By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD: With political leaders and parties keen to â€œexploitâ€ the recent tension in Hyderabad to their advantage, they are playing all possible cards they can. The old city was rocked by tension, following a dispute between two groups over religious flags last month (March 27). Riots broke out, causing loss of three lives and injuring around 150, which led to curfew being imposed on March 29. As the situation became normal, curfew was gradually lifted from the areas rocked by communal violence. Curfew was completely lifted last week (April 10), though prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people remained in force.
Investigations being conducted by the police on who was responsible for the communal violence are expected to take another week. On this, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crimes), K. Narsimha Reddy said: â€œWe are thoroughly investigating the matter to know the exact reasons that led to communal unrest. Strict action as per law will be initiated against all those involved in the communal clashes.â€
With more than 180 cases booked in connection with the communal violence, around 250 people have been arrested. Yet, verbal missiles between the rival political parties continue to be hurled at each other. While accepting that communal violence should not have taken place, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah (Congress) claimed that he had â€œdeftlyâ€ handled the situation. Following his return from New Delhi after a three-day visit, he claimed that Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi was â€œextremely happyâ€ with his governmentâ€™s performance in Andhra Pradesh (AP). Referring specifically to communal tension in Hyderabad, he said: â€œShe has been happy over the deft handling of the situation arising out of communal riots in old city of Hyderabad, though such things should not have happened in the first placeâ€ (April 17). Her words, according to him, were: â€œShe told me- You have tactfully handled the situation, I am happy.â€ She also expressed appreciation on the situation being â€œnormalâ€ now, he said.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not reacted favorably to police rounding up Hindus also for their alleged role in recent communal clashes in Hyderabad. The party organized protest rallies and demonstrations across Andhra Pradesh last week (April 17). Blaming the police for its â€œhigh-handednessâ€ in booking charges against Hindu youths, the BJP activists shouted slogans against the state government and police. They demanded withdrawal of cases against workers of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The police reacted by taking more than 200 BJP activists into preventive custody. These included the BJPâ€™s AP unit chief, G. Kishan Reddy (Member of Legislative Assembly), general secretary N. Ramchander Rao, former union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and partyâ€™s national secretary Dr. K. Laxman.
Several BJP leaders were taken into custody earlier in the month also (April 7), when they tried visiting some riot-hit areas in Old Hyderabad. A five-member team formed by BJP president Nitin Gadkari, included Prakash Javadekar, Shanappa, Prahlad Joshi, Nirmala Sitharaman and Dr. Laxman. The police tried convincing the team, led by Javadekar, not to proceed as prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC were still in force. As the police denied them permission, the BJP members entered into an argument with them. Sitharaman and his party members blamed the state government for acting in a â€œdictatorialâ€ manner. The BJP activists raised slogans against the police. More than 50 BJP members, including Reddy, were taken into custody. Condemning the police action against BJPâ€™s â€œfact-findingâ€ team, Reddy was addressing the media.
Though the concerned authorities must be credited for not allowing the recent communal clashes to spread further, questions continue to be raised on their having taken place. Who is to be blamed for planning these clashes, where did the state police and intelligence services fail in preventing them are some of the questions which remain unanswered. These have gained greater importance with tension prevailing on continuance of peace and harmony in sensitive parts of Hyderabad. As the third anniversary of Mecca Masjid blast comes closer, tension is further aggravated by fear on whether it would pass by peacefully. A blast occurred inside the Mecca Masjid in Old Hyderabad on May 18, 2007, when around 10,000 people were gathered for their Friday prayers. The blast and subsequent police firing led to 14 deaths and more than 50 injured.
Last year, on May 18 at Falaknuma, a Home Guard was killed by a member of an alleged terrorist group.
Though, last yearâ€™s incident did not lead to any communal clashes, with the third anniversary of Mecca Masjid blast being preceded by riots, tension prevails among the citizens. Even though police has picked up riot suspects from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims), signaling that it is taking a tough stand against whosoever is a â€œsuspect,â€ fear continues to haunt the people. Apprehension about situation still not being normal in Hyderabad has hit the stateâ€™s tourist industry also. This is indicated by more than 50 percent hotel rooms going unoccupied this March. Situation remains grim, as expressed by Ram Misra, president, Hotels and Restaurant association of AP. He said: â€œThe first quarter is not showing any pick-up at all so far. Normally by now, the bulk bookings are into the system and we know May will be fine. But as of now in April-May, there is nothing happening.â€
Till political leaders continue to exploit sensitive issues for their interest, the stateâ€™s citizens and also the visitors, including tourists, are bound to remain skeptical about normalcy marked by peace and harmony in Hyderabad.