Rattled by the emerging evidence that police resorted to indiscriminate firing at a mosque, the Congress-led government removed the Bharatpur Collector and the Superintendent of Police and decided to hand over the inquiry into Wednesday's violence in Gopalgarh to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also announced a judicial inquiry into the incidents in the eastern Rajasthan town by a retired High Court Judge at a high-level meeting here late on Friday night.
Curfew in Gopalgarh was relaxed for five hours on Saturday amid opposition to the continued presence of Special Task Force and Rajasthan Armed Constabulary.
With the official death toll in the violence going up to eight, Mr. Gehlot said at the meeting that one member each from the families of the deceased would be given a government job. The State Government has asked Collector Krishna Kunal and SP Hinglaj Dan to wait for their new posting orders.
According to official sources here, Barmer Collector Gaurav Goyal and Chittorgarh SP Vikas Kumar have been posted at Bharatpur. The situation in the town was described as “peaceful and limping back to normality.”
The violence in Gopalgarh has come as an embarrassment for the ruling Congress which is facing charges of failure to provide justice to the victims of a series of communal incidents at Balesar, Sarada, Manohar Thana and Maheshpura in the past two years.
Independent investigations by civil rights groups in the past couple of days have revealed that policemen, deployed for controlling a clash between Meo Muslims and Gujjars over a piece of land, allegedly joined the latter in firing at Muslims. Police have also been accused of suppressing and destroying evidence of their complicity in the crimes against the minority community. A team of Anhad (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) from Delhi reportedly saw smoke and smelled stench at a place where they were told that policemen had burnt several bodies of victims.
Abdul Rehman (65), who succumbed to his wounds at the Sawai Man Singh Hospital here on Friday, was attacked with a sharp-edged weapon when he was performing “Wazu” (ablution) at the mosque. A PUCL team from Jaipur visiting Gopalgarh also came across stories of police firing, petrol being thrown at people, youngsters missing and police threatening Meos.
National Integration Council member Navaid Hamid told The Hindu after visiting Gopalgarh that the police had acted in a “completely partisan and biased manner” in dealing with the situation.
“There can be no justification for killing innocent people and ransacking the mosque. It was our team which found two charred bodies in a well [situated] near the mosque.”
The 11 injured persons admitted to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital described the firing as similar to a police operation against criminals holed up in a building. Haroon, 35, who was hit in the eye by a bullet, said the policemen first sprayed bullets from outside and then stormed into the mosque along with Gujjars, stabbing the people with weapons and setting them afire with inflammable material.
The Rajasthan Muslim Forum has described the removal of the Bharatpur Collector and SP as “grossly inadequate” action and demanded their immediate suspension. “The Gopalgarh incident is a stigma on Rajasthan. It adds a horrifying chapter to the history of communal incidents and warrants intervention by the Union government,” said Jamat-e-Islami Hind national secretary Mohammed Salim.
Keywords: Bharatpur violence