Sporadic protests were witnessed and markets remained closed in Rajasthan’s Bundi district today as the situation remained tense with the Hindu Mahasabha issuing a warning to the administration to resolve a row over performing ‘puja’ at Mandhata Balaji cenotaph on Tiger Hill by January 5. A day after widespread violence was reported from across the district with protesters pelting stones at policemen, setting fire to a police motorcycle and burning tyres, protests eased today, officials said. The protests began on Monday after police lathicharged right-wing Hindu activists, numbering in hundreds, who tried to march towards the hill top to perform ‘puja’ in violation of prohibitory orders, and arrested some of them. Despite the administration’s appeal, shops in the city and five other villages of the district remained closed today. Most localities witnessed a curfew-like scene. The district administration appealed to traders and shopkeepers to open their establishments and shops, but to no avail. District Collector Shivangi Swarnkar also made rounds of the markets appealing to the shopkeepers and traders to open their establishments.
Local MLA Ashok Dogera faced the ire of the people when he tried to convince them to open their shops. Police had to push back the agitators. Sporadic incidents of burning of tyres by activists of various Hindu outfits were reported from various areas. In a bid to restore peace, district officials and activists of the Hindu Mahasabha held a meeting in Charbhuja temple in Tilack Chowk area of the city. The meeting was presided over by two Naga sadhus — Ramlakhan Das and Shravan Das — who were detained by the police on Monday. Ramlakhan Das and Sunil Hadouti of the Hindu Mahasabha warned the district administration to resolve the issue by January 5 or face repercussions. They protested against the lathicharge on activists and demanded the release of those arrested so far. The role of the local MLA in normalising the situation was also criticised in the meeting. The Abhibhashak Parishad also came out in support of a puja. A group of advocates also took out a march against police atrocities.
The Parishad has decided to boycott judicial works in Bundi court till normalcy is restored. The Hindu Mahasabha and some other organisations had earlier given a call to perform ‘puja’ at Mandhata Balaji cenotaph on January 1, following which the district administration imposed prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 on Friday night and the divisional commissioner ordered suspension of Internet services from 6 am on December 31 to 6 am on January 2. As protests spread to many parts of the city, the authorities extended the suspension of mobile Internet services till the morning of January 5. Prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 would remain in force till further order, police said. The call to perform ‘puja’ at the cenotaph on Tiger Hill adjoining the Meera Sahab Dargah was against a decision of the Peace Keeping Committee, a senior police officer earlier said. Mandhata Balaji cenotaph is believed to have been constructed by the queen of Bundi in the memory of her nephew but in 1942 the cenotaph was damaged after lightning struck it. “Some people have provoked the religious sentiments of the public but the situation improved today and is expected to be normal by Thursday morning,” local MLA Ashok Dogera said.