The clashes last week between two communities in Jamshedpur’s Mango suburb is now turning into a showdown between those who had set out to defuse the crisis — the police and the government.
While the clashes have been linked to rumours of an eve-teasing incident, as reported by The Indian Express on Friday, the narrative was given a new direction today by local BJP MLA and State Minister Sarayu Roy who alleged that the violence was triggered by “police inaction”.
Pointing out that the government had ordered a probe into the riots, Roy said “action would be taken against the police officers found guilty”.
Senior police officers, however, responded by claiming that a “minor incident” between two groups of “anti-socials” was given a “twist” and turned into a communal riot by “vested interests”, leading to around 150 arrests.
“Had the BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal not called for a bandh on July 21, matters would have cooled down. But there was arson as supporters of the bandh went about enforcing it,” said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
But Roy insisted that the situation would “not have dragged on if the police had responded in time” to deal with the alleged incident of eve-teasing on the night of July 20 and the clashes the next day when a temple in the locality was allegedly pelted with stones.
“For several hours on both days there was a free-for-all with the police nowhere in sight,” Roy alleged.
Endorsing the minister’s words was the VHP’s Jamshedpur chief Arun Singh, who is among the 15 leaders linked to Hindutva groups named in the six FIRS filed by police.
“There have been small attacks on the Hindu community in Jamshedpur and the police failed to take steps to deal with them. The eve-teasing incident added fuel to the fire,” Singh told The Indian Express.
Police officers said about 11 Muslims have also been charged for fomenting the riots, with more arrests likely in the next couple of days.
“The bandh came as a surprise and was enforced after classes had started at schools. There were some tense hours as parents rushed to get their children back home. Supporters of the bandh even raided some religious sites,” the police officer said.
He added that those suspected to have been involved in the violence – leaders of Hindu and Muslim groups – have been booked under stringent sections of the IPC.
As for the alleged eve-teasing incident, Dr. Amitabh Kaushal, Deputy Commissioner, East Singbhum, said the administration had not “ found any truth behind” it.
“Not a soul in Jamshedpur has come forward to give any details, complaints or address of the girl who was teased,” he added.
Residents and community leaders of the area point to a combination of factors that may have led to the clash, including an alleged tiff between some Muslim and Hindu youths over collecting money from Eid stalls and an elopement last month of a Hindu woman and a Muslim man.
On the ground, meanwhile, the situation appeared to have calmed down with Friday prayers passing off peacefully in Mango, as imams delivered messages of peace following requests from the administration.
Abdul Jabbar, the imam of Bari masjid, said that the violence “was purely a clash between two groups of anti-socials, which was given a communal colour”.