Communal tension prevailed in the city on Monday, with a BJP politician throwing an open challenge to the Muslim community over the murder of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader last week.
“Instead of these random incidents, why don’t they clash with us once and for all to settle the matter?” thundered Fatehpur Sikri MP Choudhary Babulal, indicating that the issue was far from resolved.
Arun Mahaur, vice president of Agra’s VHP unit, was shot dead in the communally sensitive Mantola locality on February 25.
Also keeping police and administrative officials on their toes were the communally charged speeches allegedly delivered at a meeting held at Jaipur House by various saffron organisations – including the Bajrang Dal, VHP and the BJP – on Sunday to condole Mahaur’s death. Though BJP MP and Union minister Ram Shankar Katheria was present at the event, he denied making any provocative statement himself. “We didn’t hold the programme, and there were angry leaders from various outfits. I did not speak against the minority community… I only demanded that the killers of Arun Mahaur be hanged,” he told HT.
Firebrand leader Sadhvi Prachi also allegedly joined the other Hindu leaders in vowing to avenge Mahaur’s killing.
Muslim leaders, however, responded with restraint. “We know that parties like the BJP are planning incidents of largescale violence before the 2017 assembly elections, and this is all part of an orchestrated effort,” alleged Amir Ahmed, a lawyer.
“They succeeded in Muzaffarnagar, and now they want a repeat performance here. Muslims should maintain peace to foil their designs,” he added.
Haji Jamilluddin Qureshi, a Muslim leader, echoed Ahmed’s thoughts. “Sensible Hindus wouldn’t agree with the language used against Muslims during the condolence meet at Jaipur House,” he said. He, however, cautioned Hindu leaders against taking Muslims for granted.
Naved Athar Siddiqui, another resident, said that though both Hindus and Muslims wanted to co-exist in harmony, a handful of extremists were “bent on stoking communal passions”.