Fact-finding Team Blames Hindutva Groups, Police for Aurangabad Riots

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The fact-finding team, which visited the affected Kiradpura area of the city earlier this month, consisted of Irfan Engineer, Director of CSSS and a social activist; Neha Dabhade, Deputy Director of CSSS; and Abhay Taksal, CPI District Joint Secretary and a lawyer 

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — A fact-finding team from the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) has blamed provocation by Hindutva organisations like the Hindu Jan Garjana and others and inept police for the violence in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, formerly Aurangabad, in the intervening night of March 29 and 30.

Moniruddin Shaikh died after he was hit by a bullet and Sameer Khan succumbed to injuries in his head. Besides, 13 police vans were burnt in the violence that ensued as a mob stopped some motorcycle-borne youth from Azad Nagar Chowk from raising provocative slogans targeting one particular community near the Ram temple in the predominantly Muslim Kiradpura area. There was an altercation between these youth, some of them had their faces covered, and a group of young men from another community. The altercation took a violent turn and the mob pelted stones at the police and Ram Temple. 

The fact-finding team, which visited the affected area earlier this month, consisted of Irfan Engineer, Director of CSSS and social activist; Neha Dabhade, Deputy Director of CSSS; and Abhay Taksal, CPI District Joint Secretary and a lawyer. The team met some of the important stakeholders in the conflict: Ashok Bhandare, Police Inspector of Jhinsi; residents of the Faiz Complex where Moniruddin Shaikh lived; Asghar Khan, father of Sameer Khan; Imitiaz Jaleel, MP of Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar; Nandu Ghodile, ex-mayor of Aurangabad from Shiv Sena; members of the Muslim Numainda Council; Pramod Mane, prominent journalist; Sanjay Bargaje, President of VHP in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar; Isak Haji, former AIMIM corporator;  and Nasir Siddiqui, AIMIM corporator. Muslim Numainda Council is a group of respected Muslim community members who try to have a unanimous voice on religious and cultural matters related to Muslims. The most vital source of information that the team accessed was the CCTV footage captured by surveillance cameras in Faiz Complex.

The fact-finding team found that on the night of violence, some young men on motorcycles shouted slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Bharat me rahna hai to Jai Shri Ram Kehana hoga”. They got into an argument with some of the Muslim youth from the area after one of the motorcycles reportedly hit another youth. The police arrived and pacified both the groups and sent them away. After some time, more Hindu youth came back to Kiradpur. According to former AIMIM corporator Isak Haji, the mob consisted of BJP and VHP members who came from N7 and N8 Gulmohar Colony in the CIDCO area. They shouted provocative slogans, according to Haji. This time too the police pacified and dispersed them. However, a mob of around 200 to 300 Hindus came in later, some of them with their faces covered. They pelted stones at the police and torched their vans. Some stones were also pelted at the Ram Temple damaging a pandal, erected for Ram Navami celebrations. The wooden arch erected at the entrance of the temple was also burnt down.

According to Imitiaz Jaleel, senior police officials were conspicuous by their absence from the spot till about 3 a.m. And only a handful of police officials were present, the report said. 

However, Jhinsi Police Inspector Ashok Bhandare maintained that there were three inspectors, two assistant inspectors, three sub-inspectors and 15 RCP personnel. Bhandare also claimed that he reached the spot around 1.30 a.m. and admitted that there was some delay in him getting information about the violence. The police sought the help of some respected members of the Muslim community to pacify the mob and bring the situation under control. However, the mob didn’t heed their pleas and vandalised police vehicles, as per the FIR. 

The police resorted to firing and hurled tear gas shells at the rioting mob. Moniruddin Shaikh, who lived in a rented house in Faiz Complex, was standing inside the gate of his compound when he was hit by a bullet in his stomach at approximately 3 a.m. and later succumbed to his injury. The mob dispersed only after additional police force was mobilised.

Hate Speeches

The committee also pointed at the root cause of the flare-up clearly blaming the Hindu groups for stoking communal flames, calling rallies ostensibly to support the renaming of Aurangabad to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. Like in other parts of Maharashtra, the report said, a Hindu Jan Garjana rally was organised in the city in March. The police had denied permission to the organisers, “Sakal Hindu Ekatrikaran Samiti”, anticipating a law and order situation. 

Despite police denying the permission, Hindutva leaders T. Raja Singh and Suresh Chavhanke, delivered communally charged speeches while sharing dais with religious leaders and the state’s two cabinet ministers – Sandipan Bhumare and Atul Save. In addition, Shiv Sena MLA Pradeep Jaiswal and BJP MLA Shivendra Raje Bhosale were present on the dais at the event which was also attended by office-bearers and workers from BJP, Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde camp), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, ISKCON, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal amongst others.

During the rally, the participants resorted to destruction of public property and indulged in vandalism. Many flags bearing B.R. Ambedkar’s photograph and Ambedkarite symbols were also pulled down and destroyed. The rampant destruction of public property and pelting of stones prompted the filing of seven FIRs, including rioting and damage to public property. One of the FIRs charges suspended T. Raja Singh and Chavhanke for promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place, and so on. Such rallies caused resentment in the Muslim community in the city the report said.

In his speech captured on video, Singh could be heard using anti-Muslim slurs, making false accusations against Muslims trapping Hindu women, and inciting the audience. Many threats of violence and genocide were also openly issued by Singh.

For the Kiradpura violence, police have named eight persons in the FIR and also arrested 100 persons so far (40 were arrested when the team visited and 60 after that), all of them Muslims, the team found. It said the police were not investigating the provocation by the motorcycle-borne youth who came to Kiradpura shouting slogans.

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