October 10, 2021 3:28:24 am
An FIR has been registered against several BJP leaders, including the son of former Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, over a march taken out on Tuesday by Hindu organisations defying a curfew at Kawardha town in Kabirdham district, leading to violence. Kawardha has been under curfew since Monday, with a brief relaxation given on Saturday.
The march had included around 3,000 people, seen carrying swords and lathis, through Kawardha (the district name was recently changed to Kabirdham).
The FIR filed on Friday, under sections of rioting, promoting enmity between communities and vandalism, names Raman Singh’s son Abhishek, BJP Rajnandgaon MP Santosh Pandey, former MLA Motiram Chandravanshi, and 10 other BJP leaders, along with VHP district head Nandlal Chandrakar. Raman Singh has represented the Kawardha Assembly seat several times. More than 90 people have been detained or arrested, on both sides, since Tuesday’s violence.
According to locals, the issue started last Sunday, October 3, with an altercation between two groups over some green- and saffron-coloured flags. A history-sheeter was allegedly beaten up by some Muslim men. After a fresh row over flags, there was stone-pelting at a local temple.
Even as the town was put under curfew, BJP leaders, including Abishek, Pandey and the others, took out the rally on Tuesday. The FIR says that the mob went on a rampage, pelting stones at police, causing extensive damage to property, and raising communally charged slogans. More than a dozen civilians and police personnel were injured.
MP Pandey told The Sunday Express tempers flared up due to the “anti-Hindu” bias of the administration. “Police are free to arrest me. However, we are watching how police are acting only against the Hindu groups… While we don’t condone violent actions, it is difficult to control emotions when anger is high. We are against the usage of unparliamentary language as well, but under emotions, these things happen.”
While Mahant Kashyap, a local, said they hadn’t seen such communal tension in decades, Shoaib Akhtar, the ‘hafiz’ of a mosque, said police “were unable to do much”. “I was pulled off my vehicle and beaten. Police were just waving their batons and trying to shoo away the armed men.”
While the BJP has accused the Congress government of not being able to maintain law and order in their state, Congress leaders have charged the BJP with polarising the situation.
Leader of Opposition Dharamlal Kaushik said BJP leaders were being targeted. “Abhishek Singh and Santosh Pandey were trying to calm the situation (at the rally) and helping police. But police instead of finding out the real culprits booked public figures.”
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said, “Investigation is under process in Kawardha. If the BJP has any information, the Leader of the Opposition is free to share it with police and action will be taken.”
On Saturday, police released the names of those detained under six FIRs, including people from both communities.
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