Ujjain, Jan. 14: The severed head of a cow ignited clashes in a Madhya Pradesh town today, fuelling fears of a communal divide striking root in another election-bound state bordering Gujarat.
Prohibitory orders have been clamped in Ganjbasoda, a town in Vidisha district near Bhopal. Officials said trouble started when news spread that a dead cow had been found in the house of a minority community member.
Soon, VHP and Bajrang Dal activists reportedly began pelting stones and torching some shops and houses owned by the community. Dusk-to-dawn curfew was clamped in the town and additional forces have been deployed to keep the situation under check.
PTI reported that Salim, from whose house the cow head was allegedly found, has been arrested. However, no arrest has been made in connection with the violence.
Clashes also erupted today in Gujarat’s Godhra and Ahmedabad over a dispute over kite-flying.
Last week, there were sporadic incidents of communal tension at several places in Madhya Pradesh. The incidents had echoes of “controlled” flare-ups in Rajasthan, another neighbour of Gujarat, in the run-up to the bypolls in December.
The BJP had won all the bypoll seats in Rajasthan, a state ruled by the Congress, prompting VHP leader Praveen Togadia to proclaim that the desert state would be the next focus area.
Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are among the states scheduled to go to Assembly polls before the end of this year. Tension has been building up between Madhya Pradesh’s Congress chief minister Digvijay Singh and the Sangh parivar.
Today’s clash coincided with a political masterstroke by Singh who has asked the RSS to hand over land it holds near the Mahakal temple for the Kumbh Singhast fair to be held in April 2004.
The saffron camp has launched a counter-attack, alleging that Singh was acquiring temple land for government, Waqf and Congress offices as part of his “anti-Hindu” drive.
But round one in this battle has gone in favour of Singh, who has put the Sangh on the defensive. The head priest of the Mahakal Prakash Puri and dozens of akhara owners are up in arms against the RSS for occupying 1.56 hectares around the temple.
Singh made his move with care. He wrote to RSS sarsanghachalak K. Sudarshan, requesting him to hand over the land to facilitate the mela. The chief minister said the Sangh should donate the land to the temple or his government would acquire it at market rate, which works out to be about Rs 25 crore. Sangh officials have obtained a stay from Indore High Court.
But the damage was done with the chief minister’s insinuation that the Sangh was either reluctant to hand over the land or interested in the handsome compensation not being lost on many.
The chief minister seems to be in no hurry to acquire the land, but he has managed to catch the Sangh on the wrong foot.