36 held for Kolhapur unrest as city limps back to normalcy

Protests were triggered by ‘objectionable’ social media messages reportedly glorifying Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and 18th C. Mysore state ruler Tipu Sultan

June 09, 2023 12:41 am | Updated 01:01 am IST - Pune

Stones on a road after violence during protests against the alleged use of Tipu Sultan’s image in objectionable social media posts, in Kolhapur on June 7, 2023.

Stones on a road after violence during protests against the alleged use of Tipu Sultan’s image in objectionable social media posts, in Kolhapur on June 7, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Kolhapur police have arrested 36 persons, including three minors, in connection with the unrest in Kolhapur city over ‘objectionable’ social media messages reportedly glorifying Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and 18th C. Mysore state ruler Tipu Sultan even as the city limped back to normalcy on Thursday.

Superintendent of Police Mahendra Pandit said three criminal cases in three different police stations had been registered following the violence which erupted on Wednesday after several members of right-wing groups had gathered at the city’s Shivaji Chowk to protest against these allegedly objectionable social media messages.

“We have booked 400 people in the three first information reports [FIRs] registered in connection with Wednesday’s violence. So far, 36 individuals have been arrested for vandalism and rioting. A fourth FIR had been registered on Tuesday over the WhatsApp statuses which carried an image of Tipu Sultan and Aurangzeb along with offensive audio messages that triggered the subsequent protests and violence. Five juveniles have been detained in this context. We are also probing their mobile phones,” Mr. Pandit said.

He said that prima facie investigation had revealed that the youth who had put up the offending WhatsApp statuses were college going boys. There was no evidence as yet that the perpetrators involved in the violence on Wednesday came from outside Kolhapur.

MVA targets BJP

Meanwhile, the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) continued to target the ruling BJP for deliberately fostering riots ahead of elections, with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar remarking that the violence over the social media messages was not in line with Maharashtra’s culture.

“Whatever has happened at two to three places [alluding to Kolhapur and Ahmednagar] is not in line with the culture of Maharashtra. The State is known as a peace-loving place. People here do not have a tendency to take the law into their own hands,” Mr. Pawar said in Baramati.

Remarking that Kolhapur had a very rich history, Mr. Pawar said peace ought to prevail and that people ought to bear in mind the lofty ideals of 19th century reformer-king Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur.

“I also would like to tell those who deliberately like to create disputes that it is the common people who have to pay the price for all this,” said the NCP chief.

Hitting out at the ruling BJP and the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction, Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut questioned why did the so-called adherents of Hindutva (meaning BJP and Shinde Sena) need the prop of Aurangzeb to win elections.

“When Uddhav Thackeray was Chief Minister of the MVA government, there were no such incidents of communal violence. So, how come Aurangzeb has suddenly risen from the grave when you [Shinde Sena-BJP] are in power. Do you need the aid of Aurangzeb to win the elections by fomenting riots? If you have the guts, then arrest the real trouble makers,” said Mr. Raut, in a jibe at Home Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis.

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