AURANGABAD: Tensions have been brewing in the Moti Karanja district of Aurangabad since earlier this month as the municipal corporation was carrying out a drive against illegal water connections. It developed a communal angle when an illegal water connection at a place of worship of one community in the area was removed. In retaliation, members of that community destroyed a shrine of another community. The incident resulted in clashes across the city which snowballed and spread to several other areas of Aurangabad like Shahaganj and Chelipara.

The Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan committee went to Aurangabad and met with the victims, eyewitnesses, police and locals. Based on those meetings the fact finding committee concluded that though the riots started on May 11 midnight several people in Moti Karanja, Shahaganj, Nawabpura, Rajabazar and Gulmandi have revealed that preparation for the riot had begun much before. Petrol, kerosene, stones, catapult were used during riots and were collected and stored on the terrace of multi-storeyed buildings. The report also talks about how 21 Hindu and Muslim shopkeepers of Shahganj Vyapari Sangh had filed a complaint with the City police chowk on May 7 against Lacchu Pahelwan and hooligan collaborators for beating, threatening and trying to instigate the communal riot. They had also demanded security from Lachu Pahelwan and his hooligan collaborators. Even after their complain, no stop was put to the activities.

Indicating the riots planned nature, the report further says, “Electricity in Moti-Karanja had been cut off from night 10 p.m. that day and also the electricity in other places went off in many places during the riot. Many transformers were destroyed. CCTV cameras were shut down earlier to save the rioters. All these again clearly points out that the rioters were prepared well in advance. The report mentioned the Shiv Sena involvement and said, “All those leaders were Shiv Sena’s leaders. Local Member of Parliament(MP), Chandra Kant Khaire is visible in many video clips. MP Chandrakant Khaire openly admitted to journalists that due to Shiv Sena corporator Rajendra Janjal, his son and ex. MLA Pradeep Jaiswal son were rescued from the place of the incident. It is a clear admission to the fact that many Sena leader’s sons also participated in the attack.”

Speaking to the committee members the people have said that the cause of the riots wasn’t the removal of illegal water supply as there are more than 35,000 illegal water connections between Kranti chowk to Shahganj area and in whole city near about 1 lakh 20 thousand illegal water connections are there. The report singles out two incidents that triggered the outbreak.

On 9th may, the Municipal Corporation did not start their action either from Kranti chowk or Shahganj but started removing illegal water connections randomly in Moti-Karanja Chowk. They removed only four illegal water connection and all of them were Muslims. Farid Iqbal and his colleague, a resident of that area (Moti Karanja) had long before it submitted a memorandum to the Municipal Corporation regarding the removal of illegal water connections. It is quite clear that the violence had nothing to do with the issue of removal of illegal water connections.

There was a dispute between a mango seller and his customer which was resolved and both of them had even embraced each other. But soon nephew of Shiv Sena activist Lacchu Pahelwan came with 8-10 people and started beating that mango seller. People gathered there to save mango seller and they forced Lacchu Pahelwan’s nephew to leave that place. After that Pahelwan came and publicly threatened to burn down shops and on 11 May he acted upon his threat and those shops were burnt down.

The report further notes how the area of violence was a Muslim majority area and Hindu shops located in the area were not plundered or burnt. Attackers burnt down a hundred year old building because the owner of the building was Muslim. While the Bharatiya Janata Party offered financial support to the Hindu tenants they did not extend the same to the Muslim tenants. The report called this a political attack as Shiv Sena member Chandrakant Khaire directly participated in the attack. It is not a riot but pre-planned attack on one community and police, local administration and political leaders participated in this attack. It also said, “Former IAS Harsh Mander says that any riot which continues for more than four hours is a state-sponsored riot. In Aurangabad the attack continued from night 10 to morning. This attack would not have been possible and continued for so long period without state participation.”

Noting the “exhibition of extreme Muslim-Hate by the Police” the report states that “During this riot, only one community faced the police bullets. Combing operation is also targeted against the Muslims. The number of injured is more in the same community. Even the number of arrest is higher among Muslims. Compared to Muslims, the number of arrests or injured among the Hindus is very less.”

The report demanded the arrest of Chandrakant Khaire, the mastermind behind the attack, immediate action against the Home Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis as the Government of Maharashtra failed to maintain peace and security but also allowed four riots to continue. The fact finding report advocated for provision of financial aid of ? 50 lakh compensation to families of deceased members, ?5 lakh assistance should be given to people who were injured in police firing and ?2 lakh rupees to other injured. It further called for a high court inquiry into this and termination of combing operations.