Chhattisgarh: Congress protest over BJP failure to stop Balodabazar violence

Former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel seeks current CM Vishnu Deo Sai's resignation

Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel (photo: National Herald archives)
Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel (photo: National Herald archives)


The Congress on Tuesday, 18 June, staged protests across Chhattisgarh against the BJP government's alleged failure to prevent arson and violence during a demonstration organised by the Satnami community in Balodabazar city on 10 June.

Congress leaders and workers staged protests in various parts of the state, including the capital city of Raipur, and demanded the resignation of chief minister Vishnu Deo Sai.

While senior party leader and former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel took part in the protest at Rajiv Gandhi Chowk in Raipur, leader of the Opposition Charan Das Mahant attended the stir in Koriya district.

Hitting out at the Vishnu Deo Sai government, Baghel said the Satnamis were dissatisfied with the state government's action in the alleged desecration of the jaitkham ('victory pillar'), a sacred symbol worshipped by the Satnami community, near the holy Amar Gufa at Giroudpuri Dham in Balodabazar–Bhatapara district on the intervening night of 15–16 May.

The police subsequently arrested three persons in connection with the incident.

The former chief minister has alleged that the ruling BJP had facilitated the 10 June demonstration by the Satnami community, during which government buildings were set ablaze.

"BJP leaders made arrangements for protesters. Even the letter seeking permission for the demonstration was handed over to the district collector by BJP leader Sanam Jangde in Balodabazar. Tents and food for protestors were arranged by the BJP," Baghel claimed.

"Had the BJP not been involved (in the demonstration), then the barricading (by the police and administration to stop the protesters) would have been strong. Had they (BJP) not been involved, then there would have been adequate security arrangement. Had they not been involved, then mild force would have been used. Had they not been involved, then water cannons and tear gas would have been used. But no preventive measures were taken, which means the violence occurred because of collusion between BJP leaders and the local administration," the former CM claimed.

This was the first time in the history of Chhattisgarh and also the country that the offices of a district collector and superintendent of police (SP) were set afire, Baghel said, and held the BJP responsible for the arson.

"This incompetent BJP government has failed to protect a centre of faith and also public offices," he said, and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Sai.

The Congress veteran also slammed deputy chief minister Vijay Sharma, who holds the home portfolio, saying he had been unable to look after his home district Kabirdham, which has witnessed several incidents of crime in the last few months.

On 10 June, a mob set fire to a government building and more than 150 vehicles, including two-wheelers and four-wheelers, in Balodabazar city during the demonstration called by the Satnami community against the alleged desecration of the Jaitkham.

To protest against the desecration, the community called a demonstration at Dussehra Maidan in Balodabazar, and also a gherao of the collector's office. As the protest led to arson and stone-pelting, the district administration imposed section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, prohibiting assembly of four or more persons in Balodabazar city till 16 June. The prohibitory order has since been extended to 20 June.

The influential Satnami community, founded by medieval-era social reformer Baba Guru Ghasidas, represents the largest Scheduled Caste group in Chhattisgarh.

Following the violence, the state government had transferred Balodabazar–Bhatapara collector K.L. Chauhan and SP Sadanand Kumar, and then suspended the duo for allegedly not taking appropriate action after the desecration of Jaitkham.

Till Monday (17 June), 132 people have been arrested in connection with the violent incidents, police said.

State ministers Dayaldas Baghel and Tank Ram Verma had earlier accused Congress leaders of instigating the crowd during the demonstration.

"Such a crime can never be committed by the Satnami community, which is known for giving the message of peace and brotherhood. There was a political conspiracy behind this entire incident," they had alleged.

The Congress had rejected their allegations.

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