A couple of days after being denied permission to leave Lucknow airport to visit either Sitapur or Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s government in Chhattisgarh has done the same for BJP leaders who are trying to visit Kawardha town in Kabirdham district which saw communal clashes three days ago.
After a delegation of BJP leaders led by Leader of Opposition Dharamlal Kaushik were denied entry into Kawardha on Wednesday, BJP leaders Ajay Chandrakar and Shivratan Sharma were stopped by police at the outskirts of Kawardha town on Thursday as they were trying to visit the area. The protest leaders sat on dharna and their supporters engaged in sloganeering against the administration.
BJP workers in Kawardha also staged a protest on Thursday trying to court arrest against the police lathi-charge on them.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel was busy reaching out to trouble-torn Lakhimpur Kheri in UP, where eight persons including four farmers had died when a four-wheeler allegedly belonging to Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son, the Kawardha district sizzled with a communal flare-up.
Two communities had clashed in Kawardha town’s Lohara Chowk over the removal of a religious flag last Sunday. Clashes had erupted as two communities staked a claim on a place for putting up their religious flags. To keep things under check, the administration had clamped section 144 of the CrPC in the town and heavy police deployment was ensured in the town.
On Tuesday, a right-wing organisation had taken out a protest march which had turned violent after the protesters moved into areas dominated by the other community. Bikes were set on fire, houses were vandalised and police personnel had resorted to lathi-charge and later curfew was clamped in the town. Several policemen also were injured in the stone-pelting, a senior police officer said.
Addressing the media in Raipur on Thursday, BJP leaders slammed the Baghel government saying for the first time in State history, the saffron flag was removed from any place. They claimed that traditionally the flag is removed before Navratri and a new one is placed in Kawardha. After the flag was placed, officers reached the spot and asked resident Durgesh Devangan to remove the flag. Soon after a crowd approached and beat up Devangan, they said, adding this led to tension in the town.
Saying that both the communities lodged FIRs against each other, BJP leaders claimed that the other community had lesser cases while Hindu community people were booked who were not even there during the brawl. The flag was placed there after two days, they claimed.
The leaders demanded action on local SP and Collector, adding they were to be blamed for the situation in the town. Adding they will hand a memorandum to the Governor on Friday, the BJP leaders sought a judicial probe into the matter. Free innocent persons and arrest those from other communities who are roaming free, they demanded.
BJP leader Brijmohan Agrawal accused the Baghel government of appeasement politics adding members of a particular community are encroaching on land and attacking others. He said the October 3 incident could have been averted as the saffron flag belongs to Sanatan tradition and not to any political party.
Why did the administration not act on stone pelters which led to October 5 incident where thousands gathered to protest the Sunday incident, claimed Agrawal saying the Chief Minister was busy pleasing the high command, the Home Minister was missing and the Minister in charge was incommunicado. “We tried meeting the victim families but we were stopped at the Circuit House,” claimed Leader of Opposition Dharamlal Kaushik.
The leaders urged locals in Kawardha to maintain peace. Internet services are suspended in Kabirdham district and nearby two other districts while police till now have arrested 74 persons, said a senior police officer. IG Vivekanand Sinha said 70 miscreants have been identified and 59 have been arrested, He added the protest on Tuesday was organised without permission and certain persons deliberately vandalised some identified wards in the town which led to law and order trouble.
On the directive of CM Bhupesh Baghel, DGP DM Awasthi and IG (Intelligence) Anand Chhabra had reached the town on Tuesday night. IG Sinha and other senior IPS officers also were rushed to the town after the trouble. “The situation is tense yet peaceful, we will take a call on the curfew depending on the situation,” Collector Kabirdham Ramesh Kumar Sharma said.
Bhupesh Baghel launches Ram Van Gaman Path project
Amid BJP charges of appeasement politics, CM Baghel on Thursday launched the Ram Van Gaman Path project, the development of a mythological route undertaken by Lord Ram in his stay in Chhattishgarh during 14-years exile.
“Starting from Korea district’s Harchowk, we have identified a total of 75 places which have pieces of evidence of Lord Ram’s visit and we are undertaking the development of nine starting from Chandkhuri with a budget of Rs 136.55 crore,” Baghel said.
Chandkhuri is seen as the birthplace of Lord Ram’s mother Kaushalya. “We consider Lord Ram our Bhancha (nephew) and Ram Naam is evident in our culture and we carry a special bond with him,” he said.
Saying that Ram is visualised in different forms by different people, Baghel lashed at BJP saying some see him as a ‘voter puller’ while we (Congress) see him as Mahatma Gandhi’s Ram as the great man left for heavenly abode chanting his name. They (BJP) rode to power on Ram’s name but did nothing for Mata Kaushalya or Ram Van Gaman Path, alleged Baghel.
(Inputs Awdhesh Mishra)