2016 saw Shivraj Singh Chouhan firmly in the saddle as he completed his 11th year as Madhya Pradesh chief minister though he had to grapple with the situation arising out of the controversial police encounter in which eight suspected SIMI activists were killed.
Chouhan also managed to win back RSS’ confidence after all did not seem to be well following police allegedly beating up Sangh pracharak Suresh Yadav in September at Balaghat district over a WhatsApp message with communal overtones.
He was also upbeat after CBI, the prosecution agency in the multi-crore Vyapam admission and recruitment scam, told the apex court that the electronic evidence in the rip-off was not tampered with.
The Congress has been alleging that the electronic evidence in the scam were tampered with by the state police to save Chouhan and his family.
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Cow vigilantes too were seen in action in the first half of the year and in one such case, two Muslim women were beaten up at Mandsaur railway station on suspicion of carrying beef in July.
The state witnessed communal unrest in some parts.
After the encounter killings of suspected SIMI activists who had mysteriously escaped the highly-fortified central jail here on Diwali night allegedly killing a security guard, questions were raised but Chouhan’s defence was that the police action was taken “for public good”.
Minutes after the encounter, Chouhan, who seldom speaks to the media, hurriedly convened a press conference to dub the undertrials as “terrorists” who posed a serious threat to society after escaping from the jail.
After the encounter, Muslims huddled in a mosque, on being denied permission to hold a public meeting. They claimed the killing was stage-managed.
Earlier, the community had often found the moderate Chouhan in their midst on Eids, once wearing a Muslim skull cap which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had refused to don.
After initial resistance, the state government agreed to a judicial probe into the encounter after the outcry and criticism by media and public.
This drew the wrath of seers who said they were being divided on caste line for the first time.
The event also took a political hue with Congress blaming BJP for hijacking the event for political gain and siphoning off crores of rupees from the state exchequer.
Besides, the mela, considered to be one of the biggest congregations of Hindus, saw the participation of eunuchs for the first time despite the reservation of Hindu clerics.
After police action on Suresh Yadav, local Sangh Parivar leaders took to the streets in Balaghat and a confrontation between the RSS and the Chouhan government seemed imminent.
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To mollify the RSS, the state government booked Balaghat Additional Superintendent of Police and other policemen and charged them with attempt to murder. The accused policemen, still at large, were suspended.
But RSS apparently wanted more. Finally, the Chouhan government shunted out Inspector General of Police and Superintendent of Police from Balaghat to placate it.
As the lower rungs of Sangh Parivar were still frowning, Chouhan flagged off a 5-month-long yatra from Amarkantak in Anuppur district – the origin of river Narmada – on December 11 with RSS at the helm of the event.
The event, called Narmada Seva Yatra, ostensibly aimed at turning the river pollution-free and maintaining the sanctity of the water body considered to be holy in Hindu scriptures.
At the start of the yatra, RSS general secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi heaped praises on Chouhan for his deep faith and respect for the holy river.
Then on December 19, in an apparent endorsement, senior RSS functionary Alok Kumar said Madhya Pradesh was a laboratory of Sangh Parivar’s ‘ekathma manavad’ (integral humanism).
Twenty-eight people hailing from the state perished in the derail incident of Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur on November 20.
After 32 years of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, victims of the world’s worst industrial disasters and the organisations helping them rejoiced on December 7 when a local court issued notices to the then district collector and the then superintendent of police for allegedly helping Union Carbide Corporation CEO Warren Anderson to escape from the state capital and criminal prosecution in December 1984.
Anderson who died last year was facing charges of criminal liability in the compensation case for the disaster.
BJP also won a number of by-polls in the state that were held during the year including Shahdol (ST) Lok Sabha seat and three assembly seats.
During the end of the year, Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal held a public meeting here. AAP has already raised cadres in several parts of the state with an eye on the 2018 assembly polls.