Jaipur: Stones were allegedly pelted at a Vishwa Hindu Parishad rally while it passed through the Jama Masjid area of Gangapur city in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur district on Sunday.
The Muslim community has claimed that VHP had first sought permission to carry the rally through the Jama Masjid area, “with the ulterior motive of inciting Muslims”.
“Every year, VHP members take out small processions comprising around 100 people but this time they had a gathering of about 4,000 people. The only purpose of increasing the strength of the procession was to get the permission from authorities to carry out the procession through the Jama Masjid area,” Ameen Sadar, a Muslim leader of Gangapur told The Wire.
Sadar also said that upon reaching the Jama Masjid area, VHP workers tactfully halted the procession for about 10 minutes so that around 200 people could gather there.
“Once they had gathered, some of the workers who were at the end of the procession took out swords and began raising objectionable slogans against our community. This led to stone pelting by some of our men. In response, they also pelted stones at us,” he added.
Sadar said there are several videos which show anti-Muslim slogans being raised by VHP men in the procession. These allegedly include lines like, “Hindustan mein rehna hai toh chup chap rehna hoga” (‘If you want to stay in India, you’ll have to remain quiet’).
“The police was witness to the anti-Muslim slogans that the members of the procession were raising, still they have only taken our men into custody. Why is there no punishment for the people who say bad things to us?” said Sadar.
A VHP member admitted that anti-Muslims slogans might have been raised, but said they only came after Muslims pelted stones at the organisation’s workers.”We had the permission from the district administration to take our rally through the Muslim area. If they throw stones at us then there is surely going to be a reaction, which can be in the form of anti-Muslim slogans,” Raja Ram, organisation secretary of VHP in Jaipur, told The Wire.
However, R.S. Shekhawat, a VHP member and coordinator of the rally said that only “Jai Shree Ram” slogans were being chanted in the procession. “We organise rallies on Janmashtami, which is also the foundation day of VHP. We were simply chanting “Jai Shree Ram” slogans and some other slogans on nationalism, when the Muslim men in the area started pelting stones at us. It injured the police, reporters and our men,” said Shekhawat.
He agreed that the strength of the rally had increased this time but claimed that they have been following the same route for the last few years. “In 2002 also Muslims had interrupted our procession and killed three of our men. They are habitual disruptors of our work,” he added.
After the stone pelting took place, VHP men staged a sit-in demanding arrests of the accused Muslim men.
Police said about 40 men were detained. “Around 35 Muslim men and five Hindu men have been detained,” Pratampal, circle officer in Gangapur city told The Wire.
Ismail Khan, a member of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee in Gangapur said the police detained almost every Muslim man that the VHP members named. “The Muslim community repeatedly told the police about the anti-Muslim slogans being raised by some men in the procession but they didn’t listen. They only did what the VHP men ordered them to do,” he said.
Speaking to The Wire, Harji Lal Yadav, Station House Officer at the Gangapur city police station said, “I, the deputy superintendent of police and 40 other policemen were deployed in that 40-feet-long Jama Masjid area. The procession had largely moved out of that area when the stone pelting started. A few men at the rally’s end were targeted. There were slogans being raised on both sides.”
“We also had a meeting with the community liaison group and Muslim community leaders who had assured us that they would maintain peace during the procession,” he added.
Meanwhile, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code that prohibits the assembly of four or more people in the area, has been imposed in some parts of the city and internet services have been suspended.
This is the second incident of communal violence in the state in a month. On Eid-al-Adha, clashes had broken out between kanwariyas and Muslims in Jaipur, a day after the two groups confronted over anti-Muslim sloganeering in a religious programme by kanwariyas.
Note: In a pervious version a photo by Rajan Zaveri was inadvertently used without permission.