The failure of the Jhabua administration to arrest Petlawad blast main accused, Rajendra Kaswa, has fueled a backlash of sorts against the Jain community in the blast-devastated town.
Leading a campaign against the Jains, to which Kaswa belongs, the dominant Sirvi (Patel) community that forms 40% of the population has been raising their voice against what they describe as “Jain domination.”
The Sirvis recently vandalised the Mahavir Chowk, also known as Ahimsa Chowk-a square built at a prominent junction in Petlawad town-and renamed it as Shradhanjali Chowk (Homage Square) in memory of the people who died in the blast that ripped through the town on September 12.
Locals have also inscribed names of the victims on the black plaque at the square, giving it a shape of a memorial.
“There is anger among the residents after the blast. About 2,000 people from various communities gathered four days ago and dismantled the Ahimsa Chowk and renamed it as Shradhanjali Chowk in the memory of blast victims,” said Babulal Muleva, district president of Sirvi community.
Talking to HT over phone from Petlawad, Babulal said the memorial was built without any administrative sanction and marked a reign of people's anger.
“The administration has not been able to nab the main accused of the blast. We are 100% sure that Rajendra Kasawa is alive,” said Sohanlal Solanki, president of local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) unit. There is strong resentment among the members of the Sirvi community against administrative lapses that resulted in the blast.
“People are also angry that the administration has failed to catch the main culprit, who is responsible of hundreds of deaths,” said Solanki.
The Sirvis are a sub-caste of the Patel community and exercises considerable influence in the area. According to the president of the community, Babulal, 40% of the population in the town comprises of the Sirvi community.
“There are 2,022 voters from Sirvi community and estimated population is around 7,000,” he said, adding that seven people from the community died, while four were seriously injured in the blast.
“Holding entire community responsible for one man's act”
President of Shri Jain Samaj at Petlawad Lokesh Bhandari admitted that there was some resentment against the community. “One person (Rajendra Kaswa) was guilty for the blast, but people are holding the whole community responsible for it. It is strange,” said Bhandari.
He further said some miscreants were trying to take advantage of the situation to meet their political ends. Though there are an estimated 1,200 Jains in Petlawad, the community members hold most of the plush jobs in the area.
Sub divisional officer police, Petlawad, Rajesh Vyas confirmed the dismantling of Mahavir Chowk and its conversion into a memorial for the blast victims, but said there was no opposition to the move and therefore no action was required on behalf of the police.