Valorising Aurangzeb will now invite abuse & arrests: Kolhapur, Maharashtra Kolhapur remains tense as Muslim youth was thrashed by Hindu extremists for hailing Aurangzeb, rallies by Hindutva organised, stones pelted at mosque, citizens helped police diffuse violence

07, Jun 2023 | CJP Team

Tensions simmered in Kolhapur, in southern Maharashtra, after Hindutva groups and representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), egged on by rival Shiv Sena factions sought to escalate tensions over a controversial social media post (June 6) valorising Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. Despite appeals by the Muslim community and citizens not to allow one incident to spread tensions and terror between ordinary people, attempts were made to “enforce a bandh and at least two three stray acts of targeted violence against Muslims was reported. Efforts by the local police and citizens helped restore some calm on June 7.

Speaking to Sabrangindia, SP Mahendra Pandit stated that the whole town of Kolhapur was under curfew presently, peace had somehow been ensured and added that all those guilty of the bandh-instigated violence would be prosecuted. FIRs were also registered against those who attacked a Muslim vendor on June 6 and six arrests have been made.

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Yesterday, a group of Hindutva inspired extremist youth thrashed a Muslim minor for reportedly sharing a social media status hailing Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. The status (social media) simply valorised Aurangzeb and Tipu and did not in any way attack another community or contain any words to offend or hurt the religious sentiments of any individual.

A video showing a mob of at least 8-10 men abusing a Muslim minor has surfaced online. Incidentally, organisations representing the Muslim community specifically wrote to the SP, Kolhapur Pandit urging that the truth behind the social media posts be established and the entire community not be held hostage.  Former corporator from the city, Adil Faras who was alleged to have been the “author” of the controversial posts clearly distanced himself from the post and has publicly asked the police to get to the bottom of who the real culprits are. SP Pandit and the IG, according to reports from the ground obtained by Sabrangindia, patrolling the streets and urging that the bandh call given by extremist organisations not be adhered to. At 5.30 p.m. a peace meeting has been called by the local police and citizens.

The video can be viewed here:

After the first act of violence against a Muslim minor, individuals and groups owing allegiance to Hindutva outfits indulged in vandalism and intimidation. After the reported incident yesterday, it has also been reported that stones were pelted at Muslim Boarding Masjid and Badi Masjid during the protest rally held by the Hindutva far-right groups. Further, Banda Sakunkhe is seen in a video trying to urge that people observe a bandh. In his speech, Sakunkhe can be heard saying “We need to come together… should we shut down Kolhapur tomorrow?” The crowd can be heard cheering loudly at this. The video shows lots of commotion after his words. The crowd was asked to congregate at Shivaji Chowk.

The video can be viewed here:

This was on Tuesday, June 6 and on June 7, reports from the ground showed that the situation in Kolhapur remained tense. Police patrolling has taken place and curfew has been imposed in parts of the city, especially minority dominated areas.

Dilip Pawar, a comrade of the late Comrade Govind Pansare spoke to Sabrangindia and explained how Muslim organisations and other citizens and groups intervened pro-actively since yesterday evening to ensure that matters are not allowed to escalate into tensions between ordinary Hindus and Muslims. Reportedly an office bearer of the Bharatiya Janata Party Jadhav and the son of former BJP MLA Rajesh Kshirsagar, Ruturaj were also proactive in furthering tensions. Unconfirmed reports of Muslim fruit vendors being attacked by Hindutva extremists have been surfacing from the area. In the said video, a mob of such persons can be seen pelting stones at a Muslim person, and later hitting him with a stone while a police woman can be seen running away from the scene. After the Muslim vendor gets attacked by the mob of more than 10 individuals, and to protect himself, he picks up one or two stones too and hits the crowd. This has no effect on the crowd, which keeps on pelting stones at the Muslim man. A police car can then be seen arriving at the scene.

The video can be viewed here:

Following the tensions since June 6 in Kolhapur, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said that the ruling party “encourages” instances of communal violence, as has been reported by the Indian Express. “Incidents of communal clashes in Ahmednagar and Kolhapur have taken place over some mobile messages. What is the meaning of hitting the streets over such messages? Today’s ruling party encourages such things. Rulers should ensure peace and law and order. But if rulers start hitting the street and create enmity among two communities, that is not a good thing for the state,” Pawar said, addressing a press conference in Ahmednagar on Wednesday morning. He also said that the tensions were a result of the ideology of the ruling dispensation at work and that this must be deplored. (Reports in ABP Marathi and Indian Express)

Pawar said that it was good that the incidents were limited to certain parts of the state only. “But I am saying that this is being planned. I saw it on TV that someone showed Aurangzeb’s photo in Aurangabad, then what is the meaning of a communal clash over this in Pune?” he asked.

“Churches were attacked in states like Orissa or others. I do not understand the reason behind attacking a religious place for an action of an individual. This is not a work of an individual but an ideology works behind this. This ideology is not good for the society,” Pawar further said.

It is pertinent to note that this is not the lone event in Maharashtra where tensions had erupted in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar too this week after posters of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb were raised during a procession on Sunday in the area with two people. The police have filed a case against four people in total, two have been arrested. The arrests were made after a video of the event went viral where a man can be seen holding a poster of Aurangzeb in Ahmednagar’s Mukundnagar area. “Amid music and dance in the procession, four youths carried posters of Aurangzeb. An offence was registered against these four under Indian Penal Code for intention to incite a community to commit an offence against another community, hurting religious sentiments, as well as other offences,” a police official told news agency PTI.

Maharashtra has witnessed a number of localised communal clashes since the formation of the BJP-Sena government. On Tuesday, the Sangamner area of Ahmednagar district witnessed communal clashes between two groups after a rally by Sakal Hindu Samaj. In Kolhapur, right-wing Hindu organisations called for a bandh on Wednesday over a reportedly objectionable message involving Mughal king Aurangzeb.

Reacting to the matter, state Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said such acts would not be tolerated, as was reported by India Today.  “If someone flashes the poster of Aurangzeb, it will not be tolerated. In this country and state, our revered deities are Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj,” Fadnavis was quoted as saying by the PTI. This statement by a person in power certainly sends a message!

The video of the incident can be viewed here:

It remains unclear how or when the act of holding up a poster of, or putting up a status of, the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb becomes a crime under the Indian laws, attracting penalties and arrests. Today, the polarised political situation has made the religious minority prone to be slapped with Section 295A for expressing their own beliefs, valorising rulers from their own community or engaging in nothing more than peaceful speech, and booked under the charges of spreading religious enmity and hurting the religious sentiments of the other communities.

Increasingly, in recent times, the names of Tipu Sultan, an 18th-century Mysore ruler, and Aurangzeb, the sixth emperor of the Mughal Empire, have been stigmatised by elected officials of the BJP government –through selective manipulations of their role and rule in the past –and the fringe Hindutva outfits as part of their extremist Hindutva propaganda and erasure of Muslim history.

Neither does it help that every other day, such right-wing Hindutva leaders (and even elected officials) are making public speeches spreading misinformation regarding these two Muslim rulers, attributing only brutal acts to ensure polarisation on the ground. In fact, in December last year, nine less than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken about Aurangzeb at an event in Varanasi, a ruler who had died 300 plus years more, and said that “Aurangzeb’s atrocities, his terror, he tried to change civilisation by the sword. He tried to crush culture with fanaticism.” A month before this, in November 2022, he had even mentioned the Mughal ruler’s name again while speaking on the occasion of the 400th birth anniversary of Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur, who was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, and said that “even though Aurangzeb severed many heads, he could not shake our faith”.


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