Clashes broke out between two groups of two in the Kiradpura area of Aurangabad (now called Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar) in the wee hours of Thursday, 30 March, leading to one civilian and several police officials being injured.
The clash started when a group of men from one community got into an altercation with the other group for allegedly raising derogatory slogans, sources said. As the clashes escalated, the mob resorted to stone-pelting and torched several vehicles, including those belonging to the police.
The police resorted to lathicharge and shelled tear gas to control the situation. The clashes took place near one of the prominent Ram temples of the city, which remained undamaged.
What happened? A senior Aurangabad police officer, on the condition of anonymity, told The Quint that an investigation is underway and an FIR is yet to be registered in the matter.
"Clashes broke out between two groups first which later escalated. There was police presence in the area already ahead of Ram Navami but by the time more forces came, the mob present had resorted to stone pelting. Miscreants then torched several vehicles, including a few police vans, but we got the situation under control," the official said.
Addressing the media, Police Commissioner Nikhil Gupta said that five to six vehicles were torched.
In a video accessed by The Quint, police officer Ashok Bhandare can be seen addressing the crowd, saying: "I assure the youth of Kiradpura that the incident will be thoroughly probed. The miscreants will be traced and strict action will be taken against them. It's a holy month for your community, I request everybody to return home peacefully."
The police has not yet confirmed what triggered the clashes between the two groups.
Claims that the temple of Lord Ram in the vicinity was attacked by miscreants were refuted by the police as clips with the same claim were shared on social media.
Police Commissioner Nikhil Gupta told PTI that the mob comprised 500-600 people, but that the "Ram temple is safe."
Imtiyaz Jaleel, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP from Aurangabad, released two videos from inside the said temple along with the temple workers to clarify that clashes took place near the temple, but the temple was unharmed.
"I am at the Ram temple in Kiradpur. I am here with volunteers of the temple and as you can see, the temple is unharmed. I have personally spoken to the mothers and sisters in the vicinity and told them that they do not need to worry. On Ram Navami, you can see that the temple of Lord Ram is unharmed. If there are any such rumours going around, please do not believe them," he said.
"Yes, there were clashes, but they have taken place outside on the roads," he added. He further called for harmony and urged that celebrations of both Ram Navami and Ramzan should be carried out peacefully.
"Let's not allow peace and harmony be hampered because of a few miscreants," he said.
An employee of the temple also released a video saying that "the temple is unharmed and Jaleel has been inside the temple for 3-4 hours."
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Minister Atul Salve was also at the spot in a bid to quell the tensions. BJP leader Sabdipan Bhumare, too, visited the locality and appealed for peace. He assured that strict action will be taken against those responsible.
The incident comes amid a series of such clashes being reported from across Maharashtra, with Aurangabad being the hotspot for the past few days.
Asked about the clashes, Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde said: "I have spoken to senior police officers. A situation developed in the wee hours but now it is under control. The police is doing its job."
"The clashes took place near the temple, but it's Ram Navami and I urge everyone to maintain peace and harmony. People from all religions have always celebrated all festivals with togetherness and harmony in this state. Everybody should cooperate to maintain law and order," Shinde said.
Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said that some anti-social elements are trying to disrupt harmony in the state.
"It is unfortunate. Efforts are underway to bring peace but some people are trying to worsen the situation," Fadnavis said, as quoted by news agency ANI.
He further said that political leaders should be careful of the statements they make in such times.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) MP Sanjay Raut, meanwhile, trained guns at the state government.
"We don't understand if there is a government in the state at all. The chief minister works only on orders from Delhi. The government is working towards inciting riots and creating instability. This government is sleeping," Raut said.
"These tensions are being created and the home minister of the state should know who is creating them. The duplicate Shiv Sena is behind all this," Raut added.
The clash in Aurangabad comes just a day after two groups clashed in Jalgaon over a procession playing music and DJ outside a mosque. While four people were injured in the clash, two FIRs were registered in the matter and 45 people were arrested, the police said.