New Delhi: Incidents like the Karauli clash “cannot happen without previous planning”, Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra has said, adding that he hopes the guilty will be punished.
“The way in which stones were pelted, it appears that the (violence) was not accidental but planned to disturb communal harmony in Rajasthan,” he added in an interview to ThePrint. “I hope the guilty will be punished soon,” he said, lauding the state police for “showing maturity in containing the clashes from escalating”.
The governor’s comments echo those of deputy leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, Rajendra Rathore, who said Tuesday that the violence that broke out in the state’s Karauli city on Saturday, 2 April, was planned.
A bike rally called by Hindutva organisations to mark the Hindu new year Saturday allegedly saw provocative sloganeering by participants. The participants were then allegedly pelted with stones while passing through a Muslim-majority area. The ensuing violence saw shops and vehicles being set on fire and around 35 people injured on both sides.
Over 50 people have been arrested or detained in the case, and internet services suspended in the area. A curfew was imposed as well, but it has since been partially relaxed.
Asked whether he saw a pattern in the Karauli incident, Mishra said: “No such incidents have happened in the last two-three years, so no pattern can be seen. But this incident has made the police more cautious and alert. And the state government must ensure such incidents are not repeated.”
Rathore, who was part of a “fact-finding team” constituted by the BJP that visited Karauli Tuesday, has alleged that Muslim organisation Popular Front of India (PFI) “warned” Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and the director general of police (DGP), through a letter, of tension in the state from 2 April to 4 April.
The letter is believed to have been sent ahead of the bike rally.
State PFI president Mohammed Asif had told ThePrint earlier that the “letter was sent to the CM and the DGP of Rajasthan requesting [them] that no objectionable slogans should be raised during the rally in various districts because it could lead to communal disharmony and that external anti-social elements may try to create communal tension”.
On a question about possible laxity on the part of police, the governor said: “Many people say many things about police action, but, in my view, they acted promptly in containing the communal flare-up. Otherwise, the situation may have got worse. In fact, I appreciate the way one policeman rescued a small child during the clash. It should be noted while making comments on police role.”
A 31-year-old constable, Netresh Sharma, made news for saving four people, including an infant, from a house on fire during the Karauli violence. A photo of him with the child in his arms went viral and his act was applauded by the CM and governor.
When asked whether he had a word with CM Gehlot on the Karauli issue, Mishra said: “I had a word with DGP M.L. Lather on the situation and he gave me a detailed sequence of events. I have asked him, every effort should be made so that communal harmony is not disturbed further. It is our duty to safeguard people’s life and property.”
War of words
The Congress, which rules Rajasthan, and the Opposition BJP have been trading charges over the Karauli violence for the last few days.
On Monday, CM Gehlot lashed out at the BJP-led central government over the clashes and raised questions over BJP chief J.P. Nadda’s visit to the state earlier this month.
“These people… are setting the entire nation on fire. Nadda got here and the fire erupted. They are creating such an environment,” he had said.
On the other side, BJP state president Satish Poonia held the Congress’ alleged appeasement policy responsible for such clashes. “It was a planned attack on the bike rally,” he said.
Former chief minister and veteran BJP leader Vasundhara Raje said a “hateful mentality cannot be allowed in the state”. She also took a dig at the state government over an order ensuring supply of electricity to Muslim-dominated areas during Ramzan.
“People in the state are not only observing Ramzan… they are also observing fast for Navratri in this hot summer. The state government should answer why it is only concerned about those observing Ramzan, and why not about the rest of the people of the state? If this is not appeasement and vote politics, then what is (it)?” she tweeted.
प्रदेश में लोग सिर्फ़ रमज़ान ही नहीं रख रहे, भरी गर्मी में नवरात्रा व्रत और नवरात्रा उपवास भी कर रहें हैं। राज्य सरकार जवाब दे कि उसे सिर्फ़ रमजानियों की ही चिंता क्यों है,बाक़ी प्रदेशवासियो की क्यों नहीं? ये तुष्टिकरण और वोटों की राजनीति नहीं तो और क्या है?#Rajasthan
— Vasundhara Raje (@VasundharaBJP) April 5, 2022
The police have, meanwhile, booked independent councillor Makbool Ahmed as an accused in the Karauli case. He was allegedly involved in stone-pelting during the bike rally. Jaipur Mayor Somya Gurjar’s (BJP) husband Rajaram Gurjar has also been booked after his bike was allegedly found at the site of the violence.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)