Hundreds of protesters, upset over the district administration not allowing theatre shows and use of a traditional ground for the upcoming Malyamas Mela, vandalised an Eidgah and seven graves adjoining the famous Brahma Kund in Rajgir on Thursday.
The protesters, mostly local traders, accused the administration of Muslim appeasement, saying their business would be affected if the government prevents them from using the ground. The Malyamas Mela is organised every three years and generally has over 1,000 stalls, mostly put up by locals, who depend on the fair to generate income. They were also miffed at the ban on theatre shows, which would generally be “obscene” in nature, but profitable.
The police have arrested 30 people for attacking policemen and partially destroying the Eidgah and seven graves. The damaged Eidgah is being repaired by local administration while all graves at Circus Ground were repaired on Friday night.
The Eidgah is amid the background of a temple at Brahma Kund — hot water pond attracting tourists from all over the country. The police have imposed prohibitory orders to prevent people from assembling at the site.
Some Hindu residents alleged that Aftab Alam, a local Muslim leader of the ruling party, had petitioned against the use of Circus Ground during Malyamas Mela, starting from June 19.
Rakesh Singh, a local resident, said: “There was no problem over the use of the ground in the past and we have shown due respect to the graves. But not allowing Circus Ground would mean very little space left for hundreds of shopkeepers. It is nothing but Muslim appeasement. The communal tension is administration-induced.”
Vishal Kumar, a hawker who sells bedsheets on his bicycle, said the Circus Ground is called so because a circus used to be held at this place. It is government land. “How can shopkeepers surrender their fair venue?” he asked. He alleged that the district administration would never show such urgency to repair any other damaged place as it showed in the case of Eidgah.
Rajgir has only some 60 Muslim households, who stayed away from Thursday’s clash. A government official said that the reason for shopkeepers’ anger is the ban on dirty shows.”It is a group of mela contractors who may have provoked the protesters,” said the official.
Patna IG Kundan Krishnan said: “It is the handiwork of some anti-social elements. We are investigating the matter and will ensure fool-proof security during the upcoming month-long fair.”
Besides district police, RAF and Bihar Military Police Jawans are deployed at the site.