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Faceoff at Jaipur fort over tribal deities, saffron flag

Leaders of the Meena community have accused local Hindu outfits of allegedly trying to tamper with tribal culture and appropriate tribal symbols at Amagarh fort.

Jaipur’s Amagarh fort, where dispute took place. (Express)

An 18th-century fort in Jaipur is now at the centre of a dispute between the tribal Meena community and Hindu outfits with tensions escalating over the last two months and police bracing for a possible confrontation triggered by calls for hoisting a saffron flag at the site this week.

Leaders of the Meena community have accused local Hindu outfits of allegedly trying to tamper with tribal culture and appropriate tribal symbols at Amagarh fort. The Hindu outfits, meanwhile, have hit out at the Meenas for allegedly taking down a saffron flag from the fort last week and issued calls on social media for followers to reach the fort on August 1 to hoist another flag.

The fort was earlier also at the centre of complaints of idols being vandalised. ACP Adarsh Nagar Neel Kamal said that following an FIR registered in June on this issue, police detained a group of juveniles from the Muslim community.

“The Amagarh fort was made by Meena rulers several hundred years ago. Inside the fort, there are several deities worshipped by the Meena community such as Amba Devi, Bhairu ji and Shiv Parivar. Recently, some of these idols were stolen and vandalised. Later, we came to know that some people installed a tall saffron flag over the fort,” said independent MLA from Gangapur City, Ramkesh Meena, who is also the state president of the Rajasthan Adivasi Meena Seva Sangh.

The Meenas are classified as a Scheduled Tribe in Rajasthan. The MLA, who supports the Congress government, claimed that the names of some of the deities were allegedly changed and that “the name of Amba Mata was changed to Ambika Bhawani”.

The MLA also insisted that there was “no Hindu-Muslim angle” to the idols being vandalised. He blamed “extreme elements” from Hindu outfits for the idols being vandalised “because they wanted an excuse to enter the fort and try to give communal colour to the incident”.

The latest escalation was triggered by a video that went viral on social media last week, where a group of people is seen trying to take down a saffron flag from the fort — the flag is seen getting torn.

“The religious beliefs of the Hindu community have been hurt by the way the saffron flag was torn down. When the idols were vandalised, there were no persons from the Meena community present there,” said Bharat Sharma, patron, Dharohar Bachao Samiti, Jaipur.

Following the incident involving the flag on July 21, the Meena community and Hindu outfits registered counter FIRs. Both the FIRs have been registered under IPC section 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) and sections of the IT Act.

“This is an effort by Hindu outfits to appropriate tribal culture by changing the names of our deities. They want to eradicate tribal symbols and culture,” said Girraj Meena, the complainant in the FIR lodged by the Meena community.

Dharohar Bachao Samiti’s Sharma, who is one of the complainants in the FIR registered by Hindu outfits, said the saffron flag was “insulted”. Sharma alleged that the flag was brought down by members of the Meena community in the presence of MLA Ramkesh Meena.

The police, meanwhile, have said that no gathering will be allowed at the site.

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