In the post-Covid era, even while the deprivations and despair of the pandemic and lockdowns continue, not only Muslims and Christians, Adivasis too are being systematically attacked by the Sangh Parivar front organizations, specifically in the BJP-ruled states. The latest brutal assaults in the rural area of Seoni district  in Madhya Pradesh is a pointer to these litany of atrocities being committed by the Hindutva brigade.

Cadre of the Bajrang Dal and Shri Ram Sena allegedly attacked the Adivasis in this area on May 2 this year. Two Adivasis were killed, several faced injuries, and scores of women claimed that they were made to suffer brazenly obscene behaviour from the 15-odd goons, according to Forest Rights activists.

The locals are saying that in the garb of protecting Hinduism and cows, these atrocities are being inflicted. Adivasis here have lived in peaceful co-existence with all forms of life, including wildlife in the forest. They have been nature-worshippers since centuries. They love, preserve and protect their cattle like their own children.

“Those who have no clue about how to live with their cows, are now trying to attack us in the name of cows. Instead of pens, notebooks and books, they are handing over weapons to their children,” the Adivasis said.

COVID Response Watch LogoThis is not the first instance in the state. In Bistan and Omkareshwar in Khargone and Khandwa areas of Mp, two Adivasis were picked up in September last year by the police. They died in police custody. Not a single cop has since then been punished, according to the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP).

The AIUFWP has documented these atrocities on the Adivasis in Madhya Pradesh. Two gory incidents of murder in Nemvar and Nimach are clear indicators of the terror unleashed by the front outfits of the Sangh Parivar.

An entire family was killed by a local leader of the Hindu Kesaria Sangathan in Nemvar in May, 2021. An Adivasi youth was dragged publicly on the streets of Nimaach in August 2021, and beaten so brutally, that he consequently died.

According to the Forest Rights leaders, during Ramzan in April this year, as was the trend in many BJP-ruled states, Muslims were publicly attacked in Khargone. Several homes of the Muslims were destroyed. The online complaint made by the locals was ignored.

In response to the attack in Seoni and Khargone, among other places, Adivasis, Dalits and Muslims along with concerned citizens and activists, protested on the streets and outside the district headquarters. In Nimad, which has been a stronghold of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, youth organizations joined the protesters against the terror being unleashed by Bajrang Dal and other Sangh Parivar outfits. They said that these series of attacks are planned and will consequently lead to the total subjugation of the oppressed communities and perhaps even mass murders and massacres. All rights of the locals, including tribals, will be crushed.

In early April this year, Khargone witnessed a direct attack on Muslim homes, many of them sharing decades of harmony with Hindu households in the neighbourhood. Two local Muslim brothers, who had retired from the police department, witnessed the mayhem and destruction at large, and their own homes being ravaged by neighbours who used to be their friends.

When Nasir, one of the brothers shouted at his neighbour, Anil, a Sangh Parivar activist, as to why is he doing this, reportedly, Anil’s wife joined him and gave a clarion call to attack his house. Nasir and his family were too shocked and terrified to protest even as the mob went berserk in the inner streets of Talab Chowk in Khargone. Almost 30 houses and several shops were vandalized and burnt.

Over 30 FIRs were consequently lodged by the Hindutva activists, according to reports, even while the Muslim community found that their complaints were simply not being registered. Instead, they were targeted – that is, the victims themselves had to face the brunt of the Madhya Pradesh government.

Home Minister Narottam Mishra declared in Bhopal soon after: “All the houses from where stones were hurled will be destroyed.”

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan joined in: “Stringent action will be taken against the rioters. They will be made to pay for the losses to both public and private properties.”

Thus followed the demolition spree, as was the modus operandi in the area of Jehangirpuri under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation where poor Bengali Muslims from Midnapur in West Bengal had to face the bulldozers. And as in Delhi’s Jehangirpuri, even in these marginalized areas in Khargone, poor Hindus too had to face the same kind of demolitions and cruelties as their Muslim neighbours.

“The illegal constructions which were served notice by the municipal corporation were razed and this will continue. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards criminals,” said collector Anugrah P.

Most shopkeepers and locals alleged that this was pure injustice. Their shops and homes were not illegal.

According to the leader of the AIUFWP, Ashok Choudhury,  the BJP suffered heavy losses during the last assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh. They lost even their established strongholds. So much so, despite the use of muscle and money power, they could not win several seats which they had won earlier.

Even while they tried to buy off MLAs, they could not form the government. Consequently, the Congress was able to form the government in Madhya Pradesh. However, the BJP broke the government even as a group of MLAs led by Jyotirditya Scindia dumped the Congress and joined the BJP. Consequently, the BJP has yet again formed a fledgling government and Scindia has got a cushy ministerial position in the Centre.

As a run-up to the next assembly elections, as in UP and in other states, the communal card is yet again being played out as a public spectacle in Madhya Pradesh. Since the Adivasis, Dalits, extremely backward communities and Muslims were not toeing the line, politically and electorally, they were made targets of repeated attacks by the front organizations of the BJP.

Besides, due to the extended pandemic and the lockdown, which continued for two years, and which still has its debilitating impact in the region, especially in the rural areas, the employment and livelihood situation has been grim. Hunger and despair reigns supreme in the region, especially within the marginalized communities. Instead of finding a solution to these immediate scarcities, the BJP is trying to create polarization on the ground and using its time-tested communal card, said the local leaders of the AIUFWP.

Amit Sengupta is Executive Editor, Hardnews and a columnist, currently based in Kolkata

 


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