Wielding lathis, police in Maharashtra's Kolhapur on Wednesday dispersed hundreds of protesters after they pelted stones during a demonstration against the alleged use of Tipu Sultan's image along with an objectionable audio message as social media “status” by a few locals, an official said. In view of the protest, internet services have been suspended till Thursday in Kolhapur, a senior police official said.
While personnel from the State Reserve Police Force have been deployed in the city in western Maharashtra, police have sought more cops from Satara, he said.
Prohibitory orders have been issued till June 19 banning the assembly of five or more persons, he said.
As there was a possibility that a few groups of protesters may go to the neighbouring Sangli district, police are put on alert and prohibitory orders may be issued.
Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis wondered if there was any link between the statement of a leader from the Opposition camp about likely riots and the subsequent "glorification" of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan.
Tension rose in Kolhapur city on Tuesday after two men allegedly put 18th-century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan's image along with an offensive audio message as their social media “status”.
A group of right-wing activists demanded action against both men following which a case was registered, said another official. Police registered another FIR on Tuesday evening and arrested seven persons after more protests were held, the official said.
The protesters again hit the streets on Wednesday.
“Some organisations had called for a Kolhapur bandh and their members gathered at Shivaji Chowk today. After their demonstration ended, the crowd began to disperse but some miscreants started throwing stones, forcing police to use force against these people to disperse them,” said Kolhapur superintendent of police Mahendra Pandit.
He said force and teargas were used only after stones were hurled at houses and vehicles damaged.
Kolhapur district collector Rahul Rekhawar said the situation is under control and additional police forces have been brought in.
Dipak Kesarkar, the district guardian minister, said that action has been taken against those who had used Tipu Sultan's image along with an objectionable audio message.
Fadnavis told reporters that statements of some politicians fearing a riot-like situation in the state and a section of people of a particular community glorifying Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan cannot be a mere coincidence.
His reaction came against the backdrop of some youths displaying photos of 17th Century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in a procession in Ahmednagar and tension in Kolhapur city.
He said the acts of glorifying Mughal emperor Aurangzeb will not be tolerated in Maharashtra.
Fadnavis said he was surprised that in Kolhapur, a chief leader of the opposition said that he was aware that riots will happen.
"After his statement, some youth there glorified Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan, and thereafter comes a reaction. Is there a connection between the statement and the incidents? We are conducting a probe into who is glorifying Aurangzeb and who is provoking people to do so. Once the probe is over, I will reveal those things," he said.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has appealed for peace and said nobody should law into their hands.
Against the background of the incidents in Ahmednagar and Kolhapur, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has claimed "religious colour" was being given to some small issues and the ruling parties are encouraging such things, which he said is a cause of concern.
"Recently we heard about Ahmednagar. Today, I saw news from Kolhapur. People came out on roads, and giving religious colour to a small incident of sending a message over the phone is not a good sign. The ruling parties are encouraging such things," he alleged.
Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole has demanded the resignation of Fadnavis alleging he has failed to handle the law and order situation and also cited the alleged rape and murder of a collegian in a Mumbai hostel.
At Sangamner in Ahmednagar district, stones were hurled during a rally of Sakal Hindu Samaj two days back in response to the alleged murder of a boy.
Two persons were injured and five vehicles were damaged.
Separately, a poster of Aurangzeb was displayed with the raising of objectionable slogans during a religious procession, also in Sangamner, the police had said.