After Baloda Bazar arson, Congress, ruling BJP trade charges in Chhattisgarh

The role of a little-known local outfit, Bhim Regiment, figures prominently in the police probe

Published - June 12, 2024 12:36 am IST - Baloda Bazar

Politics has taken centre stage after Monday’s incident where protesters from the Satnami community burnt down the Superintendent of Police office in Chhattisgarh’s Baloda Bazar district. While the ruling BJP and the Congress have blamed each other for the incident, the role of a little-known local outfit, Bhim Regiment, figures prominently in the police probe thus far.

A senior government official said that while the organisers even till late Sunday night had repeatedly assured the police and the district administration of a peaceful protest and submission of a memorandum against the desecration of a Jaitkham, a structure considered sacred by the Satnami community, last month, the crowd suddenly went berserk.

“However, the stones we recovered later or the petrol bombs they were carrying suggest a pre-planned conspiracy. They even changed the plan to first hold a rally at Dussera Maidan and then submit the memorandum at Garden Chowk, a kilometre away from the collectorate office. Our probe shows the Bhim Regiment members instigated the mob,” said the official.

The police or the district administration did not share much information on the Bhim Regiment, but it is learnt that their social media posts are also being scanned.

Meanwhile, in a late development on June 11, the State government removed both the Collector and the Superintendent of Police of Baloda Bazar. Deepak Soni, a 2011 batch IAS officer, will be the new Collector of Balodabazar-Bhatapara district in place of K.L. Chauhan. Sadanand Kumar, the local SP, was also shunted as a government order stated that IPS officer Vijay Agrawal will be the new SP of the district.

In another development, two State Ministers on Tuesday accused Congress leaders of instigating the crowd.

Addressing a press conference in Raipur, Food Minister Dayaldas Baghel and Revenue Minister Tank Ram Verma alleged that Congress leaders, including some MLAs, attended the demonstration of the Satnami community and the incident of arson and loot.

Congress leaders, including former Minister Guru Rudra Kumar, incumbent MLAs Devendra Yadav and Kavita Pranlahre, attended the demonstration, said the Ministers. They accused the Opposition leaders of “directly and indirectly encouraging the incident of arson and loot”.

“This incident was the result of a well-planned conspiracy of the Congress. A nefarious attempt was made to defame the Vishnu Deo Sai government. The support of external ideology like the Bhim Army was also taken in it,” the BJP leaders claimed.

The meeting was called in response to the desecration of a Jaitkham in Amar Gufa near Giraudpuri, which is the birthplace of Guru Ghasidas, the founder of the Satnam sect. Amar Gufa or cave is close to the Giraudpuri Dham, the biggest pilgrimage site for the Satnami sect followers, and is said to have derived its name from Baba Amardas, son of Guru Ghasidas who meditated there.

Three arrested

Since the desecration, the police arrested three persons and reinstalled the Jaitkham. However, both actions failed to pacify the community.

While the Congress dismissed the BJP’ s allegations, Guru Rudra Kumar — a community leader and a sixth generation descendant of Guru Ghasidas who is also a Congress leader and a former Cabinet Minister of Chhattisgarh — has accused the State’s BJP government of trying to create a divide between communities and has now demanded a high-level probe into both the incidents.

“We Satnamis do not worship idols. It’s the gaddi [the seat of power] and the Jaitkham that is sacred to us. The Amar Gufa site is close to Giraudpuri and yet the government did not take the incident seriously. Why would migrant labourers from other State damage our holy structure?” Mr. Rudra Kumar asked.

On the arson, he said it should be probed separately as it also seemed like a conspiracy to defame the community. Mr. Rudra Kumar asserted that Satnamis were a force to reckon with electorally in the entire central plains of the State and the government could not take them for granted.

Fractured legacy

The incident also put the spotlight on the fractured legacy of Baba Ghasidas. While Mr. Rudra Kumar is in the Congress and is opposing the State government over the issue, his cousin Guru Khushwant Saheb, also a community leader, is a sitting MLA from the ruling BJP. Sources said the Rudra Kumar faction was upset with the quick resurrection of the damaged Jaitkham before a proper probe was conducted. The new regime in Raipur has also seen some changes in the management of an annual fair, a big event for the community held in February-March, causing further agony to the Rudra Kumar faction. The Hindu tried to reach out to Mr. Khushwant Saheb for a comment, but he was unreachable.

Meanwhile, sharing information on the extent of damage, the district administration said 214 vehicles were damaged, including 20 cars, 64 two-wheelers, two fire engines and an autorickshaw, which were gutted in the fire. Clearing up was in progress till late on Tuesday evening. Around 25 to 30 policemen suffered injuries and they are all out of danger. So far, the police have arrested at least 74 protesters and are checking their video surveillance cameras to nab others. Six FIRs have been registered in the case till now.

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