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A year on, Kawardha violence still haunts the Hindus, accuse Congress govt of Muslim appeasement: Ground report from Chhattisgarh

On October 3, 2021, a Muslim mob tore off a saffron flag in Kawardha that triggered violence against Hindus. A year later, questions remain unanswered.

Kawardha is a city and municipality in the district of Kabirdham, Chhattisgarh, India. At first glance, the city appears to be like any other small town in India. Such cities move at their own pace. There is no hustle and bustle like in major metropolitan areas. This city’s Dharma Dhwaja Chowk is home to the 108-foot-high saffron Mahaviri flag, which was unfurled last year after a Muslim mob allegedly uprooted and tore apart a saffron flag installed here. This location is also connected with Dr Raman Singh, the 22-year-old state’s Chief Minister for 15 consecutive years.

In October 2021, the city catapulted into the national spotlight. The reason was that a Muslim mob had uprooted and torn a saffron flag installed on the Karma Mata temple in the city. Durgesh Devangan, a Hindu youth who opposed it, was brutally beaten. This incident occurred on October 3, 2021. Following this, a 15-day curfew was imposed in Kawardha and the internet was snapped.

Essentially, the state’s Congress government led by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel did everything it could to keep the media and general public from learning about the situation in Kawardha following the communal violence that was ignited after a Muslim mob allegedly uprooted the Saffron flag and tore it apart.

The administration was also accused of taking unilateral action against Hindus. Following this catastrophe, Hindu saints and sadhus organized a massive religious procession and unfurled a 108 feet high saffron flag at the same place on Friday, 10 December, 2021.

Even after a year, Hindus in Kawardha are terrified

A year after the October 3 event, the administration of Kawardha is still under scrutiny. According to Kailash Sharma, working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Kabirdham district, “Hindus are still terrified as a result of that tragedy. Inside the city, there is a sense of terror. The police are refusing to cooperate. We are dissatisfied with the course of action pursued in this case. In a year, the cops had done nothing to placate the Hindus.” They blame the state’s Congress government and Kawardha MLA Mohammad Akbar for the crisis. Mohammad Akbar is also a Baghel government minister.

Role of Congress minister Md Akbar in the Kawardha violence called into question

Speaking to OpIndia, Durgesh’s father, Santosh Devangan, blamed Mohammad Akbar for the incident. “It was entirely the fault of the MLA,” he explained. MLA Md Akar’s son was also present among the assaulters who ruthlessly thrashed my child,” he exclaimed.

Santosh Devangan was also displeased with the police response in this case thus far. He alleged that the accused are pressuring him to step down and reach a settlement.

Regarding Mohammad Akbar’s role in this incident, BJP state general secretary and local district panchayat chairman Vijay Sharma also raised serious doubts. He told OpIndia, “On October 3, at around 2 pm, Durgesh was beaten up in full public view at the Dharma Dhwaja Chowk. Despite this, the police did not register an FIR against the perpetrators. We went to the police station at 11 pm to urge the officials present there to register the FIR. At that time several, senior police and government officials were also present at the PS. Despite this, there was a delay in registering the FIR. Meanwhile, the police, instead of cracking down on the perpetrators of violence, chose to thrash the Hindus present at the scene. All of this was taking place at the behest of Mohammad Akbar,” the BJP leader alleged.

From Left to right- BJP State General Secretary Vijay Sharma, VHP District Working President Kailash Sharma and Baghel Government Minister Mohammad Akbar

Was the Kawardha violence a pre-planned ploy to target Hindus?

Kailash Sharma, the working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Kabirdham district told OpIndia that the incident of violence that took place in Chhattisgarh’s Kawardha city on October 3, last year, appeared to be a premeditated ploy to target the Hindus residing there. “The desecration of the saffron flag was pre-planned. Previously too, such instances have occurred in Kawardha, as a result of which the Hindus, who constitute the majority in the locality, have always felt threatened,” said Kailash Sharma.

He went on to say that the saffron flag put on the Karma Mata shrine was yanked off in front of the police and local authorities. “The saffron flag was trampled. Attempts were made openly to assassinate Durgesh Devengan when he denounced the desecration of the saffron flag. Following this, angry Islamists went on the rampage, brandishing 300-400 swords in a show of strength. They also hurled stones at the police station. The Hindus were forced to flee after being pelted with stones,” Sharma informed.

According to Vijay Sharma, Durgesh was beaten up at the Chowk in the presence of the then-Kawardha PS incharge and his subordinates. Speaking further about the horrific attack on Durgesh, Sharma claimed that some cops had only saved Durgesh’s life by pulling him in and closing the shutter of a nearby shop.

Durgesh’s father Santosh Devangan, who regretted of not being present when his son was assaulted, recalled that the accused had some previous disagreements with his son because of his affiliation with Hindutva organisations.

Durgesh Devangan’s family members are devout Hindus

The Devangan family’s adherence to Hinduism is evident in their shop. This family owns a small grocery store. The name of the Hindu god Ram is written on the shop’s signboard, while the picture of the Hindu god Hanuman is painted on their’s shop’s shutter. Durgesh’s mother greeted us with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ when we arrived at their store. Durgesh was incidentally, not in town on the day we visited his shop.

Durgesh Devagan’s grocery shop and his family members

According to Durgesh’s father, “We had no idea where or in what condition our son was after the October 3rd assault. A curfew has been imposed in this area. A police force was stationed outside our house. When we inquired about our son, the cops merely answered, “He will return.” We found out only later that the Chhattisgarh police had arrested our son Durgesh Devangan and Prahlad Sahu in the Kawardha violence case in Mana, Raipur district.

The father recalled how the police had severely battered Durgesh. Notably, the same was reported at the time of his detention. Santosh Pandey, a BJP MP from Rajnandgaon at the time, told OpIndia, “I learnt that Durgesh Devangan was assaulted by cops in the police station.” On the evening of October 19th, I went to the police station to see Durgesh, but I was not allowed to meet with Durgesh him.

One year on residents of Karwadha still displeased with police and administration

Even after a year, the disappointment and anger with the police response in handling the Karwadha violence case were palpable among the residents. Vijay Sharma, who was also among the Hindus who were detained by the Chhattisgarh police at the time of the violence, claimed, “We don’t trust the administration. How will his subordinate pursue the case if the SP, himself, was assaulting innocents with batons and rods? We were requesting a judicial probe at the time, and we are still doing so now.” We want to know, why the FIR was not registered then? Who gave the order for the lathi charge? On whose behest the Hindus were arrested? How come those innocent Hindus who were not even in Kawardha on the day of the incident, were made accused in the case? Whose idea was it to impose fake sections on Hindus? questioned Sharma, expressing his vexation against the Congress administration in the state.

Recalling the horrific October 3rd attack on Hindus in Kawardha and the Congress administration’s subsequent cover-up, Sharma alleged that the curfew was imposed solely to mislead the public that Hindutva parties such as the BJP and VHP are stirring up trouble and disrupting the environment.

“The situation in the entire Kabirdham district is becoming volatile due to administrative apathy,” Kailash Sharma stated. As a result, the VHP has declared that apostates and those who eat beaf shall be denied access to all temples in Kabirdham.

“In light of this. we are visiting temples and hoisting flags. We want to see an awakening in Hindu society, and for them to be prepared to fight extremists.”

Durgesh Devangan, who was assaulted by the rabid Islamists, is also involved in the VHP’s drive to install banners at temples. Bajrang Dal workers, led by him, hung these banners on September 25, 2022, at the local Maa Danteshwari Temple, Maa Chandi Mandir, Maa Parmeshwari Mandir, Maa Singh Vahini Temple, Khedapati Dada Hanuman Mandir, and Maa Kali Mandir, he informed.

Durgesh Devangan reached Maa Singh Vahini temple with Bajrang Dal workers to put up banners

Who was going about Karwadha brandishing swords?

The government repression of Hindus, which began in Kawardha on 3 October 2021, appears to have continued even after a year. Vijay Sharma links this to the Congress’ Muslim appeasement agenda.

He maintained that “Islamic fundamentalism rose throughout the state since the Congress assumed power.” This situation deteriorated in Kawardha only after Mohammad Akbar was elected, Sharma further said. If this is not the case, why has no action been taken against individuals who were wandering the streets wielding swords, even after the video of the October 3rd violence against Hindus went viral? Who were these people? This is a question that not only Kawardha residents, but every Hindu, wants an answer to, asserted Sharma.

Note: The above report was originally published in Hindi. You can read it here.

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