The past three months have been particularly hard for Maharashtra, with eight cities of the state having faced communal tension or violence.
Cities like Sambhajinagar, Akola, Shegaon and Sangamner in Ahmednagar and Jalgaon, Mumbai and now Kolhapur have been on tenterhooks the past few months, with the opposition parties attacking the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government for the poor law and order situation.
Former state home minister and group leader of Congress in the state legislative council, Satej Patil, who also hails from Kolhapur, had said in a statement: “The situation in Kolhapur is very volatile and may lead to communal tension.” A few days later, Patil’s fears came true.
Speaking to the media, Patil said: “A few people are targeting me on the basis of the statement I had made a few weeks ago. But let me tell you I made that statement on the basis of instances in Maharashtra. Regarding Kolhapur, when the government and police both had information, they didn’t take any proactive action. A night before the incident, WhatsApp messages were circulating to gather in large numbers. Why did the police fail to restrict the crowd? It’s the failure of intelligence and Home department.”
According to sources in the state government, officers of the Home department have informed the Shinde sarkar that the instances of violence and communal tension have increased since the names of Aurangabad and Osmanabad were changed to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar and Dharashiv respectively. They also informed that violence which took place in Malavani area of Mumbai and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar on the eve of Ram Navami was planned.
The Home department and state intelligence department are in the dock since the cases of violence have increased. When Fadnavis was chief minister (2014-2019), he had a firm grip on the Home department as he was leading it. However, this time around, despite leading the same department, Fadnavis seems to have lost control over the situation.
As Kolhapur limps back to normalcy, several questions will hound the police — When Hindu organisations had given an advance call for Kolhapur bandh and protest rally, why couldn’t the police restrict the crowd? How did the situation become so unmanageable that they had to open tear gas and resort to lathicharge?
Internet services are still suspended in the city as a precaution. So far, police have arrested 36 people in connection with the violence, an official said. Additionally, five cases have been registered by police in the district pertaining to objectionable posts. Five people, including juveniles, have been detained in two of these cases, the police said.
Minister Deepak Kesarkar has instructed the administration to set up separate committees comprising members of all communities to ensure peaceful celebration of all festivals in Kolhapur, as per a release of the district administration. On Wednesday, Kesarkar held a meeting of a peace committee in the evening, Kolhapur Superintendent of Police Mahendra Pandit said, adding that members from various organisations and communities pledged to maintain peace in the city.
MAHARASHTRA ON ALERT
March 31, 2023: In Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, stone pelting was reported during the procession of Ram Navami. One person died in police cross-firing, while 76 people were arrested of which nine are minors.
March 31, 2023: Communal tension was reported in Malavani on the eve of Ram Navami and a complaint was registered against 300 people.
March 31, 2023: In Jalgaon, communal tension was reported due to a scuffle over the use of loudspeakers. Forty-five people were arrested.
May 13, 2023: Communal violence took place in Akola due to a post on social media. In this violence, one person lost his life, 10 were injured and more than 100 were arrested by police.
May 14, 2023: In Shevgaon (Ahmadnagar), communal tension was reported when a procession was taken out to celebrate the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. Thirty people were arrested and a complaint was filed against 150 people.
May 14, 2023: In Trimbakeshwar, communal tension was reported following which four people were arrested and the state government appointed an SIT to investigate the matter.
June 6, 2023: Post the protest rally taken out against ‘Love Jihad’ in Sangamner, stone pelting was reported in Samanapur Village.
June 7, 2023: In Kolhapur, violence was reported over a post glorifying Aurangzeb