The arrest of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) chief Dhananjay Desai alias Bhai (34) on Tuesday in the case of murder of Muslim techie Moshin Shaikh has put administrative officials and Pune police on their toes. The police have been busy for the past ten days trying to ensure peace after material of a derogatory and defamatory nature circulated on Facebook and smartphones.
Desai was arrested last week for distributing provocative pamphlets in March. With Desai’s arrest in the murder case, police have arrested 21 HRS men and Desai in the case.
Last week, derogatory pictures of Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji and late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray circulated on Facebook and phones. Another FB post insulting Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar also led to tension in the city.
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Police reason to worry is because derogatory pictures were circulated across the state and even abroad, but the violent reaction came only from Pune.
When asked why, Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur said, “We are probing it.” He did not elaborate.
A senior officer said, “There were a lot of activists from radical Hindu as well as Muslim outfits involved in clashes. But we observed that some agitators associated with non-saffron political parties were involved.”
Ambedkar’s kin and Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar said, “Such clashes are arranged in view of elections. The paralysed Congress-NCP government is unable to control the situation. And, with BJP in power at the centre, such attempts to create a communal divide are expected,” he said.
Tensions started on May 31, as derogatory pictures on FB were circulated. Initially, thousands of Hindu activists, mainly from Shiv Sena and local outfits from Pune and across the state, protested on streets. There was stone- pelting on buses and private and public property. Hindus as well Muslims were reported to be hurt. Subsequently, there were clashes in Wagholi, Bhosari, Katraj, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Vishrantwadi, Hadapsar and other areas.
Police said more than the incidents, circulation of their distorted versions aggravated the situation. “On June 2, some hurled stones at a statue of Shivaji in Sayyad Nagar area of Hadapsar. Distorted messages were circulated that Shivaji statue was defaced, leading to tension in Sayyad Nagar and other parts of Hadapsar,” police said.
While police were tried to tackle the situation, around 9 pm, a group of HRS activists allegedly murdered Shaikh (28), who was returning home with friend Riyaz.
Police have arrested 21 HRS men and Desai in the case.
There was tension on June 7, with uploading of derogatory pictures of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Many Dalit groups protested in Pune, Solapur and other districts. On June 8, during a party meet in Mumbai, NCP president Sharad Pawar said Modi assuming power at the centre was responsible for the clashes. BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari blamed the state government and said,“He is not talking about responsibility of his Home Minister (R R Patil) in the state.” HRS office-bearer Yogesh Kupekar said, “Hindus have rejected NCP and Congress. They are conspiring against Hindu organisations.”