What led to communal clashes in Jharkhand’s Palamu? 

Security personnel patrol after a clash between two groups at Panki, in Palamu district of Jharkhand on February 15. | Picture: PTI

The administration imposed section 144 and snapped the internet after a dozen people got injured in communal clashes that also saw two houses, six vehicles and shops damaged in the fire. 

TCN Special Correspondent 

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RANCHI (JHARKHAND) – On February 15, a dozen people including policemen were injured and two houses, six vehicles and shops were set on fire after communal clashes broke out over the dispute related to installation of a gate for Shivratri celebrations in Panki town of Jharkhand’s Palamu.

The clashes started at around 8 am on Wednesday (February 15) when the Shivratri puja committee members came face to face with members of the minority community, who were allegedly opposing the installation of the gate near the mosque on the road.

The situation soon went out of control, with both sides resorting to violence, stone pelting and arson. Around a dozen persons including policemen, who rushed to contain the violence, were injured.

The situation was brought under control after heavy police forces were deployed in the affected areas. Section 144 was imposed and internet service was suspended.

“The nature of the incident may lead to law and order breakdown in parts of the state and it was expedient to temporarily suspend internet services (all types) in the district of Palamu to prevent its use by miscreants to spread rumours,” read a notice issued by Jharkhand government’s home department concerning internet suspension.

On Thursday, the police also conducted flag marches in the affected area. Reports said that around a dozen people from both communities were detained following the clash.

“The situation in Palamu is now stable and has been controlled. With the overnight patrolling of the police teams, people here were made to follow the imposed rule of section 144, hence no movement was seen here,” Palamu executive magistrate, Prashant Kumar, was quoted by ANI as saying.

Khan Mahboob, a local journalist, told TwoCircles.net that 12-13 persons from both sides were arrested after being identified through videos and photos.

Talking about the clashes, he said that the dispute started on Tuesday (February 14) when the welcome gate (Toran duar) for the yearly celebration of Mahashivratri was being erected near a mosque. Members of the Muslim community opposed the action and informed the local police.

“Muslims pointed out that this is the first time this gate is being erected here. Since the Shivratri celebrations were a few days away, there were chances that the gate could be damaged and posters could be removed by some miscreant elements. There were apprehensions of trouble,” said Mahboob.

According to him, the police officials asked the Shivratri organizers to inform the local administration as they were erecting the toran gate for the first time near the mosque. However, the organizers insisted that they can solve the issue through cooperation and communal harmony. The police officials said that it is better if it is resolved with mutual understanding and called ten people from both sides the next day at 10 am for a meeting.

Before the meeting, a message was circulated in the night asking all santanis to gather in the area where the erection of the gate was facing objection. The message was projected as “Dharm Bachao, Izzat Bachao”.

On Wednesday morning, a large number of people gathered and started erecting the gate. Members from the minority Muslim community objected to this and informed the police. However, clashes broke out before the police arrived at the site. Stones were pelted from both sides.

“The police forces tried to control the clashes at that time but there was a shortage of forces. The stone pelting continued. They started damaging shops belonging to the members of the Muslim community, and around 5-6 shops, vehicles and two houses were set on fire. These properties belong to members of the Muslim community,” said Mahboob.

Meanwhile, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi held the Jharkhand ruling party responsible for the violence and saw the role of Sangh Parivar in the entire incident.

“This was a conspiracy hatched by Sangh Parivar. The Parivar has succeeded in its goal while the government has failed in maintaining law and order. The entire blame for the incident is on the ruling party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM),” he said while talking to the media.

“The entire incident must be probed and the culprits must be arrested,” he added.