On Monday, barely a day after communal clashes erupted during a Ram Navami procession in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone, the district administration demolished 16 houses and 29 shops in five areas across the town. According to a report in Indian Express, MP’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said that “a claims tribunal” would be formed and action taken against rioters. His colleague, Home Minister Narottam Mishra issued a warning, saying, “Jis ghar se pathar aaye hain, us ghar ko hi patharon kaa dher banaenge (We will turn the houses from where the stones were pelted to a heap of rubble).”
As many as 10 houses were set on fire in Khargone Madhya Pradesh, during clashes between members of a Ram Navami procession and locals. More than two dozen people, including Superintendent of Police (SP) Siddharth Choudhary, were injured on Sunday, resulting in a curfew being declared. The clashes erupted near Talab Chowk mosque in the evening when some people opposed the provocative songs being played during the procession. This communal violence soon spread to other areas.
While the focus should have been on making sure there was peace in the area, on Monday, the state’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ordered demolishing of “illegal buildings” reportedly belonging to those allegedly involved in the stone throwing, reported NDTV. Bulldozers were used to raze about 45 houses and the administration has carried out as many as 45 demolitions which according to Indian Express “started in the morning from Chhote Mohan Talkies area, where four ‘illegal’ structures were demolished.” The bulldozers continued demolitions in other areas such as Aurangpura, Khaskhaswadi, Ganesh Mandir and most importantly the Talab Chowk area which was the place from where the Ram Navami procession set off on Sunday. The clash happened “barely 500 metres away” reported IE.
According to the news report, the highest number of demolitions were carried out in Khaskhaswadi, where 12 homes and 10 shops were razed to the ground. This area is reportedly also near the spot from where heavy stone pelting was reported on Sunday. The selection of areas that have seen demolition action speaks for itself.
Adding to the escalating communal stress in the state, its Home Minister Narottam Mishra on Tuesday accused Muslims of “violence and rioting” and defended the government’s demolition drive against those who allegedly threw stones at the procession. According to NDTV, Narottam Mishra said, “If Muslims carry out such attacks then they should not expect justice.” He said that things are normal and the “actions” will continue against “rioters”.
#Khargone में दंगाइयों के अतिक्रमण हटाने की कार्रवाई आज भी जारी रहेगी।
प्रदेश में कानून का राज है और जो भी इससे खिलवाड़ करेगा, वो इसका नतीजा भुगतेगा। pic.twitter.com/Pxh7lSK7UK
— Dr Narottam Mishra (@drnarottammisra) April 12, 2022
Mishra told the media that “94 people have been arrested. The SP (Superintendent of police), who was shot, is better now. The boy who is on a ventilator is also better than before.” He added, “Action would be taken against Congress leader and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh” for his Tweet alleging that “Saffron flags were put up at a mosque” on the same day as the violence. The Congress leader later deleted the tweet, the image in it was “not from Khargone but was an old image from Bihar,” the state government had said.
Bulldozer SoP from 2020?
He had used similar words in 2020 saying, “Jahan se pathar aaenge, wahin se toh nikale jaaenge’ (the evictions will happen where the stones came from)”. Narottam Mishra’s was then justifying the demolition of a poor Muslim man’s house. That demolition too was a, act of “instant punishment” for the Muslim man, after allegations of ‘stone peling’ at a mob were made during a communal clash in Ujjain.
Now Mishra told the media that the demolitions were done “only after it was established that the property was illegal”. He does not explain why the “illegal properties” were not touched before the communal clashes. According to NDTV, he denied that Muslims were targeted and declared, “If anyone triggers rioting in Madhya Pradesh they will be crushed.”
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