Karauli, Rajashtan: For over a week now, Karauli - a city in Rajasthan has been under curfew. The curfew has been extended till April 12. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood that witnessed rioting and shops being burnt down- have gone back to being quiet- the calmness that existed before the violence happened. The fear, however, is palpable.
On the first day of Navratri on April 2, the office bearers of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a bike rally. They called it Shobha Yatra, to celebrate Chaitra Pratipada Nav Samvatsar, which is considered to be the Hindu New Year. RSS leader Vipin Sharma told BOOM that the plan was to take this rally out in every city in the country, some, he said, took place, peacefully.
After getting an approval from the District administration, the bike rally with 200 motorcycles and 400 men, donning saffron scarves, was taken out in Karauli.
The route of the rally was decided by the police and approval was, too, given by them. On Saturday, thirty odd policemen accompanied the men who were a part of the rally.
What Happened In Karauli?
The district of Karauli has a population of 14.58 lakh, according to the 2011 census, of which 5.59% are Muslims and 94.02% are Hindus. In urban area of the district, Muslim population is 19.36%. Some of the neighbourhoods in Karauli has almost 20% Muslim population, concentrated in 2-4 mohallahs.
The rally on April 2 started from Gaushala and went via Old Collectorate, Bus Stand, Gulab Bagh, Hindaun Darwaza, and Futakot to Hatbara — its scheduled route. On the bike rally route, there were two mosques- one in Hindaun Darwaza and the another near Hatwara.
According to the locals, stone pelting started from nearby houses near the mosque in Hatwara. Soon, it broke into a full-fledged violence as people tried to escape, leading to a stampede like situation. One person told BOOM, on the condition of anonymity, that provocative slogans were being raised by the people in the rally before the stone pelting began.
Karauli Circle Inspector (CI) Rameshwar Dayal Meena, who was a part of the rally, with another 30 policemen, in effort to maintain law and order, was injured when the situation turned violent. The police officials told BOOM that 600 policemen were brought in from the nearby district after that.
In a press statement, DGP Mr. M L Lathar said that people were throwing stones from the "roof of their houses".
Within minutes, Karauli was burning. Motor bikes, shops, houses and carts were set on fire by a mob of men. The locals say around 35-40 people were injured.
Meanwhile, some videos started to make the rounds on social media that showed a mob of men in saffron scarves on top of a mosque, holding saffron flags. The police, however, told BOOM that all those videos were fake and no such incident took place. "The videos are not from Karauli, it is somewhere from Uttar Pradesh," a police officer told BOOM. Another similar video, that was doing the rounds, the police said, is from Telangana.
So far, two FIRs have been lodged against the fake videos. "We are identifying the culprits who spread the video," a police officer told BOOM, adding that the cybercrime unit is helping them with it.
The administration first imposed Section 144 and soon after, a curfew was imposed in the entire district.
A local BJP leader Madan Mohan Swamy told BOOM that the rally was 'peaceful' even though slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Jai Shri Ram were raised right from the beginning. "We were sitting in a vehicle, when suddenly stone pelting began. The glasses of our vehicle were broken," he said.
When he tried to escape, he said he was surrounded by some miscreants who attacked him. "They attacked me with sticks," he said.
It is worth mentioning that Karauli is a peaceful and quiet city and doesn't have a history of religious violence. But, this incident may have changed that forever.
Vipin Sharma, RSS leader who was also a part of the rally, told BOOM that he was attacked with stones and knives. "First some people came with iron rods and later others joined- they had knives," he said. Sharma was admitted to the Jaipur trauma ward where his treatment is still going on.
The police investigating Saturday's violence in Karauli have named 37 persons in the FIR for ransacking, rioting and setting shops on fire. So far, 23 people have been arrested. Municipal councilor Matloob, Samiuddin, Bachchu, Imamuddin, Asif, Qutbuddin, Ikramuddin, Wasim, Saddam, Farman, Qasim, Azaruddin, Firoz, Rehman, Hasim, Ikramuddin, Alauddin, Wasim are some of the names mentioned in the FIR.
The police told BOOM that a large group of people who took part in the rally were students of Ramdwara school, in Karauli.
"The rally was going on peacefully with slogans of Jai Shri Ram, Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai till the stone pelting began," a police officer told BOOM.
A Long-Lasting Impact
A fair that is held every year at this time in the nearby village of Kailadevi, about 30 kms away from Karauli city, is now empty. It would have been the ideal time for local traders to earn money. For the last two years, the pandemic halted it. This year it was to resume again and the administration was expecting about 70,00, 000 tourists. However, the violence on the very first day of the local fair has taken away the chances of the traders to make any business.
Govind Gupta, a trader in Karauli, told BOOM that payments have already been made to procure the goods. But, for the last 9 days, the stocks have been lying in their godowns as the shops have had to remain shut due the curfew. "We are unable to sell anything," he said.
The tourists who have travelled on foot for almost 100 kilomteres from Agra, Mainpuri, and Itawah of Uttar Pradesh are now scared to walk within the city.
The police have barricaded all the roads and no one is allowed to come out of their homes.
The locals blame the policemen. "They had to be better prepared so that this violence would not break out," one of them told BOOM.
Anjum Karaulvi, another trader, told BOOM that his son was at their shop when the stampede broke out in the market. "He closed the shop and took shelter in the nearby house. When we came back, we found that goods worth Rs 15-16 lakh were looted," he said. He said that a day after the incident the police arrested his son, but he got him out after meeting the Superintendent of Police (SP).
Another shopkeeper told BOOM that men from the rally asked them to shut their shops and threatened to kill them if they didn't.
The SP told BOOM that a peace committee has been formed to plan the next course of action.
Karauli District magistrate Rajendra Singh Shekhawat told BOOM that the district administration is working to maintain peace and that the peace committee is meeting regularly.
Every day, the curfew is relaxed for two hours - that's the time when people have to buy their groceries and essential items. "If the locality remains peaceful, we will relax the curfew further," he said.
Meanwhile, 17 district administrations in Rajasthan, including Jaipur, have imposed section 144 CrPC ahead of festivals, following the violent incident in Karauli. The restrictions by multiple districts have been imposed for approximately a month from April 8. The Jaipur Police Commissioner imposing 144 has directed ban on rallies without permission, with exemption to marriage and death procession; ban on people making movement with explosives, arm and ammunitions; ban on raising inappropriate slogans and gestures, and objectionable songs in public places; and there will be complete ban on use of DJ.
The administration that has conducted a survey of the damaged shops and houses of the victims said that a total of 66 shops, 72 two-wheelers, 14 handcarts and 5 houses have been vanadlised. They have said assets worth crores have been destroyed during the incident. "Both Muslims and Hindus have lost livelihood," the Karauli DM said.
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