Protests over theft of idols raised passions a month before Dussehra

FO

The communal riot in Faizabad on Dussehra day was alleged to have been sparked by a Hindu woman being harassed by Muslim men during the immersion of Durga idols. But more than two weeks later, no one has filed a police complaint about the harassment and even the identity of the woman in question is not known.

On the other hand, local leaders and police officers said the city had been on edge for about a month after the theft of idols from a temple, which many believe culminated in several shops being gutted in the riots. Also, a land row in Mirzapur village, 5 km from the city, over a plot of land occupied by a mosque and a Shiva temple, had raised tempers and matters came to a head on the day of Eid in August before calm was restored.

On September 21, the idols of Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kali were stolen from the Badi Devkali temple, one of the oldest in Faizabad, to which thousands of devotees throng during Navratri. The theft triggered a wave of protests. Local leaders even formed the 'Devkali Mandir Puja Sthapna Sangharsh Samiti' to protest against the district administration and police's alleged inaction in retrieving the idols.

"There were protests across the city that included several local leaders affiliated to political parties. They demanded that the idols be retrieved immediately failing which they would even go to the extent of canceling this year's immersion of idols," said a senior police officer. At least two people who were part of the samiti had also been arrested after the riots on October 24, he added.

However, two weeks after the riots, police officers said that no one has come forward to register an FIR about the harassment incident that allegedly triggered the violence. "Everybody talks about the incident and the girl who was harassed, but no complaint has been registered so far," said a senior police officer.

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