Days after a dispute between members of the Meena community and Hindu groups surrounding Jaipur’s Amagarh fort, where a saffron flag was taken down on July 21, a controversy is brewing in Udaipur district after a similar flag was hoisted on a statue of a historical figure from the Bhil community.
Police have registered an FIR after the flag was found on the statue of Rana Punja Bhil, who was an associate of Maharana Pratap.
While tribal groups have accused the BJP and RSS of putting up the flag, BJP leaders have denied any role of the party or the Sangh.
“We had gathered near the statue of Rana Punja Bhil to celebrate World Tribal Day on Monday. People from the BJP and Sangh Parivar put up a saffron flag. We said they should put up a flag of the Adivasis rather than a saffron flag. This resulted in a dispute and they attacked us,” said Suresh Meena, Udaipur secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Mahasabha.
He alleged that he and two others from the Mahasabha were attacked by those who had put up the flag and the attackers were armed with weapons such as axes.
“People from the BJP and RSS forcefully put up a flag of an outfit (Jai Mewar) on the statue of Bhilu Rana Punja, going against the culture and identity of tribals. The religious sentiments of the tribal community have been hurt,” says the FIR, lodged under Sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 143 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC.
Bheru Lal Meena, former BJP councillor and one of the accused in the FIR, said the allegations that people from the Adivasi Mahasabha were attacked were baseless. He also claimed that the flag put up by them was not a “saffron” flag. “It was a kesariya flag, the sigil of Maharana Pratap. Local Bhils had put it up. But some outsiders, including Communists and tribal party members, created a controversy saying tribals are not Hindus. This flared up tempers. Later, after a discussion with all sides, the flag was taken down by police,” Meena said.
BJP MLA from Udaipur Rural Phool Singh Meena denied that the BJP and RSS were involved in the incident. “Congress members too opposed the flag being taken down. The entire Bhil community was angry at the flag being taken down. Members of the Bhil community have also submitted a memorandum to the district administration expressing their anger at the bringing down of the flag, which is a symbol of Mewar,” he claimed.
Ghanshyam Singh Tavar, state president of the Adivasi Mahasabha, who contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Udaipur as a CPI candidate, contested this, saying many members of the Mahasabha had protested against the hoisting of the flag on the statue on Monday.
He also called the incident similar to that in Amagarh. In the Jaipur fort case, while Hindu groups accused Independent MLA Ramkesh Meena and others of tearing up a saffron flag, the legislator and other members of the Meena community had accused Hindu outfits of trying to appropriate Adivasi symbols and erasing tribal culture.
Ramkesh Meena, who has been leading the Meena community’s opposition to Hindu groups in the Amagarh dispute and has asserted that tribals are not Hindus, demanded strict action against the BJP and RSS on the Udaipur matter.
“An FIR has been registered and investigation is on. Till now no arrests have been made,” said Nana Lal, Assistant Sub-Inspector, Hiranmagri Police Station, Udaipur, and the investigating officer in the case.