Aurangabad riots: Sardar Patel’s statue could be at the heart of communal tension
There has been a long-standing disagreement between two communities over the reinstatement of the statue.Updated: May 16, 2018 00:08 IST
The statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that stands in the middle of a prominent junction in Shahaganj, surrounded by 40 footwear shops, may have been the root cause of communal tension in Aurangabad, according to the police.
There has been a long-standing disagreement between members of one community, who want to reinstate the statue and beautify the surrounding area by demolishing these shops, and the owners belonging to another community.
Milind Bharambe, police commissioner, said, “It [the statue] is the main reason behind communal tension. It has been going on for long. Shopkeepers moved court and got the demolition stayed.”
The 40-odd shops surrounding the statue square were the first to be set on fire during the riots, after a brawl in the neighbouring Moti Karanja, a police official said. Since 2015, a Shiv Sena corporator from the area, Yashashri Bakhriya, has been pushing the civic body to demolish the shops. “The shop owners have encroached upon the municipal corporation land. They are within 15m of the statue. We plan to reinstate the statue which is in bad shape, clear the surrounding area and beautify it, but we have been facing opposition from the shop owners.”
Following notices of eviction from the municipal corporation, the shop owners got a stay order two weeks ago. “After this, we got communal threats,” said shop owner Mohammad Shakil .
Bakhriya wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, seeking his intervention. Laxmi Narayan Bakhriya, Shiv Sena leader and Yashashri’s father, said, “There shouldn’t have been any encroachment on it, when the statue is right behind it. The land was first owned by the collector. I got it transferred to the municipal corporation, so we could take action.”
Explaining why the statue matters, the corporator said, “Vallabhbhai Patel was the founding father of Aurangabad. He is very important to us.”
Then Union home minister Patel had stepped forward to annex Aurangabad, ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad, into the Union of India after 1947. The square in Shahaganj that has the statue was considered the main city centre of Nizam-ruled Aurangabad, and has the oldest mosque in the city adjoining it.