Raipur, Oct 9 (PTI) The ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh on Saturday blamed the BJP for the violence in Kawardha town of the state early this week and said the saffron party wants to do the politics of communalism as it has "run out of issues". Addressing a press conference here, three senior ministers of state, however, admitted a “minor lapse” on part of the local administration to check the entry of a large number of people in Kawardha from outside ahead of the violence despite section 144 of the CrPC was imposed.
On Tuesday, violence occurred in Kawardha, the headquarter of the Kabirdham district, during a rally organised by right-wing outfits in protest against a clash between the people belonging to two communities over the removal of religious flags from a thoroughfare in the town on October 3, causing destruction of properties. A curfew was imposed following the violence.
Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister Ravindra Chaubey said a large number of people from other districts, including Mungeli, Dhamtari, Rajnangaon, Bilaspur and others, had entered Kawardha on Monday and halted in schools and other places. He said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is of the view that the incident (of violence) appears to be sponsored by the BJP.
“Chhattisgarh is a peace-loving state and such kind of incident (of violence) is not forgiven here. Unfortunately, an incident of removal of a religious flag and fight between two persons was given a communal angle,” Chaubey said.
The Chief Minister has taken stock of the incident and directed the officials to take stern action against those who are being seen (instigating and committing violence) in the visuals of the incident, he added.
“As per reports, a large number of people from other districts including Mungeli, Dhamtari, Rajnangaon, Bilaspur and others, had entered Kawardha on the eve of Tuesday and were halted in schools and other places. It is needed to be ascertained on whose call they had reached the town and who had shifted them. The CM has said the incident appears to be sponsored by the BJP,” said Chaubey.
He was accompanied by Forest Minister Mohammad Akbar, the MLA from the Kawardha assembly constituency, and School Education Minister Premsai Singh Tekam.
Hitting out at the opposition party, Chaubey said “the BJP cannot find any issues to raise and tried to make (religious) conversion into an issue. That party is now trying to give communal colour to the Kawardha incident. The people of Chhattisgarh will never forgive them. The party has run out of issues and therefore it wanted to do politics on such issues”.
When asked whether the district administration and police failed to check the incident, Chaubey said, “indeed there was a minor lapse on the part of the administration. The incident could have been apparently stopped if they had strictly prevented the entry of a large number of people into the town (a day ahead of the violence).” Meanwhile, the curfew in Kawardha town was relaxed for four hours between 10 am to 2 pm from Saturday, officials said.
BJP MP Santosh Pandey, former MP Abhishek Singh were among some leaders of BJP who have been charged with rioting and other offences in an FIR filed in connection with the violence, police said.
Till Friday, 93 people, 24 of them hailing from outside the Kabirdham district, were arrested in connection with both the incidents - the October 5 violence and the October 3 clash, an official said.
The BJP alleged the Congress has "returned to its old business of appeasing Muslims and missionaries".
“The statement of ministers about the Kawardha incident is highly condemnable. It shows Congress has once again started its old business of appeasing Muslims and missionaries,” Chhattisgarh BJP president Vishnudeo Sai said in a statement.
It seems the government has reached a conclusion even before investigating the incident, he said.
The truth is that after coming to power, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is constantly playing in the hands of missionaries and religious elements due to his vested interests. By promoting all anti-Hindu activities, including conversion, Congress has made the state sit on a pile of gunpowder, he said.
A delegation of BJP leaders had met Governor Anusuiya Uikey in Raipur on Friday and sought a judicial probe into the Kawardha clash.