The erosion of law and order in Jharkhand’s capital city, ahead of assembly elections in Bihar and festival season across the country, continued with meat being found outside two more places of worship in Ranchi on Monday.
The situation worsened overnight, with firing between Muslims and Hindus taking place in the Doranda locality. Hindi daily Prabhat Khabar reported on Tuesday morning that Ghaus Nagar, Manitola, Pokhartoli – all of which are near the Lower Hinoo locality where trouble first flared on Friday night – saw violence since midnight. No casualties have been reported; senior police officers are camping in the area amid tensions.
Meat was found outside two places of worship in Ranchi on Monday: outside the Kali Mandir off Mandir Road and outside a masjid in Ormajhi, on the outskirts of Ranchi.
It turns out, there had been provocations earlier this year too – on March 20 this year, pork was found outside Ranchi’s Idgah, in the Harmu locality.
“How did you know it was pork?”
“Oh, whoever was responsible for it made sure we knew. It was the head of a pig,” said Mohd. Feroz Akhtar, who lives nearby.
There was also a letter alongside, but Mokhtar Ahmad made sure no one saw its contents. “As soon as I reached, I pocketed the letter and passed it on discreetly to the police after making a copy for myself,” said Ahmad, General Secretary of the Anjuman Islamia. “All this on a Friday,” he added. “It was filth” was all he said about that letter.
It could have been the perfect Molotov cocktail: pig outside the Idgah on a Friday. Yet, Ranchi refused to burn. “We made sure we were not provoked. I got the fire brigade to wash the area, unlocked the gates to the Idgah and got the angry crowd in,” Ahmad said. People dispersed only after Ahmad and fellow community leaders assured them that the perpetrators would be arrested soon.
Police have not made an arrest in the March 20 case and yet on Monday morning, Ahmad sat at his store on Main Road, simultaneously putting out a number of fires via his constantly-ringing mobile phone. “Pork was found outside a masjid in Ormanjhi this morning at 10.30; it has been removed peacefully… We cannot let ourselves be influenced by lumpen elements,” he said.
The first of the fires was lit on the night of Bakrid, another Friday: bovine hide was found outside a Kali temple in the Lower Hinoo locality. Violence broke out throughout the city on Saturday after the VHP called for a bandh. The Indian Express reported on Monday that meat has since been found outside a temples in four districts in the state.
“Less than an hour back – at about 11.45 AM – I was making sure shops reopened after another scare near the Kali Mandir,” said Ahmad, pointing in the direction of the temple just off the Main Road.
Entrails had been found near the temple – by neglect or by design – like the previous night, when police discreetly cleaned up the place. “The ward councilor – who happens to be Muslim – was making sure the animal parts were taken away, when some youth came and began threatening shopkeepers into downing shutters,” said Ahmad. It took some convincing, but shops reopened eventually.
If Saturday had seen the last lathi charge take place on the edge of the city, Ormanjhi on Monday saw tension reach the outskirts. Ranchi MP Ram Tahal Choudhary chaired a peace meeting, also attended by Rural SP Raj Kumar Lakra, after pork was found outside a mosque in the locality. The meat was taken away and the meeting helped cool tempers.
Rumours continue to spread. “Some of us were with police officers when someone called up to say there was tension in Argora. I called up people who live in the locality and it was another hoax call,” said Ahmad.
Anger over perceived injustices – the police are yet to arrest anyone for Saturday’s violence – came to a head on Sunday over Mohd. Mukhtar’s dead body. The Muslim community and district administration had a stand-off throughout Sunday after Mukhtar’s body was found the previous morning: it was inside the autorickshaw he used to drive and within a kilometre from the site of Friday night’s flare-up. There were injuries on his neck.
Muslims decided he was killed in Friday’s violence that had seen a van and chicken shop attacked. Even Ahmad believes so, despite the police saying they are yet to find a connection. Angry youth threatened to parade his body throughout Ranchi. Haggling began over compensation: the Anjuman Islamia began at Rs. 2 crores, the district administration said it had no powers to sanction over a lakh rupees. After chief minister Raghubar Das got involved, the compensation was fixed at Rs. 2 lakhs and a loan for Mukhtar’s son under the PM’s Mudra Bank Yojana.
On Monday afternoon, Mukhtar was laid to rest at the Kantatoli Kabristan, with a large number of mourners in attendance.