October 01, 2015

India: Anumeha Yadav's report on Ranchi communal tensions


Four days later, Ranchi communal tensions force schools and shops to stay shut

Groups of Hindus and Muslims shoot at each other after meat is found outside two temples in Jharkhand capital.
Photo Credit: Manob Chowdhury
Schools and shops in parts of Jharkhand's capital Ranchi remained shut on Tuesday as communal tensions simmered for the fourth continuous day. A shop was set on fire and Hindus and Muslims shot at each other in Doranda in the early hours of Tuesday. No one was injured, police said. But they took 40 people from the locality into custody. The firing took place hours after meat was found outside two temples in Ranchi.

Over the weekend, in similar instances, meat was found in the vicinity of temples in three other Jharkhand  districts, Palamu, Chatra, and Lohardaga. Palamu and Chatra districts share a border with Bihar. Police officials said that they had not ruled out the possibility that the incidents were aimed at influencing events in Bihar, where assembly elections are due next month, reported The Indian Express.

In July, Jharkhand's industrial nerve-center Jamshedpur, had been under curfew three days following communal clashes.

Blockade is enforced

In the capital Ranchi, skirmishes between Hindus and Muslims started on Friday evening, on Bakr-Eid, after animal hide was found at three places on a road outside a Kali temple in Hinoo. That evening, a shop selling chicken and a municipal van were set on fire. Hindu organisations including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Jharkhand Shiv Sena, and Sarna Samiti, which represents animistic Sarna adivasis, enforced a blockade in Ranchi the next day, on Saturday.

District officials said the Hindu groups had thrown stones at a mosque while taking out a procession on Saturday. “At 9 am, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena started a motorcycle rally and threw stones at Itrah mosque, and Muslims youth retaliated by blocking the road till 1 pm,” said Manoj Kumar, district collector of Ranchi. Kumar said the police had detained 65 persons on Saturday in an attempt to prevent further trouble. District officials had held a number of peace meetings on Saturday evening with residents in many localities, he said. On Sunday, community groups had organised a peace march from Albert Ekka Chowk in the city's center to Hinoo, the site of the first incident.

But the situation stayed tense on Sunday. Muslim leaders have claimed that Mohammad Mukhtar, an autorickshaw driver whose body was found on Friday night with injuries on the neck caused by a sharp object, had been killed in a communal attack. They registered a FIR on Sunday. “On Eid, Mukhtar had driven his autorickshaw to Doranda at 8 pm to look for passengers. A Hindu mob attacked and killed him,” alleged Mukhtar Ahmed, the general secretary of the Anjuman Islamia. But officials have denied this. Police officials said they are still investigating what led to Mukhtar's murder.

Compensation is demanded

On Monday, Muslim religious leaders agreed to bury Mukhtar only after the district administration announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 25,000 as one-time assistance to his family under the family pension scheme.

On Tuesday, over 1,000 policemen and two companies of Rapid Action Force were stationed in Doranda locality. Manoj Kumar, the district collector said the police will be deployed in large numbers from now till October 2 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to reach Ranchi to address meetings in Khunti and Dumka.

In recent years, there have been sporadic incidents of communal violence in Ranchi and its adjacent districts Ramgarh and Hazaribagh around the time of the Ram Navmi celebrations.