At a time when political parties are busy campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, the Barelivi and Deobandi schools of Muslims are fighting to gain control of a building in Bhasua village in the state’s backward Chamba district.
Brewing tension between the Barelvi and Deobandi Muslims took an ugly turn on Saturday, when more than 10 villagers were injured in a clash between the two factions.
Both the Deobandis and Barelvi Muslims have staked their claim on a two-storey building, which was being used by ‘Anjuman Islamia’, a religious body working for the welfare of the local Muslim community. The building is said to have been constructed 20 years ago.
The Deobandis and the Barelvis have been struggling to gain control of the local chapter of the Anjuman Islamia. In the wake of tension in the village, residents had decided to hold fresh elections for the Anjuman Islamia management and polling was held on March 30.
However, the faction led by local Barelvi Muslim Farooq Bhatt did not participate in the election, since he termed them “undemocratic”.
Muslims supporting the Deobandi school managed to gain control of the Anjuman Islamia.
On Saturday, tension ran high in the village when both factions tried to gain control of the building.
Villagers, who owed allegiance to the groups, gathered at the building and an incident of stone pelting triggered a violent clash. Cross-FIRs were registered by both groups in the Kihar police station.
“Nearly 10 villagers have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for rioting and attempting to cause damage to the property,” Chamba superintendent of police DK Chaudhary told Hindustan Times over the telephone. “In the wake of prevailing tension, police patrols have been deputed in the area to keep a vigil on both groups,” he added. The central intelligence agencies had earlier warned the local administration and asked them to take preventive measures to diffuse tension.
The local administration has now sealed the building. “We have sealed the building and are keeping watch on the situation,” sub-divisional magistrate Salooni Malok Singh said on the telephone.
Since Lok Sabha polls are round-the-corner, the local Congress leader is said to be backing Deobandi Muslims in the area.
This is not for the first time that the Deobandis (radicals) and the moderate Barelvis have clashed with each other. Both groups had recently fought over a mosque property in Sirmour district.