A WhatsApp status on Mughal rulers Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan has again created tension between two communities in Kolhapur city of Maharashtra, sparking a political war of words.
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis confirmed that “the situation in Kolhapur is under control”, but warned that “glorification of Aurangzeb will not be tolerated in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Maharashtra”, even as Opposition leader Ajit Pawar questioned the “political will to control the situation” and sought “a free hand for Kolhapur police”.
On June 4, photos of Aurangzeb were flaunted at a procession of a minority community. Minority community members also kept the pictures with an audio message as their WhatsApp status. Irked, members of another community filed a complaint with the police, alleging “their religious sentiments were hurt” and demanding their arrest. They also gave a call for a city-wide protest against those who posted the status, on June 6 (Tuesday), which marked the anniversary of the coronation of Shivaji as the king (Chhatrapati) of the Maratha empire.
While the police on Tuesday pacified the protesters and told them to return, informing them that some people had been booked in connection with the WhatsApp status, they again gathered at Shivaji Chowk on Wednesday, as some organisations had called for a Kolhapur bandh. After their demonstration ended, the crowd began to disperse, but some miscreants started hurling stones, forcing police to lathicharge.
According to local media reports, the police had not given permission for the rally and had asked them to withdraw their call.
DON’T TAKE LAW IN YOUR HANDS, WARNS DY CM
Fadnavis, who is also the state’s Home Minister, said, “We need to look at how Aurangzeb’s supporters in the state have increased all of a sudden. This state belongs to Shivaji Maharaj…We will not spare people who are glorifying Aurangzeb.”
“We will find the main players behind this. We request all to not take law and order in their hands. Those will do this will have to face action,” he said.
BID TO TARNISH MAHA’s PROGRESSIVE IMAGE: AJIT PAWAR
Targetting Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Fadnavis, Pawar said, “It looks like desperate attempts are being made to destabilize the law and order situation in the state. It is the responsibility of the CM and Dy CM to find out who is behind such incidents. Considering the upcoming elections, is someone or are some groups doing this deliberately to tarnish the ‘progressive’ image of Maharashtra?”
Speaking to the media in Mumbai, he said, “Yesterday, the protesters had warned the authorities about their agitation. But unless you have political will and clear orders from the state government that this should not happen and peace should prevail, how can police handle the situation? I know our police force is capable of handling such issues.”
SHOPS VANDALISED, SIX BOOKED
According to local reports, protesters also vandalized a few shops belonging to the minority community. Mahindra Pandit, SP of Kolhapur, who took charge a few days ago, said, “We will take action against those who kept such a provocative status and also those who gathered in large numbers at the protest rally. The situation is under control. We have adequate police force in the city to maintain peace.”
So far, the police have booked six people for keeping the social media status.
HOW PEACE WAS RESTORED IN SAVARDE IN MARCH
In March, Savarde village, just 20km from Kolhapur, had faced a similar issue when one youth from the minority community had posted a WhatsApp status glorifying Aurangzeb. It had created tension between the two communities. A truck and a warehouse of the youth’s family was burnt down by unknown protesters.
A first information report (FIR) was filed against that youth, but later a demand was made to the Gram Panchayat to socially boycott his family.
The local sarpanch rejected the demand and took proactive efforts to ensure peace by bringing senior members of both the communities together.