At least five people including some policemen were injured and several shops and vehicles damaged in a communal clash over a procession in Shevgaon Village in Ahmednagar District, police said on Monday. Activists speaking to Sabrangindia state that matters could have gone completely out of control but for the intervention of peace loving local citizens.
The police have reportedly detained 32 people so far and registered cases against 150 others after the incident on Sunday night, May 14. Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police Rakesh Ola said. Among those who have been named (wrongly) in the FIR are also reportedly activists of the All India Students Federation (AISF).
Two days after communal clashes broke out in Shevgaon town of Ahmednagar district, traders called a bandh on Tuesday, May 16, demanding action against those involved in the violence.
Stone pelting was allegedly done at a public procession celebrating the birthday of Shambhaji Maharaj though locals contest this claim of the police.
Internet services had been thereafter suspended for some days in Shevgaon, which lies about 65 kilometres from the Ahmednagar District HQ.
SP Ola said, a heavy police force, including State Reserve Police Force and riot control squad, have been deployed at the village.
The Deputy Chief Minister assured that the situation is under control DCM Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio, said the situation is under control in Ahmednagar. “Those who are trying to trigger riots will not be spared. Strict action will be taken against those who are helping to create such untoward incidents,” he said in Pune.
The riots took place just a day after similar violence in Akola Town and a tense stand-off between a group of people who tried to perform a ritual on the steps near Trimbakeshwar Temple which was construed as entry inside the temple premises. Local police held a ‘peace committee’ meeting in order to maintain law and order, officials said.
Ironically Udhav Thackeray former chief minister and leader of the Udhav Thackeray Shiv Sena told the Hindu in an exclusive interview on May 22, 2023 “In Nashik, the custom of Muslims offering reverence at the Trimbakeshwar temple is being turned into a controversy. This was communal harmony. You (BJP) first decide whether you want to play Hindu-Muslim politics or patriotism.”
On May 17, Sabrangindia had reported:
“controversy has been created over a ritual being followed in Nashik over the years at the Trimbakeshwar Temple. A video has emerged showing a group of Muslim men at the steps of the temple to offer a chadar on the Shivling on May 13. The incident created a tense situation, with some devotees and temple authorities objecting to the act, citing it as a violation of religious norms. The video has gone viral on social media, further fueling the controversy surrounding the incident.
In response to the incident, Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe to look into the allegations of forcible entry and the claims surrounding the decades-old ritual. This decision by Fadnavis has further intensified the political tensions surrounding the controversy. Trimbakeshwar Temple Trust has also written to Nashik Commission of Police demanding action against the group for trying to enter the temple, reported Times Now.
The Muslim community leaders have expressed surprise and remorse over this controversy and the move to order a probe into this as the ritual of showing loban or frankincense from the temple entrance steps is a practice that has been followed by local Muslims over the last several decades, reported Indian Express. “There was no attempt to enter the temple or put any chadar inside the temple premises. Muslims in Trimbakeshwar have for generations been following the practice of sending the fumes of frankincense from the steps of the temple premises during an annual gathering at a nearby dargah. This practice has been going on for decades and the local Hindu community has never taken exception to it. We are surprised that this issue has now been raked up and it has taken a communal turn,” Avez Kokni, the former president of the Trimbakeshwar Nagar Parishad, told The Indian Express.
Even a local resident of Trimbakeshwar confirmed that this was an age-old practice and a symbol of syncretism. “Muslims make up a very small percentage of the city’s population and have stayed in harmony. Our city has been peaceful and non-communal which would explain why in spite of being a Muslim, I was accepted as a leader. I am surprised why this age-old custom is now suddenly being questioned,” Parvez Kokni, former chairman of the Nashik District Central Cooperative Bank, told the publication. However, a section of temple trustees have said they do not know of any such tradition.
Members of the Muslim community have submitted to the police evidence such as videos of previous years where a similar ritual was conducted at the entrance of the temple.
The temple incident has triggered a debate on religious tolerance and coexistence. Some might argue that it is important to respect and accommodate various religious beliefs and rituals and to promote syncretism in a culturally diverse country like ours. Others who differ from this point of view are the ones up in arms against this practice which a sizable population has claimed to be a tradition of many years.”