers and demolished my house. We were not even a part of the that took place, our area saw no conflict.”

Two of the houses that were destroyed were allegedly built by PMAY, but the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has said that if the allegation is found to be true, those houses will be rebuilt at government expense. The state government has instituted a claims tribunal headed by a retired judge, which will look into cases related to property damage during the riots and recovery.

Khargone is still under the curfew that was announced almost immediately after the riots. The administration is relaxing the restrictions off and on.

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