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Gujarat: One Killed, 3 Injured in Communal Clashes in Gujrat’s Villages During Temple Fund Collection, Muslims Living Under Fear

Mahesh Trivedi & Noor Nabi Khan | India Tomorrow

AHMEDABAD/NEW DELHI—After large scale communal violence in three towns of Madhya Pradesh during rallies taken out to create “awareness” about fund collection for Rs. 110 crore Ram Temple at Ayodhya, Hindu-Muslim clashes broke out in two villages close to port town of Gandhidham in Gujarat’s Kutch district during fund collection drive for the temple on Sunday evening.

One person was killed, several others injured and three vehicles, including two two-wheelers, were set ablaze during the clash in Kidana village of Kutch district. The clashes took place when a VHP rally went to all-Muslim village of Kidana and allegedly raised provocative slogans near a masjid.

The incident happened in presence of the local police who burst 30 teargas shells, four stun shells as also some stun grenades to quell the mob to bring the situation under control. Four different FIRs have also been lodged.

The incident has generated fear among the Muslims in Kutch district as reports say that VHP is planning to take out more such rallies in all villages with Muslim population.

According to local social activists, the rallyists first went to Sadau village of Mundra taluka where they indulged into stone-throwing at a mosque. From there, they moved to Antarjad village where again they attacked a mosque and then drove to Adipur where they ransacked mutton shops and damaged a ‘dargah’. Afterwards they marched towards Kidana.

Social activists said that the local Muslims initially did not allow the VHP activists to enter into the village. They permitted them only after the rallyists promised that they would not raise any provocative slogans. However, they shouted highly provocative slogans once they entered the village mosque crossroad. The rallyists also burnt five houses in Kidana village. A curfew-like situation now prevails in Kidana village as prohibitory orders have been imposed under section 144 of IPC in the wake of the clash. As many as 45 persons have been arrested by the police in connection with Kidana clash and they include 15 Hindus and 30 Muslims.

Social activist Sultanbhai Sodha of the Muslim Hitrakshak Samiti, Kutch district, said that an autorickshaw driver, who was a Muslim, was attacked by three passengers who were travelling in his rickshaw. While the driver ran away for safety, one of the Hindu passengers having small beard was taken as a Muslim by the VHP rallyists and beaten to death.

Speaking to mediapersons, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kutch district, JR Mothaliya said “A huge mob had gathered during the rath yatra and there was stone pelting. We also lobbed tear gas shells and the situation was brought under control along with arrest of some people from both communities.”

There was heavy stone pelting on the police that led to injuries to some cops, Mothaliya added.

Saurabh Singh, Kutch (West) Superintendent of Police, told indiatomrrow.net that Sadau village in Mundra taluka where the trouble first started before spreading to Kidana hamlet near Gandhidham, was now quiet and the matter was being investigated. “We have lodged the FIR but the arrest will be made after collecting evidence to ensure that innocent people don’t suffer”, he said.

Mayur Patil, Kutch (East) Superintendent of Police said that 45 people of Kidana which later witnessed major clashes were being quizzed on the basis of evidence gathered from available CCTV footage and mobile phones of the detainees, and those found innocent were being freed while further action would be taken against other suspects.   

BJP Again Trying to Politicise Ram Temple       

Kutch-based social activist Adam Chaki told this news portal that when the 200-strong VHP rally reached Muslim-dominated Masjid Crossroads in Kidana, the marchers purposely started shouting provocative slogans that triggered verbal duels and sparked trouble which snowballed into violent clashes.

“Obtaining permission from the authorities even for a gathering or a procession is a Herculean task but VHP has no problem taking out rallies all over the country, indicating that the government supports them. They are out to seek votes in the name of Lord Ram”, alleged Chaki.

He said that BJP was again trying to politicize Ram temple matter by hurting sentiments of Muslim community members.

“We request people from both faiths not to believe rumours that may escalate the tension,” said Juma Raima, a local community leader.

Tension is also reported to have spread to villages near Anjar, which houses units of several big companies whose employees use the road to travel from home to office.

MCC Sending Fact Finding Team to Riot-Hit Villages

Ahmedabad-based Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), which has been working for the rights and welfare of the minorities, is dispatching a team on Wednesday to the troublespots in Kutch on a fact-finding mission. “We want to go to the ground and find out the deep-rooted plan of VHP to defame Muslims what with even the hard-pressed and innocent womenfolk of the community being put in the dock for the clashes,” said MCC convener Mujahid Nafees.

Gujarat on Forefront of Ram Temple Movement

With Gujarat being in the forefront of the Ramjanmabhoomi Temple movement ever since the days when Dr. Pravin Togadia was the VHP international general secretary, the rightwing outfit has decided to send its four million volunteers across the country to contact 650 million Hindus living in 5.23 lakh villages, including 18,556 Gujarat villages, from January 15 to collect funds for the grand temple to be completed in 40 months.

The foundation of the Ram Mandir, for which donations worth Rs 1 billion have already been received, was laid in Ayodhya by Modi in August last year after the Supreme Court’s historic verdict.

Kutch has always remained peaceful even during the 2002 bloody communal riots and even when Babri mosque verdict was delivered but Hindu-Muslim clashes which rocked the urban areas of the Land of the Mahatma in 2002 have now spread to the quiet countryside.

A 16-page, annual report for 2019 just released by an Ahmedabad-based, civil society organisation has pointed out that the Gujarat has witnessed large-scale riots at least six times in the past 50 years, the worst one in 2002 that had left 2,000 people dead and thousands maimed.

Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?

In its document titled “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?”, Buniyaad observes that the six communal riots and two mob lynching recorded in 2019 prove that the rural areas have been witnessing regular bouts of communal clashes since 2014 when Modi took up the reins of the country.

According to the report which has sourced its data from fact-finding missions and media coverage, earlier bigger cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat saw major communal conflagrations in 1946, 1969, 1981-82, 1985, 1990, 1992, 2002 and 2006 but in the past few years, rural pockets like Chattral, Vadavali, Khambat, Himmatnagar, Idar, Kheda and Halvad have also experienced such flare-ups of hostilities.

Buniyaad’s Hozefa Ujjaini told indiatomorrow.net that there were deeper processes at work which were actively polarising society along religious lines for political dividends, and added that this, on the ground, translated into distrust, hatred and more prejudices among the members of different communities leading to communal tensions, violent outbursts and aggressive behaviour over major and minor issues which soon assumed communal colour.

“Even 2020 saw barbarous Hindu-Muslim clashes in Khambhat, mob lynching in Ahmedabad, assaults on Muslims over trivial issues and the community was under fire ever since corona struck and Tablighi jamaat was blamed,’’ Ujjaini said.     

Though the number of communal riots came down from 13 in 2018 to six in 2019, and lynching declined from five in 2018 to just two in 2019, the report claims that the figures were misleading as polarisation along religious lines, hatred, distrust and hate speeches have become more intense, adversely affecting the social fabric in the state.

At least 2,000 men, women and children, mostly Muslims, were killed in the savage clashes in 2002 that also saw destruction of 302 dargahs, 209 mosques and 13 madrasas and put the property loss to Muslims at Rs 2.44 billion.

But the BJP-controlled Gujarat government claimed that the three-month-long riots had claimed the lives of only 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. The riots broke out throughout Gujarat after 59 Hindus were burnt to death in a train blaze near the Godhra railway station in central Gujarat on February 27, 2002.

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