A controversial yatra in Haryana’s strife-torn Nuh district passed off peacefully on Monday after the police clamped prohibitory orders across the region and allowed only a group of 51 people to enter a temple to complete Hindu rituals.
Police said 3,000 personnel were deployed, barricades erected every 500 metres, and 100 checkpoints built to stave off the possibility of a re-run of July 31, when the Braj Mandal Jal Abhishek Yatra, also called a Shobha Yatra, triggered communal clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups, killing six people and injuring another 88 in violence that spanned two days and singed the fringes of the Capital.
Police said that it didn’t stop around 3,000 individuals from offering prayers at Nalhar temple — located in the heart of the Muslim-majority district — but the only group allowed inside was that of 51 people, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) international working president Alok Kumar. Police had escorted them till the temple and they were under police surveillance throughout their journey.
Police said the group carried out “jalabhishek” (pouring water on the Shivling) along with local residents and temple priests for around 35 minutes. “No permission for any procession or the entry of outsiders other than the 51 members group was allowed. The group was taken to the temple in three tempo travellers escorted by police vehicles and after completing the rituals, they were escorted outside,” said Mamta Singh,additional director general of police.
Kumar said the aim was to complete the rituals. “The police arrangement was good but if the same arrangements were done on July 31, the violence would have not erupted. The situation could have been prevented.”
VHP said it agreed to call off a full-fledged yatra and curtail arrangements after Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar urged the organisers of the Braj Mandal Jal Abhishek Yatra to not go ahead with their plans and the administration denied permission. “Our administration and police have taken this decision that instead of yatra, people should perform Jalabhishek. It should be done where they [people] live instead of staging demonstrations while going to other places in Haryana,” said Surendra Jain, general secretary of VHP.
The Nuh administration suspended internet services and bulk text messaging services, and shut schools, colleges, and banks. Internet serves were resumed late in the evening.
Narender Bijarniya, the superintendent of police, said surveillance drones, 3,000 Haryana Police personnel, and 3,000 central paramilitary force personnel were deployed. The authorities also sealed all entry and exit points to Nuh. “All the teams deployed were given directions not to allow anyone unless carrying a valid permission or a local identity card. Gatherings of more than five persons were not allowed and no convoy of vehicles were allowed to enter Nuh from borders connecting to Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Nuh,” he said.
Dharna Yadav, the deputy superintendent of police who manages the security situation at Nalhar temple, said locals started coming at 4am and continued till late evening. “People were allowed to enter only after their IDs were checked and frisking was done,” he said. Mahamandleshwar Swami Dharamdev, part of the 51-strong group, said they wanted to complete the rituals peacefully.
Meanwhile, VHP leader Kulbhushan Bhardwaj said several prominent leaders of the outfit were prevented from leaving their homes. “The police team was deployed outside my house around 8.30am. They did not allow me to go to Nuh and join the members,” said Bhardwaj.
He said police also issued notices to several Hindu leaders and workers.But the Haryana Police denied that any preventive house arrests were made. No arrests were made on Monday, said police. The markets in Sohna and Nuh were shut till 4 .30pm and the city bore a deserted look.
“No incident was reported from the district and situation remained peaceful,” Nuh deputy commissioner Dhirendra Khadgata said.