Facing pressure from local residents and Hindutva activists over WhatsApp statuses praising Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, two families have been allegedly compelled to leave their homes – in Hatkanangale tehsil of Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district over the last week.
Two FIRs have been filed so far against those who put up these updates while a third complaint may be referred to another police station for registration of a case. The accused in one case is in custody while the one named in the second case remains untraceable.
This comes amid a political controversy in Maharashtra over the renaming of Aurangabad – the latest addition to a growing list of Urdu-sounding spots retitled across the country amid demands by Hindutva voices.
First FIR, ‘assault and exit’
In the first case on March 17, Mohammad Momeen, a 19-year-old resident from Savarde village who sells jute bardana bags, was booked in an FIR, which alleged that his WhatsApp status was put up with an “intention to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus”. The complaint was filed by Parshuram Chavhan, associated with the BJP and the Sambhaji Bhide-led Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, at the Vadgaon police station in Hatkanangale.
The status, put up a day before, read, “Tum naam toh badal loge, lekin itihaas naa badal paaoge. Woh pahaad aaj bhi gawah hai, iss shahr ka badshah kaun tha aur kaun hai; Aurangzeb Aalamgeer.” You can change a name but you will not be able to change history. The hills stand witness to who was and is the king of this city; Aurangzeb Aalamgeer.
“We came to know about his WhatsApp status supporting Aurangzeb on March 16. A day later, we assaulted him and his father and filed a police complaint against him. We announced a two-day bandh in the village and asked his family to leave the village. Police arrested him and his family left the village,” said complainant Chavhan.
“Although they have been seeking forgiveness…we want to set an example. We will discuss the matter among our people and then take a final decision. Without our permission they cannot enter the village.”
Momeen, who was booked under IPC sections 298 and 505, has been in custody at Kolhapur sub-jail since his arrest.
However, Momeen’s father Yunus told Newslaundry that “some of the villagers are calling us to return”. “People are looking for an amicable solution. My son will be punished accordingly for his mistake and everything will be resolved.”
Vadgaon police senior inspector Bhairu Talekar said Momeen was arrested “because his WhatsApp status was not correct and could have led to a riot-like situation in the area”. Asked why the family was asked to leave the village, he said he was not aware the family had left the village. “I don’t know who forced them out…if somebody approaches us with a complaint, we will take action.”
Savarde sarpanch Amol Kamble said “Hindus and Muslims came together and announced the bandh”. Asked about the family leaving the village, he said, “As per law, we cannot ask the family to leave the village, nor can we invite them back…we cannot provide protection to them unless the decision of their return is supported by the police and administration.”
A protest near Vadgaon police station.
Second case, accused untraceable
On March 17, another FIR was lodged at Vadgaon against Faizan Saudagar, a 23-year-old tempo driver from Minche village, over his WhatsApp status, which read, “Namumkin ko mumkin banaanewala badshah sultan Aurangzeb Alamgir.” Aurangzeb Alamgir, the emperor who made the impossible possible.
This FIR, filed under IPC sections 298, 295A and 505(2), also alleged that the status was posted with an intention to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. The complaint was filed by Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan member Vaibhav Hirawe.
“After we filed the complaint, we staged a protest and went to his village. We inquired about his whereabouts from his family members but he was already on the run. Even people of Muslim community don’t support Aurangzeb, some people are doing it to instigate riots. All of us Hindu organizations are going to request the police to issue a press release that they will take action against people who put up a status on Aurangzeb. Because such posts can lead to riots.”
Saudagar’s family could not be reached for comment.
However, Vadgaon police senior inspector Bhairu Talekar said that Faizan Saudagar only recently began living in Minche and is based in Miraj in Sangli district.
Third complaint, ‘house vandalised’
Meanwhile, on March 21, another complaint was filed at the same police station against Kudrat Jamadar, a 21-year-old resident of Khochi village, over his WhatsApp status.
“Aurangabad Aurangzeb ka hee rahega.” Aurangabad will remain Aurangzeb’s, it read, with the audio remarking that “it doesn’t matter who the forest belongs to, the hunt will be the tiger’s – Aurangzeb Alamgir”.
Hours later, a section of locals gathered in the village and urged the gram panchayat to take action against Jamadar.
Uday Patil, a local resident, claimed that the panchayat authorities said they will take up the matter once Jamadar returned home, but villagers found the house locked and allegedly vandalised it. “His mother and grandfather left the village before the attack as they were informed of the tense situation and went to stay at a relative’s place.”
Sarpanch Abhijeet Chavan did not respond to Newslaundry’s request for comment.
Newslaundry was unable to trace Jamadar’s family for comment.
Akshay Baabar, a member of ShivPratishthan Hindustan, said the villagers filed a complaint the same evening at the Vadgaon police station.
Vadgaon police senior inspector Bhairu Talekar said Jamadar has not been living in Khochi since the past five months “and may have uploaded the status from somewhere else”. He said the police may refer the complaints against Saudagar and Jamadar to areas where they are based.
The incidents come days after the Narendra Modi government approved a proposal by the Eknath Shinde-led government in Maharashtra to rename Aurangabad city as Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar and Osmanabad city as Dharashiv. The renaming was a demand by right-wing groups and was first proposed by the Uddhav Thackeray government before its exit last year amid a Shiv Sena rebellion and allegations of compromising Hindutva.
The renaming of Urdu-sounding cities or sites is part of a certain brand of politics that aims to burnish Hindutva credentials by constructing a pre-colonial imagery in which India was “free” and “pure”. Be it the Mughal Gardens in Delhi, the Mughalsarai railway station, or Allahabad, the list of spots that have been renamed have risen nearly as much as such demands over the last few years.
And Aurangabad is no different, having been named so by Aurangzeb – a king who is perhaps the most hated figure in Hindutva history – after his conquest of Deccan and announcing it as its capital. Within groups asserting Maratha and Hindutva pride, Aurangzeb is particularly reviled as it was on his orders that Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s son and successor Chhattrapati Sambhaji Maharaj was killed in 1689.
The history of the area now termed as Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar – previously known as Khirki, Khadki and Fatehpur – dates back to the Ajanta Ellora caves.
As the controversy about the proposed renaming unfolded, AIMIM MP Imtiaz Jaleel said, “The tomb of Aurangzeb in Khuldabad is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India but now some leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena even want to remove and shift his grave from there. A strange atmosphere has been created where no one else can put their point of view.”