A mob of around 3,000 people, all part of a “peaceful” protest organised by Hindu organisations such as Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) defied a curfew imposed by Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district administration on Tuesday, 5 October. They reportedly marched with swords, lathis, and other weapons in the district headquarters town of Kawardha causing extensive damage to property owned by Muslims.
Slogans of Jai Shri Ram were raised, homes and vehicles owned by Muslims were attacked, and the police was pelted with stones, leading to more than a dozen civilians and police personnel being injured in the violence, as per a report by The Indian Express.
Police lathi-charged the mob to bring the situation under control by Tuesday evening. The curfew was extended to Wednesday.
The so called peaceful protest was flagged off by leaders from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including former MLA Abhishek Singh, who is the son of former chief minister Raman Singh.
After which, a mob of young men entered Muslim neighbourhoods and began attacking vehicles and houses, the report said.
Singh has represented the Kawardha seat in the assemblies of both Chhattisgarh and undivided Madhya Pradesh since 2008.
What Happened on Sunday?
Mahant Kashyap, who lives in the Lohara Naka Chowk area of Kawardha town was quoted by Indian Express as saying, “It started as a fight between two groups on Sunday. A local history-sheeter named Durgesh Dewangan got into an altercation with some Muslim men, who beat him up.”
He added that a few hours later, “some men pulled down a green flag and green-coloured decorations that had been strung alongside the roads. In retaliation, the other group pulled down a saffron flag and trampled on it. Some miscreants also threw stones at the nearby Vindhyavaasini temple,” Indian Express reported.
Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police Mohit Garg and Collector Ramesh Sharma visited the spot on Monday.
A local person explained that they demanded stern action against the men responsible for the vandalism and for beating up Dewangan. However, he says, it was Dewangan who was put behind bars.
Kabirdham district, earlier known as Kawardha, has its district headquarters 126 km from Raipur. Local people in Kabirdham district said that they hadn’t seen communal tension of this kind in decades.
Expecting the situation to get worse, a curfew was imposed in the town on Tuesday, and more than 5,000 state police personnel were deployed to man the entry and exit points of the town.
What the Police Said
According to the police, though the VHP and BJP leaders had promised a peaceful protest, once the mob became unruly, the leaders claimed that they could not control everyone.
Fearing legal action, most of these leaders had left the district headquarters by late Tuesday evening.
Senior police officer Vivekanand Sinha warned about fake videos being circulated to incite violence and said, "We have arrested 65 accused of rioting on Tuesday. We are also identifying more accused based on CCTV footage," NDTV reported.
The minister in charge of the district, TS Singh Deo was quoted as saying by NDTV, “I have been taking regular updates from members of the administration. Stern action should be taken against whoever has broken the laws and adversely affected the law and order situation without any biases.”
(With inputs from The Indian Express, NDTV)