Police drag saints into streets and resort to merciless lathicharge in Banaras. Tension is not over. More clashes are expected during Durga Puja.
Ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, due in 2017, Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party Government has started wooing the Muslims. The formula is the same—insult the Hindu saints. The same scene was witnessed in Banaras on the midnight of September 22 when policemen dragged senior saints for immersing Ganesh idol in the Ganga. Swami Avimukteshwarananda and many other senior saints were seriously injured in the police lathicharge and they were admitted to hospitals.
This is a fact that the Allahabad High Court on October 8, 2013 banned the immersion of idols in the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers in Uttar Pradesh. But the High Court never ordered to insult and drag the saints and devotees in such highly derogatory manner. In a democracy everyone is free to express one’s opinion. That is why the saints opposed the High Court directive from the day one. The local administration also did not prevent anyone immersing the idols into the Ganga last year. But this year it made full proof arrangement not to allow immersion of idols in the Ganga. The saints, however, remained adamant on their demand.
The clash began in the evening of September 21 when Sri Kashi Maratha Utsav Samiti saints and the devotees moved towards Dashaswamedh Ghat to immerse the Ganesh idol. But the police stopped them at Godowlia. Insisting on immersion into the Ganga the saints sat on dharna there only. Gradually, the local public also joined the protest. Local religious, cultural and social organisations also extended their support saying the long tradition of Kashi should not be stopped at all. They demanded permission from the administration. Even cremation of dead bodies was closed for some time at Manikarnikaghat in support of the demand of the saints. Hindu Yuva Vahini observed Banaras Bandh on September 22. They also took out a procession in the city demanding immersion of the idols in the Ganga. The bandh was influential in Godowlia, Dashaswamedh, Bansphatak, Vishwa-nath Street Chowk, Girjaghar and Jangambadi etc.
The Additional District Magistrate (ADM) of the city, Vindhyavasini Rai and Superintendent of Police (SP) Sudhakar Yadav, who had camped there, refused to allow the saints to do immersion. Rather they suggested to take the procession at alternative sites for immersions like Samneghat or the ponds of Company Bagh or Machhodari. But the saints refused the administration’s proposal. Mayor Ram Gopal Mohaley tried to intervene around midnight to end the crisis. However, on failing in his bid he accused the officials for complicating the issue by saying that if the administration was serious for ensuring compliance of HC order why the officials didn't stop the organisers from carrying out the procession towards Ganga from the puja venue.
The deadlock between district administration, police and Puja organisers continued till the evening of September 22. The situation turned very tense at midnight when the police started merciless lathicharge on the protesting saints and the devotees. Swami Avimukteshwarananda and many saints got injuries in the lathicharge. Not only this, the police forcefully took the Ganesh idol to Laksha and managed immersion into Lakshmi Kund at night itself. Swami Avimukteshwara-nanda has declared to conduct Kashi Parikrama to expose the government once he is recovered from his injuries. He said the State government is repeatedly insulting the Hindu sentiments.
Reports of tension over Ganesh immersion were received from other parts of the country also. In Karnataka, tension erupted at Mudhol town of Bagalkot District, about 500 km from Bengaluru on September 24 night as three shops were torched and vehicles damaged when a mob of Muslims attacked the Ganesh procession. The rioters indulged in brick-batting and pelting stones at the police force when they lathicharged the mob to control the situation. Heavy police force has been deployed to maintain peace in the area and Section 144 has been imposed by the police for three days. Clashes were also reported in Meerut at many places. n