Bhopal, Feb. 27: At first glance, they appear to be isolated incidents, but a closer look would show a pattern. A series of incidents of communal violence and attacks on places of worship across Madhya Pradesh is threatening the secular fabric of society and resulting in an increasing Hindu-Muslim divide and shrinking mutual trust.
The signs are ominous. Chief minister Digvijay Singh will turn 56 tomorrow, but his thoughts are not on a birthday bash. Neither is the cricket enthusiast looking forward to the March 1 match between India and Pakistan. His mornings and evenings are spent scanning maps and intelligence reports that say worse is to come.
On March 3, the VHP’s Praveen Togadia will visit Gunj Basoda, the village that erupted last month over the cow-slaughter incident. The Bajrang Dal has promised to distribute 3,00,000 trishuls, measuring 5.5 inches, and plans to raise an army of 30,00,000 youths in the state to defend the “Hindu cause”. Then there are reports of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India fomenting trouble in several towns to counter the “saffron” surge.
Two days ago, a Muslim was killed by a mob in Shajapur district, provoked by the damaging of a Hindu place of worship in the cover of darkness. A bandh was called on February 25. But the following day, violence broke out again with some persons pelting stones on members of the other community. Police figures of one dead and a dozen wounded may not appear too disturbing, but in the wake of the clash, mutual trust has turned into suspicion.
Curiously, in Dansipura village in the same Shajapur district, a Hanuman temple located in a Muslim-dominated area is guarded and maintained by the community. Priest Kailash Chandra Joshi claimed that whenever they tried to put a lock on the temple, it would break on its own. “Perhaps it is a divine message that the Muslims are doing a fine job,” Joshi had said a day before violence erupted in the other village. Today, police is on round-the-clock guard at the temple.
In Jabalpur district, miscreants damaged a Hanuman idol, leading to tension and imposition of Section 144. Local Muslims say they had nothing to do with the incident. The government is still clueless about the identity of the culprits.
Neither has the row over Bhojshala, the most prominent flashpoint in the state yet, been solved. Union culture minister Jagmohan today gave permission for once-a-week darshan and namaz to Hindus and Muslims. But the “settlement” has not eased tension as the Hindu Jagran Manch, spearheading the movement in Dhar, has rejected it. The police, Rapid Action Force and paramilitary forces keep a 24-hour tight vigil on the 11th century monument.
Police officials said manning Bhojshala and the hundreds of religious places across the state would be almost impossible.
“We are already stretched. How is it possible to man an area spread around 3,08,000 square kilometres and having a density of 196 persons per square kilometre'” asked a high-level police functionary.
The politicians are busy with the blame game. Digvijay charged that in an election year, the saffron brigade is determined to repeat “Gujarat” in Madhya Pradesh. “I am not going to let them do that. As long as I am the chief minister, they cannot spread hatred and disharmony,” he told The Telegraph, claiming that the BJP leadership will not be able to take him on in matters of governance and polity.
The BJP denied the charge, alleging that Digvijay was trying to cover up his failures by blaming them. Leader of the Opposition Babulal Gaur said, having failed to provide water, electricity and roads, the Congress regime was out to malign the BJP. He said the BJP had nothing to do with what others (read Togadia, the Bajrang Dal) were doing. He pointed out that the BJP had not even participated in the Hindu Jagran Manch’s Bhojshala agitation.
But the Congress leaders wondered how the BJP could disown its association and “strategic” relationship with the VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS, Hindu Jagran Manch and others. “It is all part of a design, a conspiracy to grab power at all costs,” said Digvijay, predicting a victory for Team India and hoping his people would enjoy the cricket on March 1.