Congress behind violence in Balodabazar: Chhattisgarh ministers

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Balodabazar Chhattisgarh Violence

Raipur: A day after a mob set fire to a key government building and scores of vehicles during a protest called by the Satnami community in Chhattisgarh's Balodabazar city, two state ministers on Tuesday accused Congress leaders of instigating the crowd.

Addressing a press conference here this evening, Food Minister Dayaldas Baghel and Revenue Minister Tank Ram Verma alleged Congress leaders, including some MLAs, attended the demonstration organised by the Satnami community and also sought to link them to the large-scale arson on Monday.

"In the programme (protest), some people systematically committed serious crimes like arson, loot, damage to government property, attempt to murder to defame the Satnami community, which is condemnable. Everything was executed in a planned manner. Anti-social elements torched about 150 two-wheelers and four wheelers," minister Baghel said.

Congress leaders, including former minister Guru Rudra Kumar, incumbent MLAs Devendra Yadav and Kavita Pranlahre, attended the demonstration, he claimed.

They directly and indirectly encouraged 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 an outside outfit, Bhim Army, was also taken, Baghel claimed.

The opposition Congress rejected all the allegations levelled by the BJP ministers.

The Composite Building (which houses offices of district collector, Superintendent of Police and other offices) was torched and three fire tenders were set ablaze by rioters during the protest called to denounce alleged vandalization of a religious structure revered by the Satnami community last month.

Around 40 police personnel were injured and media persons were also beaten up. Common people were chased on streets and thrashed. Lakhs of rupees were looted from people who came to the Balodabazar city registry officer for registration of property, minister Baghel said.

"Such a crime can never be committed by the Satnami community which is known for giving the message of peace and brotherhood. There is a political conspiracy behind the entire incident," he asserted.

Baghel alleged the tragic incident has happened due to a conspiracy of Congress which is unable to tolerate the BJP government at the Centre and in the state.

The minister informed that more than 200 people have been arrested so far in connection with the arson.

Notably, unidentified persons had vandalized 'jaitkham' or 'victory pillar', a sacred symbol worshipped by the Satnami community, near the holy Amar Gufa at Giroudpuri Dham in Balodabazar-Bhatapara district on the intervening night of May 15-16. Police subsequently arrested three persons in connection with the desecration.

To protest against the desecration, the community called for a demonstration at Dussehra Maidan in Balodabazar city on Monday, and also 'gherao' (laying siege) at the collector's office.

Minister Baghel said the community was satisfied with the order of judicial probe into the desecration incident and they had gathered to express their gratitude to Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai on Monday.

Balodabazar-Bhatapara Superintendent of Police Sadanand Kumar said seven FIRs have been registered in connection with Monday's arson and 12 police teams constituted to trace and arrest the culprits.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Sai met members of the Satnami community at his official residence in Raipur late in the evening and discussed the incident in Balodabazar city, officials said.

Reacting to the allegations, the Congress claimed the ministers were trying to cover up the failure of their government.

"The minister (Baghel) levelled baseless allegations against the Congress to cover up the failure and incompetence of his government. About a month ago, anti-social elements vandalized the sacred jaitkham and since then the community was angry and was demanding an inquiry and action against the real culprits. Why did the government not take action then?" asked head of state Congress communication wing Sushil Anand Shukla.

A large number of people were going to gather and the administration had the information about it, but still no measures were taken. The ruling BJP is responsible for this incident of arson, Shukla added.

Earlier in the day, former CM and Congress MLA Bhupesh Baghel said law and order situation in the state has collapsed and CM Sai should step down taking responsibility for the Balodabazar violence.

The influential Satnami community, founded by medieval-era social reformer Baba Ghasidas, represents the largest Scheduled Castes group in Chhattisgarh.

In the meeting with community representatives, CM Sai said Baba Guru Ghasidas propagated message of peace and harmony in society.

It is their (community heads) responsibility to ensure society does not get misled and people are encouraged to establish peace, he said.

Heads of the Satnami community said they were hurt by the violence in Balodabazar.

Those who resorted to violence and vandalism during the demonstration were anti-social elements and not a part of the community's gathering, they told the CM, according to officials.