The one-man commission set up to probe the tension that broke out on October 12, 2016, when a Muharram procession was stopped from passing through a Hindu locality in Petlawad town of MP’s Jhabua district, has ruled out any conspiracy.
The report concluded that passions were momentarily whipped up because of a WhatsApp video claiming that a Hindu man’s hand had been chopped off in a neighbouring district a few hours earlier.
On the day of the incident, the tazia procession was made to change its route twice, after which nearly a dozen RSS functionaries were arrested or detained as a preventive measure. Accusing the police and administration of undue use of force, the RSS had called for a three-day bandh and an immediate transfer of several police officials.
The then BJP government had ordered a probe over a month later. Retired district judge R K Pande was named on the panel and asked to find reasons for stopping the procession and those responsible for it, but not the sequence of events after it. The other points of inquiry were: Did the administration make adequate arrangements for the procession, suggestions to prevent recurrence of such events, and any other subject relevant to the probe.
The commission submitted its report to the government a year later, but it did not surface till Thursday, when it was tabled in the Assembly with a resolution of Kamal Nath’s Congress government, concurring with the findings.
As part of its recommendations, the panel said strict action should be taken against social media posts that whip up communal tension. It added that such action by the government should be given wide publicity in order to create pressure on those who forward such messages.
The panel also recommended that in-charges of police stations should ensure video coverage of religious festivals and other such public gatherings so that any troublemakers can be identified.
It also recommended that CCTV cameras be installed along routes of processions and in sensitive areas. The report also calls for maintaining a constant vigil on social media by specific cells at the tehsil-level.