The Madhya Pradesh Police have arrested at least 12 Muslims and razed the home of another man after violence erupted in Dhar district on December 23 following a rally by Hindutva organisations, The Indian Express reported.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other allied outfits led a massive “Shourya Yatra” or a bravery rally last week. When they tried to enter Gandhi Nagar, a majority-Muslim area, the police tried to stop the men by force, witnesses told the newspaper. The police action sparked rumours of communal clashes in the area. Dhar is said to be a communally sensitive district.

“The route was pre-decided but people who were new in the rally tried to take a narrow and congested route, and there was a discussion [about a new route] among themselves,” said Dhar Superintendent of Police Aditya Pratap Singh. “But somehow it fuelled rumours about communal clashes as the yatra was concluding. This led to instances of stone-pelting and some violence in another part of the city.”

Sub-Divisional Officer of Police Dheeraj Babbar, however, denied that the officers had resorted to baton-charge or force to control the crowd. As rumours spread, violence was reported from Sindhana Road and Nala Prangan areas of Manawar in Dhar district at around 5 pm on December 23.

Additional Superintendent of Police, Dhar, Dheeraj Patidar, said the accused persons had thrown stones at vehicles parked on the streets and injured people, including women, even as their rally ended peacefully.

The Dhar Police have filed three separate first information reports in the case and booked 30 people, all of whom are Muslims, The Indian Express reported. Twelve of those arrested in the case are also Muslims, The Wire reported.

“Based on the victims’ complaints, the FIRs have been registered and arrests have been made on the basis of video footages,” Patidar said. “These incidents of violence that created unrest were occurring parallelly in another area about 1 km from the rally taken out by right-wing organisations.”

One of the FIRs was filed on the complaint of Bajrang Dal worker Pankaj Khushwaha. He accused 12 people of entering his house and threatening to kill him.

But, a resident of Manawar told The Indian Express that an altercation ensued after Khushwaha’s sister started making a video of men standing near Nala Prangan. “But the police have only registered FIR against the Muslim men,” the resident said.

Muslim man’s home razed

Meanwhile, the Dhar district administration on December 25 demolished a three-storied building where three of the accused persons lived. The house belonged to of 55-year-old Khalil Khatri.

“In the garb of nonavailability of the building permission, the administration demolished the home which I built after years of toil and hard work because three of my renters were named in the recent incident of stone pelting,” the Muslim man told The Wire. “I have nothing to do with the incident. All the houses near mine were built without building permission.”

Khatri added that he kept pleading with authorities to stop the demolition, but they blamed him for sheltering the accused men. “How was I supposed to know that they would allegedly indulge in stone-pelting or something, they were just my tenants?” he asked.

Sub-Divisional Magistrate Shivangi Joshi said they razed Khatri’s home as a warning to “anti-social elements” who try to disrupt peace. “We have also recovered swords and knives from the house,” Joshi claimed. “We will continue this drive after identifying the accused.”