THE CITY heaved a sigh of relief as the ‘aarti’ at the Hanuman Chabutara, Karbala Maidan, passed off without any major incident amidst heavy police presence Tuesday night.
The police had to fire teargas shells and lathi-charge a mob of Muslim youths in Jairampur Colony, situated behind the Collectorate, at around 9.30 pm when they suddenly went berserk and started throwing stones and overturning vehicles.
They also set on fire to two wheelers. The police drove them back up to Moti Tabela even as the retreating mob overturned some two-wheelers and damaged cars parked on the roadside.
One of the damaged vehicles belonged to a press photographer. There were also reports that some people had entered a multi-storeyed building, which created panic among residents.
After the mild lath charge, the police started getting the Karbala Maidan area vacated and when the crowd had thinned down they brought in members of Dharma Raksha Samiti for the ‘aarti’. They were brought to the area under police protection, made to enter inside the Hanuman Chabutara, which had been covered with a tin shed, and escorted out after the ‘aarti’.
There was tension throughout the evening and there were moments when it appeared that a major clash was imminent, but the administration represented by Collector Vivek Aggrawal and SP Anshuman Yadav, who were present at the spot throughout, managed to stave off an ugly confrontation.
Tuesday being the last day of Muharram, when Tazias are immersed at the Karbala Maidan, thousands of Muslims had congregated at the Maidan. The ongoing fair at the Maidan was an added attraction. But the announcement by members of the Dharma Raksha Samiti that they would hold ‘aarti’ in evening at the Hanuman Chabutra had lead to fears of likely confrontation. More so due to the series of minor communal incidents that occurred in various parts of the City during the past week or so.
Though all Tazias had been immersed well before 8 pm, there was tension in the air. All the policemen were in battle gear, the Varun (that throws water) was stationed near the Hanuman Chabutra. The Rapid Action Force personnel only showed that the administration meant business.
Despite all the preparation, at around 7.30 pm, an hour before the scheduled start of the ‘aarti’, a large number of Muslim youths congregated near the Hanuman Chabutra chanting slogans of ‘Hai Hassan – Hai Hussain’, and kept on moving towards the Chabutara.
The police promptly went into action and drove away the youths, but they congregated once again and started coming from the side of the Collectorate, forcing police to drive them away again. This cat and mouse game continued for nearly two hours, even as Collector Vivek Aggrawal and SP Anshuman Yadav tried to reason with the members of the community.
At one point, Collector Vivek Aggrawal got on the stage erected by the Karbala Committee and appealed to the Muslims to maintain peace. He said, “my prestige, the prestige of the Collector of Indore is in your hands, please do not let me down.
Your security is my responsibility.” When some of the youths shouted that some of their brethren were still in jail, Aggrawal said that he would see that all were released immediately.
Interestingly, there were hardly any children, or old men or for that matter women at the Karbala grounds, and every fourth youth had a baseball bat with him. Evidently, everyone was aware that the situation would be tense tonight.