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Behind Communal Tensions in Mewar: Well-Oiled Electioneering Machinery

People in Rajsamand who had never seen communal clashes or curfew for the last at least 10 years are now looking at each other with suspicion. These communal tensions are only likely to increase in the coming months.


Updated:December 28, 2017, 4:58 PM IST
Behind Communal Tensions in Mewar: Well-Oiled Electioneering Machinery
Bajrang Dal activists in tribal area Kotda in Rajasthan protesting against the arrest of Shambhulal Regar. (Photo by Suhas Munshi)

Udaipur/Rajsamabad: In many ways Shambhulal Regar, about whom the latest rumours are that he will fight as an independent candidate from Rajsamand in the upcoming Assembly polls, has achieved a lot by murdering Mohammed Afrazul and sharing the video footage widely.

People in Rajsamand who had never seen communal clashes or curfew for the last at least 10 years are now looking at each other with suspicion. These communal tensions are only likely to increase in the coming months.

Consider the sequence of events.

December 8: Two days after the gruesome murder of Mohammed Afrazul, on a Friday afternoon Muslims in Udaipur carried out a huge protest rally. Thousands of Muslim marched down to the collector’s office demanding their safety. Some of them allegedly also shouted communal slogans, although some participants of that rally claim that these slogans were never really uttered, that this was a malicious video editing job.

December 13: Several Hindu outfits held a rally in Udaipur against the December 8 march, ostensibly to protest against communal slogans uttered there. But they in turn shouted communal slogans and slogans in support of the murderer. Minutes later, the protestors turned violent and started throwing stones at policemen, injuring over 30 of them. They also planted a saffron flag on Udaipur district court. Authorities responded by imposing section 144 in Rajsamand and Udaipur prohibiting large gatherings. Internet was also suspended in both the districts. Over 200 members from various Hindu outfits were arrested.

December 15: More protests were held, this time under the banner of ‘Swadeshi Jagran Manch’ an affiliate of the RSS. The protestors demanded the release of those arrested by police a day earlier. And also demanded that those who participated in December 8 rally be arrested.

Protests led by various Hindu outfits also broke out in several other cities across Rajasthan, in Kota, Jaipur, Kakroli, Bhilwara and Bhinder.

Over 100 of those arrested a day earlier were released and 10 participants of the December 8 rally were arrested.

Till this day, outfits like VHP, Bajrang Dal and Bajrang Sena continue to hold protest marches across the state.

A leader of Bajrang Sena spoke on condition of anonymity. “If you ask me on record, I will condemn the murder. But let’s not forget this is an election year. If we have to win this one, we’ll have to talk of Hindutva and if we talk of Hindutva we’ll have to come out in support of Shambhu.”

He went on to explain how this cycle, beginning from the murder of Afrazul would continue to go on for next several weeks.

“We know that some organisations interested in Dalit-Muslim unity are interested in holding more peace marches in Rajasthan. In their rallies they’re bound to say something that we find objectionable, against which we will hold our own counter protest marches.”

What if the Muslims kept quiet all this while? What if they stopped going out for marches?

“Well then we would quietly do our work, of supporting Shambhu’s family, of talking about love jihad in Rajsamand and Udaipur, and the message would travel across the state anyways. You see Mewar is very important to us.”

A senior member of another prominent RSS affiliated outfit VHP talked very briefly about the state’s politics. “There is a lot of resentment against the BJP about the manner in which things have turned out over the last few days. We held a meeting with members of other groups in Udaipur on the 16th and almost everyone present there condemned the party. The truth is, it is facing a lot of hostility from the communities whose support it till now enjoyed.”

He elaborated, “The Rajputs are angry at them because of the Anandpal encounter case. Brahmins are angry at them because they sidelined a lot of their leaders. The Chief Minister isn’t accessible to anyone. And the traders are unhappy with the highhandedness of the administration. If BJP is to prevent the flip-flop of governments as it alternates between BJP and Congress, it really needs to bind all the Hindus together. And time is running out.”

Over the past few months outfits like Bajrang Sena and others like it have been cropping up with alarming frequency. Many of these outfits ran a campaign against the Bollywood movie Padmavati, in which they raised objections against the proximity shown between the queen and Allahuddin Khilji.

According to one estimate, by a local journalist, there are around 150 such active outfits in Udaipur alone. Udaipur is an important hub for any political movement in Rajasthan because it is the defacto headquarters of Mewar. And as far as elections go, Mewar is believed to be the bellwether of Rajasthan.

And all of a sudden communally sensitive cases and controversies are breaking out all across Udaipur and Mewar. Apart from the murder committed by Shambhulal Regar and the bloody clashes between fringe Hindu groups and police, low level clashes and tensions have simmered in this area for some time now.

In the last fortnight alone, several cases have been reported from Rajsamand and its adjoining areas.

On December 15, one case of ‘Love Jihad’ was reported. VHP and other Hindu outfits rushed to Kakroli police station to ‘rescue’ a girl who seemed to have been abducted by a Muslim man. The girl later told the police, in front of this reporter, that she was being harassed and wanted to marry the man of her own choice.

One day later, head of a calf was found near a temple in Rajsamand. But police acted swiftly before tensions could break out.

Communal tensions have also started simmering in Bhilwara after idols of Hanuman were placed on an encroached land in the area the district shares with Rajsamand. Business was shut down and curfew was placed again on Tuesday after protestors clashed with police.

The SP of Rajsamand, Manoj Chaudhary, admits that areas in and around Rajsamand are communal sensitive and it doesn’t take much to stoke fires here.

“Yes, in this area we have a serious law and order situation as far as communal tensions are concerned. Though the last serious communal pent up happened way back in 2000-01, this areas has increasingly, over time, begun showing signs of communal stress. This is why for us the Shambhulal Regar case was very important. Had we not nabbed him from his hideout within 24 hours, situations could have deteriorated quite drastically here.”

While the police doesn’t admit it, journalists claim that last one year has seen a severe increase of communal clashes across Mewar — Chittorgarh, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara and especially Bhilwara.

“Almost on a weekly basis we hear reports from Bhilwara and Chittorgarh, and to an extent from Banswara, about non-fatal communal clashes there. But because these places are relatively inaccessible we don’t hear many stories about them.”

Some workers from within the BJP have started speaking out against the communalisation of the otherwise peaceful culture of Mewar.

This is what Tanveer, the head of BJP-run Mewar Kshatriya Mahasabha, had to say about the recent developments:

“Baarud ke dher pe bitha diya hai hame. Kaunsa Hindustan hai ye? Yahan jawan bachhe hain jinhe aaj tak maalum nahi tha curfew kya hota hai. Ye aane waale samay ke liye khatarnaak sanket hain. Shambhu koi swatantra sainani nahi tha. Uski puuja kyun ho rahi hai?”

“[We’re sitting on a gunpowder keg. What India is this? There are young children here who did not know till today what a curfew is. These are bad omens of the coming times. Shambhulal was not a freedom fighter. Why have people begun worshipping him?]”

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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