BHOPAL: A day after stone-throwing on Ram Navami processions triggered widespread communal clashes in Khargone town of Khargone district in Madhya Pradesh, the local authorities on Monday started bulldozing “illegal houses and properties” of those prima facie found to be involved in the violence.
The communal violence has left at least 27 people injured. The injured include three senior police officers, among them Khargone’s police chief Siddharth Chaudhary, who is hospitalised after sustaining a bullet wound.
Over 20 houses and shops, particularly in Sanjay Nagar and Chhoti Mohan Talkies areas, were set ablaze or looted by rioters and several families shifted to other places out of fear. A place of worship, too, was vandalised by rioters, who continued to indulge in arson and looting till around 1 am on Monday.
As per sources at the state police HQ in Bhopal, even while total curfew was imposed in the entire Khargone town, there was slight tension in the Rahim Nagar area at around 11.30 am on Monday, but the police controlled the situation.
“So far 19 persons have been produced in court in connection with the violence. Bulldozing of illegal properties and encroachments of rioters has been started in Chhoti Mohan Talkies, Khaskhaswadi, Ganesh Mandir and Talab Chowk. More such properties/encroachments have been identified in other areas and similar action will be initiated against them as well in coming days. This will be a continuous exercise, as zero tolerance is being adopted against rioters and other anti-social elements,” said IG-Indore Zone Rakesh Gupta, who is camping in Khargone.
The demolition action against rioters began on Monday, after CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that not only will the rioters be put behind bars, but action will also be taken to recover the damages. Former CM and Congress Rajya Sabha member Digvijaya Singh questioned the bulldozing action. “Is it correct to hold people guilty and punish them without proper investigations and court hearing?”
Meanwhile, in related development, Barwani district administration started demolition action against “illegal properties” of rioters in Sendhwa town where a Ram Navami procession was attacked on Sunday evening.
Police had to fire tear gas shells to control the situation after the stone-pelting took place at Ram Navami procession on Sunday.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan termed the incident as unfortunate and said the damages caused to public and private properties will be recovered from rioters.
The rioters have been identified and will not be spared.
Strict action will be taken against them.
There is no place for rioters in Madhya Pradesh, he said.
"We have passed the Damage to Public and Private Property Recovery Act.
We are constituting a claim tribunal under the Act and after assessing the loss, its recovery will also be done from rioters, Chouhan said in a statement.
A similar stone-pelting incident was also reported during a Ram Navami procession in Sendhwa town of Barwani district where a police station in-charge and five others were injured.
The situation was later brought under control, according to officials.
In Khargone, curfew was clamped in the entire city on Sunday evening following the incident, as per an order issued by the office of Khargone Collector Anugrah P.
When the Ram Navami procession started from the Talab Chowk area near the district headquarters, stones were pelted at the gathering, prompting the police to fire tear gas shells to control the situation.
The procession was supposed to take a round of Khargone city, but it was abandoned midway after the violence, Khargone Additional Collector Sumer Singh Mujalde earlier said.
According to the district collector, the situation is now under control and citizens have been asked to step out of home only for medical emergency.
She also said that strict action will be taken against those sharing objectionable messages and videos of the Khargone incident on social media.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said 77 people have been arrested so far in connection with the violence in Khargone and that the MP government will not allow anyone to disturb peace in the state.
Peace has been restored in Khargone.
Curfew has been imposed in the city.
rioters are being identified and 77 of them have been arrested, said Mishra, who is also the state government's spokesperson.
Mishra confirmed that Khargone SP Siddharth Choudhary suffered bullet splinter injuries in his leg.
Besides the SP, six other police personnel were also injured, he said.
A citizen, Shivam Shukla, received serious head injuries and is undergoing treatment, but the condition of all others is normal, he said.
The situation in Sendhwa town of Barwani is also under control, the minister added.
The Khargone district administration in a tweet said for any urgent work, except medical emergency, one can seek permission from the SDM office, tehsil office and Kotwali police station.
The examinations of Class 8 as well as of graduation and post-graduation courses of colleges in Khargone city, scheduled on Monday, have been postponed till further orders, it said in another tweet.
Mishra said, "the houses from where stones were pelted will be turned into rubble. The state government's stand is clear and nobody will be allowed to disturb the peace here."
Some people who are hurt by the outcome of the recently held Assembly elections in five states are now instigating the violence, the minister claimed.
"They want to disturb peace in the state and the country. Even from these (Assembly poll) results, such people have not understood what the country wants," he said.
Deputy Inspector General, Nimar Range, Tilak Singh told reporters that 24 people, including six policemen, were injured in the violence and their medical examination was conducted.
"The situation has been under control after 2 am today and no complaint has been received. Police patrolling is on. A search operation was carried out and more than 70 people have so far been rounded up," he said.
He urged people to stay at home and facilitate police to nab the anti-social elements involved in the incident.
State Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel, who is also in-charge of Khargone district, in a tweet said he has directed the officials to take strict action against rioters.
In Barwani, Sendhwa police station in-charge Baldev Singh Mujalde and five others were injured during stone-pelting at a Ram Navami procession on Jogwada Road on Sunday, Superintendent of Police Deepak Shukla told reporters.
The police controlled the situation immediately.
The procession continued after the incident and concluded peacefully, he said.
To a question, the official said rioters tried to set some vehicles ablaze, but the fire brigade reached on time and controlled the situation.
He said those involved in the incident were being identified and further action will be taken accordingly.
Senior Congress MP Digvijaya Singh on Monday sought to link BJP leader Kapil Mishra with communal riots and referred to the latter's presence in Khargone, leading to the clamping of curfew in the city.
Hitting back at Singh, Mishra said "Jihadis" were responsible for pelting stones and arson in Khargone.
In a tweet, Singh said, "Wherever Kapil Mishra's feet fell, there were riots and riots. Will it be investigated?" Mishra had allegedly delivered a hate speech in February 2020 at a rally against the anti-CAA protesters in Delhi.
Northeast Delhi witnessed communal riots in February of that year in which at least 53 people lost their lives and over 700 were injured.
"The one who called Ajmal Kasab a Hindu has again started spreading lies. Where I was, there was no riot and yes, if there is an investigation, then in every riot a jihadi and a Congressman hiding behind him will come forward. Jihadis pelted stones and did arson in Khargone and people like Digvijay have started spreading lies to save them," he tweeted.
On Sunday, Mishra had posted his photographs showing him participating in a procession while wearing a saffron bandana.
He tweeted, "Our Ram Navami Yatra starts from Khargone, Madhya Pradesh".
In another tweet, Mishra has posted his video captioned "Spectacular Ram Navami procession at Bikhangaon in Madhya Pradesh's Khargone".
Bikhangaon falls under the Khargone district headquarters.
(With PTI Inputs)