The local police allowed violence to escalate in Dhule during a communal clash on January 6 and then systematically targeted the Muslim community killing six people, claimed a report by a team of activists.
On Sunday, a team comprising — social activist Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD, New Delhi, Ram Puniyani of All India secular Forum, professor Apoorva Anand of Delhi University, advocate Nihalsing Rathod of Human Rights Law Network, and several others — visited the town to investigate the violence, the third in the region since 2008.
“Based on our interaction with victims, leaders, locals and officials, there is no doubt about the police’s connivance in the violence,” alleged Hashmi. “All six who died were Muslims, and the police shot people above the waist, with a clear intention to kill rather than disperse the mob.”
Director general of police (Maharashtra) Sanjeev Dayal said that the state government had already announced an inquiry into the clash, which will establish the facts.
The team said they also examined video recordings taken by locals on their mobile phones that showed officials attacking houses and even overturning water containers in a region affected by water shortage during the curfew that followed the clash.
Negating the police defence that several officials too were injured in the attacks, Punyani said, “According to the records of the civic hospital, 151 police personnel were taken to the hospital on January 6 of which 133 were discharged immediately, and all cases were described as ‘minor’.”
As per testimonies collected by the team, the incident was triggered after a Muslim auto driver was beaten by the owner of an eatery in Macchi Bazar. “When the driver went to the police station to file a complaint, the officials were hostile and did not register his complaint, following which a mob gathered and people started pelting stones,” said Hashmi. “It was not a Hindu-Muslim issue, but the police only let the violence escalate,” she said.
Activists condemned the civic administration for not providing relief to the affected on time, and also criticised chief minister Prithviraj Chavan for ordering a judicial probe only on Tuesday.