KHARGONE: The administration in riot-scarred Khargone has built a wall between two colonies that predominantly house two separate communities. Local officials justify it as an “experiment to avert friction”.
The brick-and-mortar wall has been built on a road that earlier connected the Khaskhaswadi and Zamindar Colonies.
“There was public demand for the wall,” district collector Purshottam Kumar told TOI by way of an explanation on Friday. “It’s not the only road connecting the colonies, there are two others. But youngsters moved on fast vehicles down this road, often leading to friction. These disputes had snowballed into major incidents in the past,” he added.
“No one opposed the wall, except for protests by a few people,” the collector argued.
Khargone is still limping back to normalcy after riots broke out on April 10 on Ram Navami. There is a stillness about the town after a month of curfew and other restrictions, but no one here can deny the tension simmering beneath. Minor flare-ups have kept police on their toes, and the administration seems to think building walls is a good solution.
The skirmishes also prompted the administration to barricade certain lanes in mohallas of Khargone. “We have seen the change. Tension has ebbed. Peace established,” said the collector.
Khargone SP Dharam Veer Singh Yadav said the restrictions are temporary. “The wall and barricades are a temporary mechanism put in place on a trial-and-error basis, which has proved to be effective,” he said, adding that movement between colonies was never blocked. “There are alternative routes,” he said, echoing the collector.
But not many agree with the official stand. Muslim Sadar Altaf Sheikh, who stays in Khaskhaswadi, equates the wall to a ‘Line of Control’. “It prevents freedom of movement. The wall snatches the fundamental rights of people,” he said.
District BJP media in-charge Prakash Bhawsar, a resident of Zamindar Colony, feels otherwise. “Fear of violence prompted the construction of the wall. Some people were badly injured in the riots there,” he said.
Notwithstanding the different opinions, the wall is now part of Khargone’s cityscape. Local authorities are trying to smoothen traffic. Quick reaction teams have been set up to nip any disputes in the bud.
Kumar referred to a “recent attempt to give communal colour to a minor road accident”, and said, “We immediately curbed it. We explained to people that in a city of mixed population, there is a high probability that people of two communities might collide. The motive or cause of the fight is not always communal.”
Khargone has a long history of riots, but the April 10 riots were different, Kumar remarked, adding that most of the disputes and violent incidents took place between neighbours, who had been living together for years.
Criminals and perpetrators of violence have been identified and made to sign a bond to desist from creating mischief, say officials. People from both communities have been chosen as ‘Police Mitra’ to help control flare-ups. Sadbhavana Samitis formed to maintain peace.
Collector Kumar feels the underlying tension will soon end. “The upcoming civic body elections will play a big role in reducing tension. Candidates of all parties will need votes from every section and they will go to each door for this with proper gestures,” he explained.