Sangli rages with riots
By: Sanjeev Devasia
Largescale communal violence stalls Ganesh immersion at Miraj, a small town in the district |
Known for its sitar manufacturing industry, Miraj, a communally sensitive town adjoining Sangli in Sangli district has been burning for the last few days. A majority of the Ganesh mandals have not immersed Lord Ganesha's idols following large-scale violence in the town and also in Sangli district.
The district is the hometown of several top leaders of the state including Home Minister Jayant Patil, former Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil and Revenue Minister Patangrao Kadam.
It all began after a temporary arch was put up by local mandals dominated by the saffron alliance party sympathisers including Shiv Sena activists and BJP MLAs. The arch displayed a scene of the slaying of Afzal Khan by Chhatrapati Shivaji. Permission to put up this arch was earlier denied by the district administration fearing that it would lead to tension. However, senior Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote visited Sangli and pressurised the district administration to grant permission. All hell broke loose, when members of the minority community protested against the scene on the arch on Wednesday. Some tore off the cloth on the arch setting off stone pelting and clashes with the police. In the melee, members of the minority community are said to have thrown stones inside a Ganesh mandal.
Large-scale violence spread across Sangli and other parts of the district. The administration had failed to anticipate this kind of violence. According to local journalists and residents, there has been a definite attempt to rake in political mileage from these incidents. "This is a game of the politicians and the commoners are being affected by the violence," says Shyam Kamble, an NGO worker. "No politician has come forward to resolve the dispute, but no religion teaches us to throw stones on idols. It is the worst violence I have ever seen," says Shabbir Patel, a real estate agent.
The Miraj assembly constituency has undergone changes and has now been reserved for the scheduled castes. Traditionally, the assembly segment was allocated to the Shiv Sena in the seat sharing between the Sena and the BJP. However, a BJP MLA, Suresh Khade from the same district has been allegedly showing interest in the constituency. Sources claimed that the BJP was prepared to demand the seat and the Sena wanted to steal the show by raking up an issue. The Home Minister is camping in the district and has held a meeting with heads of the Ganesh mandals.
Police officials and locals claim that the violence seem to be an attempt to target Superintendent of Police Krishna Prakash, who is an efficient and clean officer. Fundamentalist elements and anti-social elements in the district have an axe to grind with the SP, who has cracked down on illegal activities in Sangli.