Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar Riots Fact Finding Report
There were media reports, reporting communal riots in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar on 30th March, 2023. According to the media reports, in the early morning of 30th March, on the day of Ram Navami, in the locality of Kiradpura, around six motorcycle borne youth from Azad nagar chowk came to Ram temple situated in Kiradpura, shouting slogans. There was an altercation between these youth and a group of youth from another community. These altercations took a violent turn and the mob of youth pelted stones on the police and Ram Temple. Approximately 13 police vans were burnt by the mob. The mob dispersed after the police used tear gas and fired bullets. One Moniruddin Shaikh (45) was hit by one of the bullets and died. A fact-finding team organized by Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) visited Aurangabad on 3rd and 4th April, 2023, renamed as Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar.
The fact-finding team consisting of Irfan Engineer, Director of CSSS and social activist, Neha Dabhade, Deputy Director of CSSS and Adv. Abhay Taksal, CPI District Joint Secretary and lawyer, met some of the important stakeholders in the conflict to gain information and perspective. The team met the police officials including Ashok Bhandare, Police Inspector of Jhinsi, residents of the Faiz complex where Moniruddin Shaikh lived, Asghar Khan, father of Sameer Khan who died due to a head injury on the night of the riots, Imitiaz Jaleel, MP of Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar , Nandu Ghodile, ex-Mayor of Aurangabad from Shiv Sena, members of the Muslim Numainda Council, Pramod Mane, prominent journalist, Sanjay Bargaje, President of VHP in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, Isak Haji, former corporator from AIMIM and Nasir Siddiqui, corporator, AIMIM. Muslim Numainda Council is a group consisting of respected members of the Muslim community who try to have a unanimous voice on religious and cultural matters related to Muslims. The most vital source of information that the team accessed was the CCTV footage captured by surveillance cameras in Faiz Complex. The team viewed the comprehensive footage.
Background context to the conflict:
Aurangabad, situated in Central Maharashtra was formerly known as Khadki and Fatehnagar was founded by Malik Ambar in 1610. After the fall of the Nizam Shahi rule, the city was ruled by the Mughals from 1633. It was renamed to Aurangabad when it became the headquarters of Emperor Aurangzeb’s viceroyalty in Deccan. The city is home to the mausoleum complex of Bibi Ka Maqbara, an imitation of the Taj Mahal in Agra, which was built in honour of his first wife, Dilras Banu Begum (died 1657). Aurangabad remained the headquarters of the independent nizams (rulers), but it declined when the capital was moved to Hyderabad in Hyderabad princely state.
According to the census of 2011, Hinduism is majority religion in Aurangabad city with 51.07 % followers. Islam is second most popular religion in city of Aurangabad with approximately 30.79 % following it. In Aurangabad city, Christianity is followed by 0.86 %, Jainism by 1.62 %, Sikhism by 0.29 % and Buddhism by 15.17 %. Around 0.04 % stated ‘Other Religion’, approximately 0.15 % stated ‘No Particular Religion’.
|Percentage of population in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar
|No particular religion
Competitive Politics for mobilization of Hindu votes:
It is central to understanding communal politics in Aurangabad that the political parties are seeking to ever expand their voter’s base. This competition through identity politics to expand voters or support base is the major contributing factor in the communal history of Aurangabad, now Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. Political parties, including the AIMIM in the recent times, at different stages in history of the city have tried to polarize religious communities for their electoral benefits. Initially, it was the tussle between the dominant Congress on the one hand and the emerging Shiv Sena and BJP on the other hand. Then with the emergence of Shiv Sena, the BJP and Shiv Sena both though in alliance, were trying to expand their areas of influence in almost the same communities- Marathas and OBCs in the pursuit of “Hindu votes”. After the split in Shiv Sena, the two factions have been trying to reach out to the different sections of the Hindu community again for the same Hindu votes. There is a similar scramble ongoing for the votes from the Muslim community. Once solid support of the Congress party, the Muslim community now is being wooed by Congress, NCP and the AIMIM. The AIMIM enjoyed support of the Dalits (when it was in an alliance with Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi) and the Muslims to which it owed its electoral success.
Prior to, the Shiv Sena and BJP vying for the same voter base- that is the OBC and upper caste Hindus, though they were in an uneasy alliance. This competition benefitted parties like AIMIM. However, with the split in the Shiv Sena, politics has become more complex in Aurangabad. Now along with Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) and BJP, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) are eyeing the same voter base. The foundation of the Shiv Sena was based on the support of the Maratha and OBC youth and on anti- Muslim sentiments. All the three parties will have to demonstrate their anti- Muslim credentials to win votes, effectively indulging into competitive Hindutva. On, the other hand, the AIMIM is also benefiting from this polarization as it stands to gain the Muslim vote en bloc. This scramble for votes has major ramifications on the recent violence. The incidents and events given below are part of the efforts to polarize. These developments are important to comprehend the present conflicts as they are part of the same process of polarization.
Dominance of Congress in Yesteryears:
Aurangabad, a city in the Indian state of Maharashtra, was a stronghold of the Congress Party until the 1980s. The Congress Party relied on the support of the influential Maratha and Muslim communities in the region. The Muslim elite in Aurangabad had held important positions since the rule of the Nizams, but their influence declined over time, and they became mostly poor smallholders, laborers, and petty traders dependent on the landowning Maratha elite in rural areas. Muslim politicians were successful in urban areas of Aurangabad since the 1950s, winning positions in municipal councils and even serving as Mayors. The Congress Party was able to garner support from both communities to establish its dominance. However, this changed in the 1980s with the emergence of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who mobilized support from different communities, expanding their support base.
The Rise of Shiv Sena:
From the early 1980s, Aurangabad witnessed intense industrialization outside of the Pune-Mumbai corridor. Capital was invested in rural areas and smaller cities, including Aurangabad, leading to high population growth and social differentiation. Simultaneously, a new group of socially upward mobile individuals emerged due to educational qualifications and commercial contacts. The ambitious pool of young men from poorer Maratha and Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities, such as the Malis, Kolis, and Agris, as well as from the nomadic Dhangar and Banjara communities, were trying to gain social and political power. This led to a volatile situation of competing discourses, with the Shiv Sena successfully mobilizing these youth and communities and breaking the Congress Party’s electoral winning formula.
The political ascent of the Shiv Sena in Aurangabad is attributed to its modus operandi and its construction of a communal narrative based on identities. Since the late 1980s, Shiv Sena Shakhas were established in the district, and the party was able to mobilize the society along caste and religious lines, thereby polarizing it. The Sena built its voter base by promoting anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim sentiments. One significant factor in this process was the opposition to the renaming of Marathwada University, which allowed the Sena to capitalize on the anti-Dalit sentiments and extend its support base among the Maratha community. During the Marathawada University renaming campaign, the Congress hesitated to take a firm stand and was rather ambiguous in order to not antagonize the Marathas or the Dalits in the conflict (CSSS Fact-Finding Team, 2018). The Shiv Sena took a firm position and sided with the Marathas. The Sena doggedly took anti-Dalit stance and ran campaigns against Dalits. The Shiv Sena’s strategy of consolidating its base included the celebration of Hindu festivals and the construction of new temples alongside roads. Additionally, the Sena vehemently opposed Dalits and Muslims, contending that the former were encroaching upon pasture lands in rural areas, and accusing the latter of occupying land for stalls or shops in the rural areas (Hansen, 1996). The Sena was successful in exacerbating tensions over festivals and through contestation for public spaces. Shiv Sena through this plank mobilized the newly upward mobile and ambitious OBC youth and made them leaders. These belonged mostly to the Maratha-Kunbi and OBC groups.
1988 Communal riots:
The culmination of the sharpening polarization and resulting animosity was reflected in the 1988 communal riots in Aurangabad. Shiv Sena before Aurangabad elections in 1988, had won only Bombay Municipal Corporation elections- the richest Municipal corporation in India. The Congress in-fighting had contributed to this win. The Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) and the autonomous Bombay Regional Congress Committee (BRCC) were in conflict to control the Party in the state. In 1988, the Shiv Sena contested the first-ever municipal corporation election held in Aurangabad, tapping into the anti-incumbency sentiment among the city’s Hindus against the ruling Congress, and emerged as the single-largest party. The Congress, however, outsmarted the Shiv Sena by cobbling together an alliance with the Muslim League and installing their mayor. Shiv Sena corporators filed a petition with the high court contesting the outcome of the mayoral elections. The hearing in the Bombay High Court was adjourned. The Shiv Sena workers used the adjournment as a pretext to demonstrate its street power and started burning vehicles and shops, looting and stabbing. The number of casualties was high on the sides of the Hindus and Muslims both indicating that the Muslim anti-social elements too had retaliated. In all, the riot claimed 26 lives according to newspaper reports.
2018 Communal Riots:
In 2018, on 11th May, Aurangabad, witnessed communal violence in the areas of Moti Karanje, Gandhinagar, Shahganj, Raja Bazaar. The media reported that the communal violence claimed two lives- of Haris Qadri, 17-year-old youth and Jaganlal Bansile, a 72-year-old man. Haris Qadri died in police firing and Jaganlal Bansile was burnt alive in his house set on fire by the mob. Around 60 persons including police personnel were reported to be injured and several shops and vehicles were torched in the city. The media identified a few causes which could have triggered the communal violence. Some of them were the rift between Hindu and Muslim community over disconnection of illegal water connections by the municipal corporation, a drive by the municipal corporation to evict illegal hawkers in Shahganj area, exchange of mobile phone in a garage and a conflict between a shop owner and customer over selling rotten mangoes. Video clips in circulation in media showed police personnel walking with the rioters and shaking hands with them. The police are seen complicit in the violence. The riots were found to be pre-planned by CSSS fact finding team which gave its findings in its report (CSSS Fact-Finding Team, 2018). The fact finding found the role of the police to be partial and sharp attempts at polarization by Shiv Sena along with BJP responsible for the riots.
Renaming of Aurangabad:
It was also after the 1988 election that the issue of renaming Aurangabad as ‘Sambhajinagar’ was first brought up by Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray. In subsequent election rallies in the city, he would often throw the Marathi phrase ‘Khan ya Baan’. The word ‘Khan’ in the slogan referred to Muslims in a derogatory manner, while the word ‘baan’ referred to the bow and arrow, which is the Sena’s election symbol. It conveyed the battle line between the “Muslim-appeasing Congress” on one side and the Sena on the other. The Shiv was referred to Aurangabad even before the name was officially changed to ‘Sambhajinagar’. This politics was played out on the communal identities and central to this politics in Aurangabad was the very name of the city named after the then emperor Aurangzeb (1618-1707). Aurangzeb is vilified as being anti-Hindu Mughal ruler and there were demands from Shiv Sena to name it after Chhatrapati Sambhaji, son of the ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who established his independent kingdom (1657- 1689). It is to be noted that though the Shiv Sena subsequently did get elected at state level in alliance with BJP and BJP was in power during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime and now since 2014, the name change wasn’t pushed through aggressively. Only after the split in Shiv Sena and just before the Shiv Sena government was toppled by BJP and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction), the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena hurriedly proposed the name change in a stroke of one-upmanship.
The renaming of the city issue was a shot in the arm of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) as well. With the Dalit base eroding due to split in between the AIMIM and the VBA, and the eroding Muslim base, re-election of the AIMIM MP Imtiaz Jaleel in the 2024 elections would be a challenging task. The renaming of Aurangabad has encountered a vehement opposition, particularly from Imtiaz Jaleel. Jaleel has been actively demonstrating against and organizing public protests and hunger strikes calling for the reversal of the renaming decision. Jaleel claims that not only the Muslim community, but a section of industrialists, entrepreneurs interested in the brand value of Aurangabad and also a section of non-Muslims strongly is against the name change. The intensity of these protests peaked in March, during which Jaleel arranged a candle march and demanded a referendum to determine the resolution of the renaming issue. This campaign has seemingly generated support and mobilized the Muslim youth, as evidenced by the flashing of a portrait of Aurangzeb by a youth during one of the protests. The ramification of this campaign is further polarization in an already polarized society where tensions were rife ahead of the Ram Navami riots.
Recent Rallies in Aurangabad and Hate Speeches:
Like in other parts of Maharashtra, the “Hindu Jan Garjana’ rally was organized on 19th March 2023 in Aurangabad. The police had denied permission to the organizers, “Sakal Hindu Ekatrikaran Samiti”, anticipating law and order situation. Such rallies have the propensity to polarize the society. The march was called to express support for the renaming of the city from Aurangabad to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. Despite police denying the permission, controversial MLA T Raja Singh and Suresh Chavhanke delivered communally charged speeches while sharing dais with religious leaders and the state’s two cabinet ministers – the Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Horticulture ministry Sandipan Bhumare and Atul Save, minister of Cooperation. In addition to the Sena MLA Pradeep Jaiswal and BJP MLA Shivendra Raje Bhosale were present on the dais. Bhumare is also the district guardian minister. The event was also attended by office bearers and worker from BJP, Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde camp), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, ISKCON, Vishwas Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal amongst others (Akhef, 2023).
During the rally, the participants resorted to destruction of the public properties, banners that had the name Aurangabad written on it instead of Sambhajinagar, and indulged in vandalism. Many flags bearing the B.R Ambedkar’s photograph and Ambedkarite symbols were also pulled down and destroyed. The rampant destruction of public property and pelting of stones prompted the filing of seven FIRs, including rioting and damage to public property. One of the FIRs charges BJP suspended MLA T Raja Singh and Suresh Chavhanke with promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place, and so on. Such rallies have also caused resentment in the Muslim community in Aurangabad.
In his speech captured on video, Singh can be heard using anti-Muslim slurs, making false accusations against Muslim men trapping Hindu women, and inciting the audience. Many threats of violence and genocide are also openly made by Singh, one of which is especially frightening, where he can be heard saying, “If you want to stop those Love-Jihaadis, if you want to shoot those love-jihadis, then whenever you get to know that our sister or our daughter has fallen prey to these Love-Jihadis, go to that spot with your team.” (Time stamp- 0:00- 0:16)
“Are of (sic) feeling scared? In future, whenever you feel scared, remember Sambhaji Maharaj.” (Time stamp- 0:19- 0:29)
“Wherever you get to that our sisters and daughters are getting trapped, go there with your team. First, request the authorities to help you, but if the authorities do not support you, then you yourself kill the ones that are already half cut (referring to circumcision)” (Time stamp- 0:29- 0:50)
“Some people are saying that we were born in Aurangabad, and we will die in Aurangabad. To these disgusting people, I just want to say that you might have been born in Aurangabad, but you will die in Sambhajinagar.” (Time stamp- 0:00- 0:23)
“Your death will happen in take (sic) place after the establishment of the Hindu nation. I also want to tell the ministers, that whoever will come forward and take the name of Aurangabad, their name and existence will be erased.” (Time stamp- 0:27- 0:46)
“I want to request the Chief Minister, that just like Suresh Chavhanke said, whichever board will have the name Aurangabad written on it, that board should be destroyed.” (Time stamp- 0:52- 1:03)
“Whichever shop has Aurangabad written on it, no one should buy anything from them. Today, we need to show our strength to these traitors.” (Time stamp- 1:04- 1:23)
“Till the time, we do not keep caste-based prejudices aside and say “I am a Hindu, you are a Hindu, till then, neither will we be safe nor our religion” (Time stamp- 1:24- 1:37)
“Today, people in such great numbers have come here. What did Balasaheb Thackarey say? A real (sic) is not one who stands in a temple, but one who kill Muslims (uses anti-Muslim slurs)” (Time stamp- 1:37- 1:54)
“I just want to tell you all, and to all those traitors too, that this conspiracy of love jihad should be stopped now. Or else, we Hindus are 100 crore in number, if we do our Jihad, you won’t even find girls to marry.”
“And to teach these impotent people a lesson, we should do the same that Chhtrapati Shivaji did with Afzal Khan.” (Time stamp- 1:48- 2:07)
Suresh Chavhanke Speech captured in the video:
Now there is Amit Shah. These pillo (puppies) should understand who they are fighting with. I want to tell these Muslims that what Aurangzeb are your leaders telling you about, Chhtrapati Sambhaji and Aurangzeb can never be equated. This is similar to how a lion and a pig can never be equated.”
(Time stamp- 1:00- 0:32)
“Even Aurangzeb’s own father had told him that he is ashamed to have him as his son as he had jailed him. Hindus are better than you who perform death rituals after one of them have died.” (Time stamp- 1:33- 2:00)
“The G-20 meeting had taken place a few days ago and the government of India had said that they had visited the tomb of Bibi (Bibi ka makbara). Even beneath that tomb, there is a temple. We have to free that temple.” (Time Stamp- 0:07- 0:24)
“Did you know that Aurangzeb had come to India to rule Maharashtra, but for 27 years he was chased like a dog by the Marathas? His grave is in Nagar. I want to challenge the historians that his dead body will not be found in the grave if there is an investigation.” (Time Stamp- 0:25- 0:59)
“Just like what the USA had done with Osama Bin Laden, the Marathas had done the same with Aurangzeb. We should still keep the grave so that everyone gets to know that this is how the Marathas treat those who come here with an army of 15 lakhs.” (Time Stamp- 1:00- 1:24)
“But who will even go there? Only those who have to pee with their one leg up. Except these people, whoever goes there is not a human.” (Time Stamp- 1:25- 1:32)
“This is why, I want to request the CM and the Maharashtra government, who are also present on this stage, that whoever visits the grave of the monster Aurangzeb should be charged with laws of anti-nationalism.” (Time Stamp- 1:34- 1:51) ( (Arora, 2023)
Attack on Imam:
Another incident building up to the communal riots which has caused resentment amongst the Muslim youth is the attack on an imam near Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. In March last week, only a few days before the communal riots in Kiradpura, an Imam, Zakir Sayyed Khaja, was assaulted in Anwa village in Jalna district where the unidentified individuals cut off his beard after he refused to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. Khaja was in the mosque when he was attacked. The unidentified individuals have been booked under Sections 452 (trespassing after preparation for hurt, assault), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 34 (criminal act by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The culprits had their faces covered and they attacked Khaja while he was reading the Quran. Upon his refusal to chant, they took him out and beat him up. They made him unconscious with some chemical and cut off his beard ( (Kumar, 2023).
Background of Kiradpur:
Kiradpur today is an all Muslim locality with not a single house of a Hindu in the locality. After the 1988 riots, the Hindu residents from Kiradpur moved out of the area. The area was once considered to be on the outskirts of the city. Earlier the Temple was a Mutt. When it became a temple, not many people in the city knew about the temple and it had very few visitors. Hence, a yatra was initiated by the Hindus and Muslims together which could make the temple more popular and so that people start visiting this temple. Even today this yatra takes place and there is a Shobha Yatra Committee which has nine Muslims and two Hindu members. There has been no ill feeling towards the temple and this has reflected in the fact there have been no untoward incident towards the Ram temple or even the staff during 1988 communal riots, 1992 violence or 2018 riots. The Ram temple is situated on the main road. There has been harmony and tradition of participating in each other’s festivals.
However, there is a stark spatial segregation in Aurangabad. This segregation is a result of many social and political processes and one of the major factors also is the communal riots that took place in the decade of 80s. The riots witnessed Hindus moving out of Muslim majority areas like Ganesh Nagar for instance. Muslim majority cluster areas are collective called ‘green belt’. As cited in a report on housing in Aurangabad, the spatial segregation on the basis of religion is well defined and shapes the infrastructure and civic amenities in Aurangabad. “Alongside the massive growth of the city especially after the 1980s, polarization between various communities also intrinsically flared up. The segregation of the residential spaces in Aurangabad is so remarkable that boundaries are imprinted with symbols that are identified with particular communities. In the spaces where Muslims are concentrated those spaces are called ‘Harri patti ilaka’ (Green belt areas) and spaces where residents belonging to SC (Scheduled Castes) community live these areas are marked as ‘Neeli Patti ilaka’ (Blue belt areas). For other residents who mostly belong to the Maratha Hindu community these areas are called ‘Bhagwa Patti ilaka’ (Saffron-belt areas).
The 1988 riots further pushed the city population away from the core into the Gunthewari and unauthorised colonies on the periphery. A series of tumultuous political events and related riots in the decade of 1980s continued to push the spatial division of the city. The formation of 13 settlements developed by CIDCO also known as New Aurangabad was built on a small-scale of about 12 square kilometres. These settlements were not enough to cater to the rising demand of housing in the city. The CIDCO projects received active support from the Shiv Sena party and came to be known as the Saffron-belt area. This pushed away Muslim residents from accessing housing here. Simultaneously, the lack of affordable housing in the city pushed poor income groups to acquire housing in Gunthewaris. This resulted in the segregation of various communities living in the city on the basis of religion, caste, and income (Lone, 2022).”
Reconstructing events of 30th March, 2023:
Against the background described above and the polarization, in the early hours on 30th March, 2023, approximately two to three youth on one or more motorcycles, between 12.20am to 1.00 am came from the Azadnagar Chowk towards the Ram temple and shouted slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” “Bharat me rahena hai to Jai Shri Ram Kehana hoga”. They got into an argument with some of the Muslim youth from the area after the motorcycle allegedly hit another youth. The police arrived and pacified both the groups and sent away both the groups. The Hindu youth more of them and came back to Kiradpur. According to Isak Haji, this mob was consisting of BJP and VHP members came from N7 and N8 Gulmohar colony in CIDCO area. They were sloganeering aggressively, according to Haji. This time too the police pacified them and dispersed them. However, a mob of around 200 to 300 came in waves, from Roshan gate between 1.30am and 1.45am. Some of the youth had their faces covered. They pelted stones on the police and their vans. They torched the police vans. Some stones were also pelted on the Ram Temple. The pandal which as erected in the Ram temple for Ram Navami celebrations was also damaged by the stones pelted. The wooden arch erected on the entrance of the Temple for the Ram Navmi was burnt down.
According to Imitiaz Jaleel, the senior police officials were not present at the spot till 3am. And only a handful police officials were present. There were vans of police but only one or two personnel in each van. According to Ashok Bhandare, PI Jhinsi, there were three Police Inspectors, two Assistant Police Inspectors, three Police sub-Inspectors and fifteen RCP personnel were present at the spot. Bhandare claimed that he reached the spot around 1.30am and admitted that there was some delay in notifying him about the violence. The police asked help of the respected members of the Muslim community to help calm the mob and bring the situation under control. However, the mob didn’t heed the pleas of Imtiaz Jaleel, MP or even Anwar Ul Haq Shadati, a respected priest. The mob also attacked them. The mob set on fire 14 vehicles belonging to the police and RCP and vandalized four other vehicles as per the FIR. Some police personnel were injured and according to PI Bhandare, one DCP sustained a leg fracture and 8 stitches. The mob set on fire the welcome boards and arch erected outside the temple for the occasion of Ram Navami. The police resorted to firing and tear gas. One, Moniruddin Shaikh who lived in a rented house in Faiz Complex was standing inside the gate of his compound and watching the violence. He was hit by one of the bullets in his stomach at approximately 3am and succumbed to his injury. The mob dispersed only after additional police force was mobilized, tear gas shells were hurled and police opened firing.
Imtiaz Jaleel, the MP from Aurangabad, was notified about the violence by AIMIM corporators and residents who were present in Kiradpur. Jaleel told the fact-finding team that when he called the police inspector, the inspector wasn’t aware of the violence and Jaleel only received a message from him later informing him that things are under control. However, Jaleel got another call from the AIMIM corporators requesting him to come to Kiradpur since the situation was getting out of control. Jaleel’s security personnel had already gone off duty by then. But Jaleel decided to go to Kiradpur nonetheless. Since he was told that there was no place for a car to come, he travelled to Kiradpur riding pillion on a colleague’s scooter. He arrived at the Temple and urged the mob for calm. When he realized that the mob was relentless, he entered the Temple to calm the situation. He appealed for calm and promised to the priest and the staff of the temple that no harm will come their way. He also made a video inside the temple and live stramed it to show that there was no mob inside the Temple and that there was no damage done to it. This helped check any possible false rumours that the temple was damaged, which could have mobilized hundreds of Hindus to the area. When the team spoke to Imtiaz Jaleel, he said, “I was aware of the consequences if the Ram Temple was attacked. Not just Aurangabad but India would be up in flames. It is a huge responsibility. I didn’t just save a temple, but I saved 100 mosques in India from being attacked in retaliation”.
After the mob was dispersed at around 3.30 am. Cleaning-up operation was undertaken at frantic speed immediately after the dispersal of the mob, so that the situation appeared normal by the dawn as if nothing had happened during the night, keeping in mind that people will gather the next morning for Ram Navmi procession and preparations. The next day’s procession was taken out as per routine peacefully, and as is the norm, the Muslims offered cold drinks to those who were in the procession, and welcomed them. The Hindus in the procession also took the offerings of Muslims.
When we talked to the Secretary of the Trust that manages the temple, he told us that everything was back to routine and they had no grievance or fear from the Muslim residents of Kiradpura. He also said that they were pained by the incident and that those guilty of throwing stones that landed inside the temple premise should be punished severely. Shri Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi was with us during our visit to the temple and the priest offered him and the team coconuts to welcome us. One youth who is employed in the Temple and lives in the Temple premises as he is not a resident of Aurangabad district, told the team that he is still scared to step outside the temple premises. The Temple priest and the Secretary of the Trust live outside the Temple premises and daily travel to and from their residence as usual and trust the Kiradpura residents, as they have friendly relations with them for years.
Findings of the Team:
Provocation was Pre-planned:
It appears that the provocation by the youth on the motorcycles was planned. The intention of the youth to come to Kiradpur, an all Muslim area at odd hours indicates malicious intention. The Ram Navami procession was going to take place next day morning. There was no reason to be on the streets and shout slogans at night. Consistent with the pattern in different parts of India, the Hindu right-wing youth have been deliberately provoking Muslim residents in Muslim majority areas. At the same time, the large mob of Muslim youth that came in a span of less than one-hour also indicates that there is also a network mobilizing the Muslim youth. The faces of some youth were covered indicating that they came with the intention of wrecking violence without being identified. The fact-finding team spoke to Nasir Siddiqui, who is an AIMIM corporator and was present on the fateful night in Kiradpura to control the mob. He told the team that the mob between 12.30 to 1.00am was demanding that the Hindu youth who had shouted slogans and who were in the Ram Temple should be brought out and not given shelter. Siddiqui maintained that they were local residents whom he could identify. However, he claimed that the other wave of mob that came in from Roshan gate consisted of outsiders. Some of them had hidden their faces like “professionals”. This mob came with sticks at around 1.30am. This mob was more aggressive. They attacked Maulana Anwar Ul Haq and Imitiaz Jaleel and others who were appealing for calm. They hurled abuses and shouted: “Step aside! The AIMIM is making us Hijras (impotent)”. Some even called Imitiaz Jaleel as “dalal of RSS”. Siddiqui hinted at the involvement of a group which is mobilizing the Muslim youth. He went on to recall that earlier in March when an Imam was attacked in Jalna, a mob of Muslim youth had gathered at the Ghati hospital and demanded hanging of the culprits. The mob was very aggressive there too. This he indicated is pointing towards active mobilization of youth by some outfit.
The role of Police:
The role of the police has been inadequate. As Imitiaz Jaleel pointed out during his interaction with the fact- finding team, that the police knowing it was Ram Navami, had not made adequate preparations. When the news of the altercation broke out only a handful police came to the spot. Jaleel questioned that if there were 17 vans, why were there only such handful police officials? Shouldn’t there be vans full of personnel? According to Jaleel, the Police Inspector and other officials came only after 3am and had no clue about the situation on the ground. It is evident that the police was not well prepared for such a riot. However, the team was told by Nandu Ghodile, Shiv Sena leader, that the police had intelligence report that some violence was on cards after the Hindu Jan Garjana Yatra on March 19th. Yet no precautions were taken.
The police seemed ill equipped and completely unprepared for handling an unnamed mob of even 200 to 300 persons. In a small city like Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, where one can travel from one end of the city to another in less than 20 minutes, the police took over two hours to reach. The few police personnel that were present on the spot were inside the temple taking refuge from the mob. The police was unable to reign in the mob. Had there been more police on the spot the violence wouldn’t have escalated to the level it unfolded. It would have also saved the life of Moniruddin and would not require firing of bullets. This lack of preparedness and sluggish response to the violence is incredulous and unacceptable.
While, the police have named 8 accused in the FIR and also arrested 100 so far (40 were arrested when the team visited and 60 after that), all of them are Muslims. The police are not investigating the angle of the instigation by the motorcycle borne youth who came to Kiradpura shouting slogans. The intention of the youth who shouted the slogans was nothing but to provoke and instigate violence. The police can easily trace their whereabouts from the CCTV cameras installed on the roads. The Hindu youth were let go scot free though they tried to disturb the law and order situation. Some of the members of the Muslim Numainda Council were of the view that the youth from the mob were assumed to be of Muslim youth. The police should investigate who the youth from the mob really were. Maybe they are not Muslims at all. Under the pretext of “unidentified” in the FIR, the police are arresting the innocent too.
For instance, the FIR names Moniruddin Shaikh as one of the accused. The fact-finding team went to Faiz Complex where Moniruddin lived in a rented apartment with his wife, two daughters and two sons. The building had CCTV cameras which clearly had footage from 30th March which showed Moniruddin merely standing outside the gate of his building. He is seen going in and out of the gate but at all times is in the range of the camera. He is in fact seen signaling the youth to go home and disperse. At no time is he seen being on the road with the mob or picking up stones or having anything in his hands. He is a mere bystander. After the gate was shut in order to prevent the miscreants from entering the complex and hiding, he stayed inside the gate. The cctv captures him with injury on his stomach being dragged by the residents of his building to safety. Since the three gates of the building were locked by the residents to prevent the mob from coming into the building, there was a delay to take the injured Moniruddin out of the building and to the doctor. He succumbed to his injuries the next day.
One Sameer Shaikh (17) also died after sustaining a head injury on the night of the violence. He was found by his father in the Ghati hospital. His father, Asghar Khan told the team that Sameer was a bright student and not involved in any way in violence or rioting on the fateful night. He was out of the house to see what was happening and disappeared until found dead in the hospital. The post mortem report said he was hit on the head but not clear with what or whether he was hit within the rioting area.
The role of extremist organizations:
The Hindutva organizations through rallies like the Hindu Jan Garjna are brazenly instigating violence against the Muslims with their baseless accusations of ‘love jihad’ and calling for economic boycott. In Aurangabad specifically, the rally exploited the issue of the renaming and exhorted Hindus to indulge in vandalism wherever the name “Aurangabad” is displayed. Members of a right-wing group, Hindu Jan Garjana Morcha, attacked a women’s public washroom, among other acts of violence, to remove the name ‘Aurangabad’ from its board. They indulged in vandalism and destroyed other boards displaying “Aurangabad” name on the boards. Many flags bearing the B.R Ambedkar’s photograph and Ambedkarite symbols were also broken.
The leaders of the rally also heaped vile abuses on Aurangzeb and the Muslim community. The Muslim youth seem to resent this unabashed show of power and violence. The attack on the Imam in Jalna also has not gone down well with the Muslim youth. This sense of resentment is capitalized by the AIMIM which has a vast network in Aurangabad. The protest to the name-change by Imitiaz Jaleel and AIMIM has further polarized the society. Though Jaleel claimed that his campaign has been peaceful without any untoward act of violence or hate speeches, the campaign has contributed to the polarization of the society in Aurangabad. The Muslim youth too is displaying violent attitudes and resorting to violence. The active mobilization and radicalization of Muslim youth can’t be ruled out.
Positive story- A ray of Hope:
Despite the violence that took place in the wee hours of morning of Ram Navami, in the morning the Ram Temple was cleaned along with the area of Kiradpura. The Ram Navami procession was taken out as every year by the Ram temple Trust. And as every year, the Muslims from the area stood there to welcome the procession with refreshments. The procession was peaceful and reflected that communal harmony that has prevailed in the locality for many years. The Hindu staff of the Temple and the adjoining school for special children have no misgiving for the Muslims in the area and vouch that they have had no trouble in the past with the residents of the area. The Muslims too exhibited sensitivity and kept this beautiful tradition alive by participating in this Hindu festival which is marred by violence in recent years.
The communal violence that occurred on March 30th in Aurangabad is perceived as a manifestation of the polarization process that is taking place in the city. This process has been further exacerbated by the ongoing conflict over the renaming of the city. The underlying polarization, which is a result of the Hindu supremacist agenda, as well as the political strategies of the Shiv Sena and BJP to expand a voter base in Aurangabad, has further widened the existing fissures in the society. The situation has been intensified by the politics of AIMIM, which is actively relying more on Muslim votes. With the split in the Shiv Sena, the electoral equations are currently in a state of flux, with Hindu votes being divided between the Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) faction and the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) faction, while the Congress is not perceived as a major player. The persistent proliferation of polarizing discourses and the cultivation of an atmosphere of hatred will serve to strengthen the respective voter bases of the AIMIM and the Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) and BJP, albeit with an intense fight to mobilize the Hindu votes due to the Shiv Sena split.
The communal riot that took place on Ram Navami was a consequence of the pent-up resentment of Muslim youth, as well as the persistent instigation by Hindu supremacist groups who enjoy impunity and a free hand to incite violence. The state has been silent on the role played by the Hindu supremacist youth who instigated the violence on Ram Navami, and the overall attacks on Muslims and their brazen humiliation. The police have arrested innocent people in the wake of the violence. This cultivated atmosphere of hatred is tearing apart the social fabric of Aurangabad. In contrast, AIMIM has mobilized Muslim youth through its politics and campaign for renaming. Nonetheless, it is heartening to note that despite the unfortunate incident of violence on Ram Navami, the Hindus and Muslims were able to come together and maintain communal harmony. It is particularly noteworthy that the Muslims in the area welcomed the procession and participated in the Hindu festival, demonstrating a strong sense of interfaith understanding and respect.
It is vital to recognize and celebrate such instances of communal harmony and coexistence, as they serve as positive examples for others to emulate. By acknowledging and valuing the diversity in our communities, we can create a more inclusive and harmonious society.
- Impartial probe by a sitting Judge:
There are several loopholes in the investigation of the violence that unfolded on Ram Navami. The few number of police, their lack of preparedness and their unexplainable delay in responding to the mob violence should be probed into seriously. The role of Hindu youth raising slogans and subsequently mobilizing the mob has gone completely uninvestigated. On the other hand, innocent persons are arrested. The police have used the communal violence as a pretext to witch-hunt the Muslim youth. The delay in the response of the police has also raised some serious question about their motives. These aspects have to be investigated impartially preferably by a sitting judge.
- Removing the name of Moniruddin Shaikh from the FIR:
The police have access to the cctv footage of the Faiz complex which clearly shows the movements of Moniruddin Shaikh that night. The footage is a clear testimony of the non-involvement of Moniruddin in the violence and his innocence. He has been wrongly named in the FIR. His name should be taken off from the FIR. He is not a culprit but in fact a victim of the police firing. He should be treated as a victim and not perpetrator. Disciplinary actions should be initiated against police personnel who fired on Moniruddin.
- Adequate compensation to the family of Moniruddin Shaikh:
Moniruddin Shaikh (48) has a small business of pre-used cars. He is survived by his family and young children who face hardships after his death. The family must get adequate compensation for his death from the state.
- Peace building process by civil society:
The social fabric of Aurangabad is being damaged by the constant conflicts, hatred and polarization. There already existing fault lines are expanding further due to communal politics. The civil society must take an active role in promoting peacebuilding efforts and fostering dialogue between communities. The existing fault lines in Aurangabad’s social fabric, which have been exacerbated by communal politics, necessitate concerted efforts to promote mutual respect and understanding among different religious and cultural groups. Community-led initiatives, such as cultural exchange programs, interfaith dialogues, and community service projects, can be instrumental in this regard. By highlighting shared traditions and promoting dialogue, such initiatives can foster a more inclusive and harmonious society.