Several towns in the communally sensitive Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh shut down on Thursday, raising allegations of Hindu right-wing organisations orchestrating the unofficial bandh during Eid celebrations.
Reports said the majority of business establishments in Neemuch, Javad and Manasa in Neemuch district and Mandsaur, Shyamgarh and Sitamau in Mandsaur district remained closed and people had a tough time even buying essential commodities on Thursday.
The two districts have a history of communal violence and sources said the RSS and its affiliated organisations circulated messages for the past one week asking people to protest alleged provocative statements made by a Muslim cleric.
HT could not independently verify the circulation of such messages, allegedly through mobile apps.
All these towns in western MP have sizeable Muslim populations.
But Neemuch SP Manoj Singh and collector Rajneesh Shrivastava denied shopkeepers were forced to close shops and said those who did not open their shops did so on their own volition. Shrivastava said there was no disturbance anywhere.
Such unannounced bandhs started a year back in Javad following stone pelting on a Hanuman Jayanti procession. There were also reports of a similar bandh in Neemuch during an earlier Muslim festival. The Congress submitted memoranda to the administrations of both districts against the bandh. Sources said some Congress members also tried to open some of the shops in Neemuch.
Congress leader Umrao Gurjar said that people belonging to RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal were behind this and BJP was pressuring the administration to look the other way. “This is an attempt to create animosity between communities,” he said.
VHP Neemuch district president Babulal Nagda, however, said the bandh was a “reaction of the common people against members of a particular community for previous incidents of stone pelting on Hindu religious processions and molestation of Hindu girls”.
RSS leaders were not available for comments.