Since 10th October, hushed conversation and anonymous tips flooded my messages. There were several people talking about unrest in Sahibgunj, Jharkhand. However, nobody wanted to speak about it openly. The information was hard to come by. Attempts to reach the SP and DM of Sahibgunj failed miserably. News has not finally trickled in that there was indeed unrest between the Hindu and Muslim community of Sahibgunj that started with the Durga Puja visarjan procession. While the information has finally come in, the versions by both the Hindu and Muslim communities regarding what transpired that day vary vastly.
What the Muslim community of Sahibgunj says:
The Muslim community of Sahibgunj says that on the day of the procession when the Krishna Nagar Durga Puja procession was passing through the Sahibgunj college, a Hindu youth entered the shop of a Muslim man and attacked the store with a sword. The sword hit the counter of the shop and the shopkeeper allegedly escaped narrowly. This was, according to the Muslim community, done because the Muslim shopkeeper had refused to give ‘chanda’ for the Durga Puja. The Puja committee rejects these claims flatly.
The Muslim community also alleges that while the visarjan procession was passing through a Muslim dominated lane, the Hindu youths shouted ‘provocative statements’ and even played ‘provocative songs’ in the procession.
The Muslim community further claims that the Hindus were bursting firecrackers during the visarjan procession and that was damaging their property. There are several allegations from the Muslim community of Hindus attacking the house and shops of the Muslims. Though no injury in the process has been reported, the Muslims have alleged that the Hindus even attacked the front of their Mosque with swords, damaged shops, threw the merchandise our and destroyed property belonging to the Muslim residents.
What the Hindu community of Sahibgunj, celebrating Durga Puja says:
The Hindu community of Sahibgunj says that the Muslim community pelted stones at the Dussehra procession after they took offence to the music being played during the procession. The Hindu community thus retaliated after the Muslim community started pelting stones at the Durga Puja visarjan procession. The stone-pelting started when the Durga Puja visarjan procession proceeded from Bata road towards LC road of Sahibgunj.
Prabhat Khabar, a local newspaper has also reported that before the procession reached LC road too, there was stone-pelting that was reported on an Arya Samaj temple right before the Muslim area starts in Sahibgunj. While as of now, there is no evidence to suggest this is true, the claims have been reported by the local media.
According to the Hindus, it was only after the stone-pelting by the Muslim community that the Hindu community retaliated and a fight between both Hindus and Muslims ensued.
Talking to local journalists, OpIndia gathered that while the Hindu community were raising Jai Shree Ram slogans, the Muslim community were raising Allah-hu-Akbar and Naara-e-Taqbeer slogans while the Durga puja visarjan procession passed the Muslim dominated areas.
Police calm situation at Sahibgunj after Durga Puja unrest
As soon as the police got wind of the clashes in Sahibgunj, several police officers along with RAF were deployed in the area. According to local journalists, the police did lathi charge and tear gas was also used to control the situation. Thereafter, the police halted the Puja procession and later, in the night, escorted the Durga Murti for visarjan. When the police reached the area, the procession was also asked to stop playing music.
After getting the situation under control, the police conducted extensive flag marches in the area to ensure that no further fight breaks out between the two communities.
On Friday 11th October, according to a report in Dainik Jagran, the Muslims of the area protested by keeping their shops closed. Interestingly, it is on Friday itself that the SP had called representatives of the Hindu and Muslim community for peace talks. According to this report, the Muslim community boycotted the meeting and demanded that the SP hold the meeting at LC road itself. It was after this demand that the SP of Sahibgunj reached LC road and help peace talks between the Hindu and Muslim community.
SP of Sahibgunj sets new norms for religious processions including Durga Puja
According to a local media report in Prabhatkaran newspaper, the SP of Sahibgunj has set new norms for all religious processions in the area. The SP, while speaking to people from Shibgunj said that he will be setting a new norm where all religious processions can happen only in broad daylight. He also said that all processions would be confined to only one day.
Stone pelting the next day too
According to local reporters, while the peace meeting was being held by the SP of Sahibgunj, another incident of stone-pelting came to light, due to which the SP then cut short the peace meeting and headed to calm to the situation there on Friday.
According to a local journalist, this incident of stone-pelting occurred where the Durga Puja pandal was set up. The stone-pelting was initiated by the Muslim community and then, it says retaliation from the Hindu community too. According to a report in Prabhat Khabar, some rounds were also fired by the police to calm the situation. Once the situation was under control, there was heavy police presence deployed in the area.
Rumours make situations worse
The people of Sahibgunj started running scared after rumours in the wind that some youth were roaming around on bikes with weapons in Habibpur. Several rumours of scuffles also gathered wind from different parts of the city. To quell the rumours, the SP took out a flag march through the area with his police force and also instructed to take action if any misguided rumours were being spread.
A violent Dussehra for Hindus
While the Hindus celebrated the divinity, some Muslims were busy perpetrating violence on the devotees and desecrating their faith. In this article, we will highlight how in just two days, eight incidents of violence, stone-pelting on procession as well as breaking of idols of Maa Durga. Not only that, pieces of meat were also thrown on the route of the procession. Many devotees fast during the nine days of Navratri and give up on consumption of meat and alcohol.
You can read about the 8 attacks perpetrated against Hindus in 2 days here.