Internet services were suspended and an uneasy calm prevailed in Kolhapur after a rally by Hindu organisations took an ugly turn on Wednesday.
Right-wing Hindu organisations had organized the rally to protest some social media posts allegedly glorifying Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. However, once the rally had concluded, certain miscreants began pelting stones at homes and business establishments owned by the Muslim community and attacking their vehicles. The police had to use lathi charge to disperse the restive crowd.
The Rapid Action Force and State Reserve Police Force were called in to bring the situation under control. Prohibitory orders banning the assembly of five or more persons have been issued till June 19 to maintain law and order in the district.
Till the time of going to press, six persons, including three juveniles, had been detained for circulating the post.
While he appealed for the maintenance of peace, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is also the state home minister, defended the aggression of the Hindutva outfits. “There is bound to be a reaction if Aurangzeb is glorified,” he said. “We will not tolerate it. This is Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Maharashtra.”
Fadnavis also charged the opposition with conspiracy, saying that the “glorification” was started by a particular community soon after opposition leaders claimed that attempts were on by the ruling parties to create communal riots. “It is not a coincidence,” he said. “The government will probe all this.”
Kolhapur Superintendent of Police Mahendra Pandit, while elaborating on the trajectory of the violence, told reporters that he had informed the Hindutva outfits that two FIRs had already been lodged in the social media posts case. “We appealed to the protestors to thus end the protest,” he said.
“The organisers too told them that. But despite this, some miscreants specifically targeted houses of a particular community in mixed community neighbourhoods. We then used force to disperse the crowds. We are identifying the vandals and they will not be spared.” Pandit added that the violence was completely “against the culture and history of Kolhapur”.
The SP also told reporters that he had called a meeting on Tuesday evening to persuade the Hindutva outfits not to hold any agitation. “I suspect that those who were adamant about holding the protest were involved in this,” he said. “Prima facie, it appears that they were behind the attack.”
The opposition meanwhile, is up in arms. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who had earlier alleged that the ruling parties were encouraging communal trouble in the state, said that there was no need to give a religious colour to the glorification of a Mughal ruler even if it was wrong. “The ruling parties are encouraging such activities,” he stated. “It is the government’s responsibility to maintain law and order, but if ruling parties and their supporters start spilling out on the streets to create animosity among two communities, it is not a good sign.”
The Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena too lashed out at the Shinde-Fadnavis government for the Kolhapur violence. “This government’s failure to maintain law and order is affecting Maharashtra’s economy,” said MLC Anil Parab while speaking with the media. “Investors are unwilling to come to a state with volatility. For industrial development, peace is a must.”
State Congress chief Nana Patole said that home minister Fadnavis no longer had control over his department and the police, and ought to be replaced with a competent person. “The Shinde-Fadnavis government has completely failed to maintain law and order,” he said. “How is it that fanatic elements have become so active only after Fadnavis took over as home minister? After attempts to trigger riots in the state failed last month, they are trying to stir up unrest by raising the issue of Aurangzeb.”