PUNE: A curfew was imposed in Kolhapur after clashes broke out between two groups in Maharashtra's Kolhapur. Police resorted to a lathi charge to disperse a crowd that pelted stones during a protest against the alleged use of Tipu Sultan's image along with an objectionable audio message as 'Whatsapp status' by some locals, an official said.
A proposal to suspend internet services from Wednesday afternoon till Thursday evening, or depending on the situation, has been sent to authorities, a senior police official said.
While personnel from the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have been deployed in the city, police have sought more cops from Satara, he said.
Prohibitory orders have been issued till June 19 banning assembly of five or more persons, he said.
What happened in Kolhapur?
Tension rose in the city on Tuesday after two men allegedly put 18th-century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan's image along with an offensive audio message as their social media 'status'.
A group of right-wing activists demanded action against both men following which a case was registered against the two persons, said another official.
Police registered another first information report (FIR) in the evening and arrested seven persons after more protests were held, the official said.
The protesters again hit the streets on Wednesday.
"Some organisations had called for a Kolhapur bandh and the members of these organisations gathered at Shivaji Chowk today. After their demonstration ended, the crowd began to disperse but some miscreants started pelting stones, forcing police to use force against these people to disperse them," said Kolhapur Superintendent of Police Mahendra Pandit.
The SP said he informed the demonstrators about the action taken by police in the objectionable post case and appealed to them to maintain calm.
He said force and teargas were used only after stones were hurled at houses and vehicles damaged.
Pandit said police have started tracing and detaining the miscreants.
Kolhapur Collector Rahul Rekhawar said the district is known for its progressive approach.
"I appeal to all the people to ensure that the image of Kolhapur as a progressive district remains intact. I urge them not to believe in rumours," he said.
The collector said the situation is under control and additional police forces have been brought in, even as he requested the public to cooperate with the authorities and resolve issues through dialogue.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Wednesday appealed for calm and said nobody should take the law into their hands.
"Anyone taking the law into their hands will not be spared. I am in touch with the local administration, and the necessary directives have been given. The welfare of the common man is our topmost priority," Shinde said.
People should cooperate with the administration to maintain peace, the chief minister added.
Meanwhile, asked about the rape and murder of a young woman at a hostel in Mumbai, Shinde said it was an unfortunate incident, and police were probing the case.
The culprit will be punished, he added.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday said statements of some politicians fearing a riot-like situation in the state and a section of people of a particular community glorifying Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan cannot be a mere coincidence.
Speaking to reporters in Navi Mumbai, Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio, said the acts of glorifying Mughal emperor Aurangzeb will not be tolerated in Maharashtra.
The BJP leader claimed that a riot-like situation is developing in some areas of the state only because people of a particular community are glorifying Aurangzeb.
"Some politicians had been saying that there could be a riot-like situation in the state. Responding to the comments of these leaders, youths of a particular community showcased pictures of Aurangzeb. They also glorified Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. It cannot be a mere coincidence.
"Why suddenly these images have been displayed in various districts of Maharashtra? It does not happen easily or automatically. As it cannot be a mere coincidence, we will have to dig deeper into this matter," he said.
Fadnavis also said he was surprised that in Kolhapur, a chief leader of the opposition said that he was aware that riots will happen.
"After his statement, some youth there glorified Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan, and thereafter comes a reaction. Is there a connection between the statement and the incidents? We are conducting a probe into who is glorifying Aurangzeb and who is provoking people to do so. Once the probe is over, I will reveal those things," he said.
Earlier in the day, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had claimed "The rulers are responsible to establish law and order in the state. If the ruling parties and their people come out on roads and create a rift between two religions, then it is not a good sign".
Without taking names, Fadnavis said "I can easily see that all these leaders are talking the same language. People of a particular community are helping them and glorifying Aurangzeb. The riot-like situation is taking place in some areas only because people of a particular community are glorifying Aurangzeb".
"Maharashtra follows the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We all have seen some leaders attempting to show Aurangzeb as a patriot. We will have to inquire how some leaders talk the same language and how they receive a quick response," he added.
Later speaking to reporters in Nagpur, Fadnavis said suddenly Aurangzeb's "aulad" (progenies) have taken birth in Maharashtra but the government will find out the people responsible for creating the law and order situation.
"Displaying Aurangzeb's photos and keeping a mobile status (on Tipu Sultan); this is creating tension in society. We will find the real culprits who are deliberately disturbing the law and order and defaming the state," he said.
Notably, police recently registered a case against four persons for allegedly carrying posters of Aurangzeb during a procession on Sunday.