Right-wing protestors resort to violence again over a WhatsApp status

Stone pelting at Kolhapur and Sangamner

Violence and stone pelting in Kolhapur (photo courtesy @IAMCHindi/Twitter)
Violence and stone pelting in Kolhapur (photo courtesy @IAMCHindi/Twitter)

Nadeem Inamdar

Incidents of communal flare-ups and subsequent violence involving the right wing continue to be reported in the state of Maharashtra. Close on the heels of incidents of arson and rioting in Akola, Shevgaon and Ahmednagar City, two major incidents of right-wing elements attacking residential houses and business establishments were reported in Kolhapur City including Sangamner Taluka, Samnapur (a village in Sangamner Taluka) on Tuesday. In both places, the right-wing groups had carried out marches, which later took the form of violence against the minority Muslim community.

Following an alleged social media Whatsapp status by locals depicting the picture of Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan with 'objectionable' audio going viral in Kolhapur, members of Hindutva organisations resorted to protest at Shivaji Chowk in Kolhapur on Wednesday. As the protest ended, some miscreants started stone pelting, following which police had to use force to disperse the violent crowds. The district administration has banned internet services for two days as a precautionary step aimed at defusing the situation. Besides, prohibitory orders have been issued till June 19 to maintain law and order in the district. According to the latest reports, six persons have been detained for questioning in connection with the status post.

According to the police, the three boys who had put up the 'objectionable' status on Whatsapp are juveniles. Visuals on social media showed groups of people gathering on the streets after which the district administration declared a curfew in the city. Meanwhile, an SRPF (State Reserve Police Force) platoon has been stationed and additional reinforcements have been sought from neighbouring districts.

On June 6, rightwing organisations protested against the status message and went to Dasara Chowk and Siddharthnagar where stones were pelted at some business establishments. The irate protestors even ransacked some shops in the Laxmipuri area and CPR Chowk and vandalised handcarts. The police lathi-charged the crowds, which left them angered. A call for Kolhapur Bandh was given on June 7 and protesters gathered at Chhatrapati Shivaji Chowk at 9 am and demanded immediate action against the anti-social elements who had uploaded the controversial status message on Tuesday. Violent mobs carried out stone pelting at three places and two of the accused were taken into custody the same evening, police said.

Tipu Sultan (photo: Getty Images)
Tipu Sultan (photo: Getty Images)
Getty Images

Kolhapur Superintendent of Police Mahendra Pandit said, “ Some organisations had called for Kolhapur bandh today and their members had gathered at Shivaji Chowk. After the meeting, some anti-social elements started pelting stones, after which we were compelled to use force to disperse them. We had told the agitators that action has been taken against the accused for the objectionable post and asked them to maintain calm. Lathicharge and tear gas were used only after the mob hurled stones at houses and damaged vehicles. The police are now in the process of detaining the accused after identifying them.

“Two FIRs were lodged in the Whatsapp Status case, but if people take law and order into their hands, then strict action will be taken against them. We had appealed to the protestors that action had already been taken and ended the protest. The organisers also told the protestors to abide by our appeal. But despite the appeal, some miscreants specifically targeted houses of specific communities just like they did yesterday in mixed community neighbourhoods. We dispersed the entire crowd and those who resorted to vandalism will not be spared. Peace has now been established and hence prohibitory orders have been issued,” SP Pandit added and said that the incident which took place was against the culture and history of Kolhapur.

Kolhapur Collector Rahul Rekhawar said, “ The internet has been banned for two days (Wednesday and Thursday) as a precautionary measure. We appeal to all the people to maintain calm and urge them not to believe in rumours. Additional forces have been sought and we reiterate to the citizens to resolve the issue through dialogue.” District guardian minister Deepak Kesarkar said that action has been taken against the youth who had uploaded Tipu Sultan's image with the 'objectionable' audio as a Whatsapp status message.

“It's the government's responsibility to maintain law and order in the state. I also appeal to the public for peace and calm. The police investigation is underway and action will be taken against those found guilty,” said Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde on the Kolhapur incident.

On Tuesday, right wing groups ransacked some shops and resorted to stone pelting on houses in the Samnapur village near Sangamner Taluka of Ahmednagar District. According to the Ahmednagar police, two persons were injured and six vehicles were vandalised in the Samnapur village after a ‘Hindu Jan Akrosh Morcha’ rally was organised by the Sakal Hindu Samaj in the Sangamner town. During the return journey, some anti-social elements even pelted stones at some residences, sparking tension in the area, local residents alleged.

Ahmednagar SP Rakesh Ola said that the incident took place when the rally participants were passing through Samnapur. “Two persons were injured and some vehicles were vandalised by miscreants in the area. The law and order situation is under control and we have registered an FIR in connection with the incident. We have got the photos of those involved in the ransacking and strict action is being taken. Both Sangamner and Samnapur are peaceful and people should not believe or spread rumours,” he said.

Several Hindutva weaning outfits under the banner of Sakal Hindu Samaj had organised a 'Hindu Jan Akrosh Morcha' in the Sangamner town to protest issues related to Love Jihad and increasing crime. The rally was addressed by Hindutva news anchor Suresh Chavanke. The anchor, a few days ago, had in a video released in New Delhi appealed to citizens to participate in large numbers in the pro-Hindutva meet. Meanwhile, in Sangli, the district administration has imposed prohibitory orders in the backdrop of the Kolhapur violence. Earlier, an offence was lodged against four persons for raising objectionable slogans and displaying the photos of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the Dam Bara Hazari Baba dargah in the Fakirwada area of Ahmednagar City on June 4.

One person was killed while eight persons were injured during a communal clash over a social media post related to the movie The Kerala Story on May 13. Later, the police arrested 147 persons in connection with the violence.

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