Updated: August 20, 2018 2:58:07 pm
An extraordinary order issued three days ago by a magistrate in Sri Dungargarh, directing an Inspector-General of Police to leave the city as punishment for taking “discriminatory action… against a particular community”, has exposed sharp communal fault lines in eastern Bikaner.
The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate’s order against the tanashah (despotic) IG Dr Girraj Lal Meena was struck down within hours by a Bikaner judge as “illegal”. But its fallout is still being felt here with some leaders alleging that Meena targeted Hindus in a crackdown following a communal clash on October 23, while others described the officer as a “just man”.
“The people are very angry as the entire police action has been against Hindus. Children were pulled out of their homes and were beaten up worse than you would beat animals,” alleged Kishana Ram, BJP MLA from Sri Dungargarh, adding that he had requested Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to “control the police”.
“It is true that more Hindus were arrested and detained. Now, upon instructions from the CM, the entire incident is being investigated,” said State Minister for Mines (Independent charge) Raj Kumar Rinwa, who is in charge of Bikaner.
Mangla Ram Godara, Congress leader and former MLA, also blamed “local police” for the initial flare-up, but defended the IG, saying that he “is just doing his job”.
“The IG is a just man. Why should anyone take action against someone who is not indulging in violence? They are calling for action against both sides but only action against the culprits is justified,” said Mohammad Iqbal Siddiqui, state secretary of the inter-faith group Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA).
When contacted, IG Meena told The Indian Express: “I have followed the Constitution, the Raj Dharma.” Asked specifically about the allegations of police targeting Hindus, he said: “The other section is silent and all the decisions have been taken after taking in consideration the situation on the ground, along with the commissioner and collector.”
According to police records, groups of Hindus and Muslims clashed on October 23 when devotees headed to a Hanuman temple passed a mosque while playing loud music, leading to arguments, scuffles and a large-scale confrontation.
“Twenty-six persons were arrested and 91 detained. By Saturday, all were released. Thirteen FIRs have been lodged and at least three policemen were also injured,” said Santosh Kumar, SP, Bikaner.
SP Kumar said: “It is not as if we asked the person their religion before detaining or arresting them. We acted whenever somebody was found violating the orders. Moreover, the action taken during that period was only preventive.”
However, the crackdown led to a plea by the Sri Dungargarh Bar Association on “behalf of the citizens” based on which the ACJM ordered Meena to leave “the limits of Sri Dungargarh… so that the common man may repose some trust in the district administration”.
In its order, a copy of which was examined by The Indian Express, the ACJM observed that “all the action and atrocities were carried out on a particular community. Those injured in police action were chased away from the hospitals. Persons from a specific community were pulled out of their homes and beaten up and now the police administration is erasing the evidence…”
District officials said that at the core of the Hindu-Muslim polarisation is a piece of land of 7-8 bigas, which is claimed by both communities.
However, political leaders have been quick to take sides. “From Hindus Vs Muslims, it soon became Hindus Vs police,” said Narayan Saraswat, father-in-law of Dungargarh municipal chairperson Priyanka Saraswat, who “handles the office” instead of his daughter-in-law.
“Over 70 persons were arrested upon instructions of the IG and barely four of them were Muslims,” he claimed.
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