Aurangabad riots: Locals live in fear, blame Shiv Sena for the violence
Earlier this week, Afroz Shaikh, a 21-year old labourer working at a shop in Shahgunj, was arrested for allegedly being involved in the recent communal violence in Aurangabad. His family is dependent on the small sum of money he makes by working at the shop and now they don't know how they are going to survive or what they need to do to get bail for Afroz. This is the condition of families of over 30 youth who have been arrested by police following riots.
Tension and fear has gripped the area even as Muslims observe the holy month of Ramzan.
“The month in which Muslims are supposed to be fasting and celebrating has become a nightmare,” said Bashir Shaikh, who owns a shop at Mondha in Aurangabad's Shahgunj area.
The Shahgunj area was the epicentre of the communal violence on the intervening night of 11 and 12 May. Riots broke out at Shahgunj, Navabpura and Rajabazar in Central Aurangabad. It took the lives of two people – a 12-year-old boy and a senior citizen. Over 200 people were injured and there was loss of property worth ten crores, according to reports.
The police has so far arrested over 65 people including Shiv Sena corporator Rajendra Janjal, Shiv Sena leader Lachchu Pehlwan, MIM corporator Feroz Khan among others.
The riot-hit area is home to a significant chunk of Aurangabad's Muslim population. It also has a prominent mosque and market place. As it is Ramzan, a large number of believers flock to the mosque to pray.
Meena Bazar, a temporary market has been set up near the mosque for the month, with hawkers selling everything in connection with the festival. However, the violence has harmed festivities with fewer people going to the mosque to pray or the Meena Bazar for shopping.
According to Sayed Shafiuddin, a local, “Muslim families are under fear that police will arrest male members in the family, charging them with murder or attempt to murder. The action by the police is biased. They have arrested 40 Muslims but only 10 Hindus”.
This, despite the fact that Muslims were most affected by the violence.
One of the residents on the condition of anonymity said, “Muslims are facing problems when it comes to lodging FIRs or complaints regarding loss of property. The police and administration are deliberately neglecting Muslims”.
Riots were pre-planned
Riots were pre-planned
Residents and social activists say that the riots were definitely pre-planned. However, the police claims that the Municipal Corporation's drive to cut illegal water connections caused riots. Activists say that while it could have been the trigger, the riots would have happened sooner or later.
Veera Sathidar, a member of fact finding committee of human rights activists, who interacted with families in the riot hit area, said, “Preparation for the violence was going on for the last one month and residents in the area were aware about stones, catapults and petrol bombs being collected in the terraces of many buildings in the area”.
He added, “Sena leader Lachchu Pehlwan, who has been arrested by police for involvement in riots, had been trying to establish control in this area by targetting the minority community for a while now. On May 7 and 11, a team of local shopkeepers both Muslim and Hindu, had given a letter to the police saying that Pehlwan had been trying to create tensions through his goons. There was an altercation between two groups of shop-keepers and hawkers but it was sorted out. However, Pehlwan tried to provoke these groups again”.
Contesting the police report, he said, “The police says that drive of removing illegal water connections led to riots. Locals told us that illegal water connections exist all across the city and for many years. Local Muslims have already asked the corporation to cut those connections. This reason is a cover-up.”
One of the residents said, “We feel that the police and administration were also involved in the riots. As power was cut at 10 PM at night and riots began an hour later. For an hour, the police did not take any action. One video of police were passively looking as rioters attacked people, is already out.”
Kishor Tulasibuagwale, a social activist from Aurangabad, said, “Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire, who is losing the trust of voters wanted to create communal tensions and win the sympathy of the majority community”.