The police at Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar - the city formerly known as Aurangabad - have booked Suresh Chavankhe, founder of Hindutva media outlet Sudarshan News, and T Raja Singh - a suspended BJP MLA, for making communally charged speeches at an event organised by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti on Sunday.
Members of the Hindutva organisation, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, have also been booked after they vandalised signboards, pelted stones and damaged properties with the name 'Aurangabad', following the rally.
The Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar Police have till now registered seven FIRs against at least 50 people with many yet to be unidentified for damaging public property and promoting enmity based on religion.
On March 19, 2023, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti a far right Hindutva outfit, organised a 'Hindu Jan Garjana Morcha' in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar to show their support for the Centre approving the name change of the city from its previous name Aurangabad. The event was organised under the umbrella of the Hindu Sakal Manch, a collective of several right wing outfits like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Karni Sena.
The Hindu Jan Garjana Morcha event was attended by several Hindutva leaders like suspended BJP leader T Raja Singh, Sudarshan news founder Suresh Chavhanke. It was also attended by Maharashtra state ministers Sandipan Bhumare and Atul Save and Sena MLA Pradeep Jaiswal and BJP MLA Shivendra Raje.
Police sources told BOOM that the organisers - Sakal Hindu Ekatrikaran Samiti --had not been given permission to hold the event or the march.
A local journalist, who did not wish to be named, said the crowd was revved up after hearing a 'call for action' speeches by the Hindutva leaders at the event. "The Centre has already approved the name change of Aurangabad to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. But this name change is only for the city and not the district Aurangabad. The city of Aurangabad shared the same name as the district and the Hindutva leaders and their followers at the event were demanding a complete name change," he said.
The journalist who was present at the event said that the rally did not have police permission and when they tried entering some areas with a sizeable Muslim population, the police stopped them and asked them to leave. This angered them and in the new route they started vandalising boards and hoardings which carried the name 'Aurangabad'.
Videos of the vandalism started doing the rounds on Twitter and show men tearing flexes, hoardings, pelting stone and even breaking the name board of a womens' public toilet by climbing atop the same in a bid to destroy boards which carried the name 'Aurangabad'
Another video showed people hitting an installation of an 'I Love Aurangabad' sign with sticks and breaking it.
The Times Of India reported that the MIDC Cidco police station registered an FIR against those seen in the video after it was posted online and went viral.
BOOM accessed videos of the speeches and found that Chavhanke and T Raja made open calls for violence against Muslims. The two also asked the crowd to boycott shops and establishments of Muslims and from those who did not support the name change from Aurangad to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar.
In a video tweeted by Hindutva Watch, a hate tracking account, suspended BJP MLA T Raja can be heard saying, "If you want to stop love jihadis, then if you ever hear of an incident of love jihad, immediately take your team there and if the authorities don't support you then castrate them." T Raja used the Hindi slur "katua" - a derogatory term to describe a circumcised male, while drawing a huge cheer from the crowd. He also called for violence against Assasuddin Owaisi, AIMIM leader and said those who are still call the city as Aurangabad should be "wiped from the face of the earth".
Meanwhile Chavhanke, called himself the "representative of the government and Hindus" and said Muslims should be fearful of the forming Hindu Rashtra. Calling Home Minister Amit Shah the "new updated version" of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Chavhanke said, "These dogs (Muslims) should be taught a lesson that this Amit Shah will cut off their noses.
Chavhanke, like T Raja, called for Hindus to economically weaken Muslims by not buying from their shops or doing business with them. He also asked the crowd to show their support for the name change of Aurangabad by boycotting shops and destroying anything which carried the old name.
BOOM spoke to a senior police officer in the Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar police department who said that communally charged speeches at the event especially those by Suresh Chavhanke caused the people to go berserk and go on a rampage damaging public hoardings, structures and even pelt stones at autos, shops and banks. "We have booked the organisers too and are now going through the videos of the speeches to take further action," the officer said.
"The organisers had approached for permission but the same was denied to them. Despite this, they went ahead and walked across the city for the march. We have registered seven FIRs against them," he added.