[Petrol, kerosene, stones and catapult were used during riots, and were collected and stored on the terrace of multi-storey buildings, the fact finding team said in its report. (PTI photo)]
Aurangabad (Maharashtra): In yet another indication that the anti-Muslim riots in Aurangabad, Maharashtra was pre-planned, a fact finding team comprising of members of civil society claimed that an hour before rioters started looting and setting ablaze properties and shops belonging to Muslims, electricity in the area was cut off and CCTV cameras were shut down.
"This was done to save the rioters", the fact finding team claimed after visiting riot hit areas of Aurangabad - the historic city in Marathvada region of Maharashtra which was the seat of power during Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
“Electricity in Moti-Karanja had been cut off from 10 pm in the night 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”, the Aurangabad Riots Fact Finding Team led by Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan said.
“All these again clearly points out that the rioters were prepared well in advance”, the team said.
The Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan committee went to Aurangabad and met with the victims, eyewitnesses, police and locals. Based on their accounts, 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.
The Shahgunj area was the epicentre of the communal violence on the intervening night of 11 and 12 May. Riots broke out at Shahgunj, Navabpura and Rajabazar in Central Aurangabad. It took the lives of two people – a 12-year-old boy and a senior citizen. Over 200 people were injured and there was loss of property worth ten crores, according to reports.
“Petrol, kerosene, stones and catapult were used during riots, and were collected and stored on the terrace of multi-storey buildings”, the fact finding team said in its report. The report also talks about how a number of Hindu and Muslim shopkeepers of Shahganj Vyapari Sangh had filed a complaint with the City police station on May 7 against Lacchu Pahelwan and hooligan collaborators for beating, threatening and trying to instigate the communal riot. In their complaint the shopkeepers had also demanded security from Lachu Pahelwan and his hooligan collaborators.
“Even after their complaint, no stop was put to their activities”, the report said.
Speaking to the fact finding team the people have said that the cause of the riots wasn’t the removal of illegal water supply as there were more than 35,000 illegal water connections between Kranti chowk to Shahganj areas and in whole of the city near about 1 lakh 20 thousand illegal water connections were there.
The report singled 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 of Muslims. Farid Iqbal and his colleague, a resident of that area (Moti Karanja) had long before the civic body’s drive 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”, the fact finding team observed in its report.
The second incident is about 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 the mango seller. People gathered there tried to save the mango seller and forced Lacchu Pahelwan’s nephew to leave that place. After that Pahelwan came and publicly threatened to burn down shops and on May 11 he acted upon his threat and those shops were burnt down", the report said.
The report also noted 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 100-year-old building because the owner of the building was a Muslim. “While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offered financial support to the Hindu tenants, they did not extend the same to the Muslim tenants”, the reports observed. The report also called the riot a political attack as Shiv Sena MP 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 all participated in this attack”, the report said.
Noting that the role of police during the riots was an “exhibition of extreme Muslim-Hate”, the report observed, “During the riots, only one community faced the police bullets. The number of injured is more in the same community. But, post-riot combing operation is also targeted against the Muslims. Even the number of arrest is higher among Muslims.”
Veera Sathidar, a member of Fact Finding Committee of Human Rights Activists, also reiterated that the riots were pre-planned and illegal water connection is nothing but a cover up. “Preparation for the violence was going on for the last one month and residents in the area were aware about stones, catapults and petrol bombs being collected in the terraces of many buildings in the area”, he said even as Muslims in the riot hit areas are living in fear of arrest as police combing operation is still on.
“Sena leader Lachchu Pehlwan, who has been arrested by police for involvement in riots, had been trying to establish control in this area by targeting the minority community for a while now. On May 7 and 11, a team of local shopkeepers both Muslim and Hindu, had given a letter to the police saying that Pehlwan had been trying to create tensions through his goons. There was an altercation between two groups of shop-keepers and hawkers but it was sorted out. However Pehlwan tried to provoke these groups again”, Veera said.
Contesting the police report, he said, “The police say that drive of removing illegal water connections led to riots. Locals told us that illegal water connections exist all across the city and for many years. Local Muslims have already asked the corporation to cut those connections. This reason is a cover-up.”
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