In Telangana’s Medak, BJP’s growing clout emboldens ‘Gau Rakshaks’

While the Muslim residents maintain that the latest communal conflagration was unexpected, the tall Chatrapathi Shivaji statue in Medak town stands as evidence of growing clout of Hindutva forces.
In Telangana’s Medak, BJP’s growing clout emboldens ‘Gau Rakshaks’

Eid celebrations at Minhaj-ul-Uloom Madrasa in Indira Colony in Medak town of Telangana, on Monday, June 17, were marred by violence and arrests. Muslim elders were seen walking inside the police-guarded Madrasa to discuss the possibility of whether they could celebrate the festival at all. The police had seized the cattle which were meant to be slaughtered for Eid. 

Barkhat Ahmed, headmaster of the Madrasa, when TNM met him, was unsure whether the police would return the animals in time for the festival. “Around 700 people are dependent on it,” he said. It happened as he feared. The violence had spoiled chances of celebrating the festival in peace and the police are yet to return the seized cattle, despite no evidence of cows being bought for slaughter.

This was not the first time Medak witnessed raids by self-styled Gau Rakshaks.  “While there is no RSS office here, several organisations like Bajrang Dal, Vishva Hindu Parishad are active here. Every year we carry out such raids to see that cows are not slaughtered illegally,” said BJP’s former district general secretary Nallala Vijay. 

Muslims have denied they brought cows. “All the animals were bulls and had valid documents that they were fit to be sacrificed,” says Nayab, a resident.

On Saturday, members of Gaurakshak Samithi - an organisation affiliated to the RSS, and the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha created tension when they tried to ‘verify’ the presence of cows that were meant for slaughter on Eid. “At around 10 am when the cattle were grazing near the lake, nearly 15 RSS activists assembled and started taking photos and videos of the cattle. They informed the police too,” recalls Barkhat Ahmed, the head master of Minhaj- ul-Uloom Madrasa. 

The place where the cattle were tethered in the Madrasa
The place where the cattle were tethered in the Madrasa

The town of Medak, which is approximately 100 kms away from Hyderabad, has been on the boil after communal violence broke out on June 15, Saturday, leading to imposition of Section 144. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) later gave a call for bandh. Police have arranged pickets at several intersections  in a bid to thwart any further violence.

According to Barkhat there was a stand off between both the sides when the Gaurakshaks asked the police to seize the cattle alleging there were cows in the herd.  “We did not agree to it,” he said.

The Gaurakshaks later went to another Madrasa in the vicinity, where the Hindu group who were less in number, were assaulted by a large mob, according to journalist P Krishna,  Medak district reporter for The New Indian Express. “This is when the incident turned violent and led to large scale attacks on Muslims,” he said. 

While Medak is a ‘sensitive’ area (there have been several instances of communal violence in the past), this is the first time that communal violence broke out during the Eid celebrations.  

Following the violence, police have filed a case against 44 persons. While 36 of them have been arrested, eight others are absconding. The accused have been booked under section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code. The violence also led to calls for imposing a bandh in the district which effectively marred the celebrations.

Medak has a population of over 3 lakh people as per the 2011 census. While the Muslim residents maintain that the latest communal conflagration was unexpected, the tall Chatrapathi Shivaji statue in Medak town stands as evidence of growing clout of Hindutva forces. The statue was inaugurated in February 2023 by controversial BJP MLA Raja Singh, known for his anti-Muslim stance. Scores of such statues - a symbol of Hindu supremacy - have been installed across northern Telangana’s erstwhile districts of Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Medak and parts of Adilabad.

While Shivaji has nothing to do with Telangana, the state’s proximity with Maharashtra could be a reason for the icon getting prominence. Typically, areas which have witnessed Hindutva polarisation, the statues have been deployed as a symbol of Hindu dominance. The RSS officially celebrates Shivaji as they believe that a ‘Hindu empire’ came into existence under his rule.

The BJP gaining significant ground in Medak has emboldened the party to aggressively act against the Muslims, residents say. The Lok Sabha constituency, which was with Telangana Rashtra Samithi since 2009, shifted back to BJP in 2024.

Police have arrested several office bearers of the BJP including the district president Gaddam Srinivas, the man who led the mob responsible for assaulting Muslims and vandalising their shops. Srinivas has RSS links according to local journalists.  Raghunandan Rao, the MP representing Medak, who was recently elected, alleged that the police were biased against them. “The police failed to fulfil their duty. As an MP I demand that the negligent police officials be suspended. Despite reporting to the police about the incident from 11.30 am [on Saturday], police failed to file a case promptly.” Raghunandan Rao alleged. 

Gajwel, the Assembly constituency represented by former CM K Chandrashekhar Rao is part of Medak district. While the town is largely peaceful, right-wing groups allege that the police have been soft on the accused from the Muslim side and continue to exert pressure on the police to take action against them. “The police have just arrested 11 persons from their (Muslim) side. There were a lot of people involved in the violence. We demand the police to identify and take fair action against them,” Vijay says.

Both the Muslims and the BJP blame the police for the escalation of the violence. “These groups created an issue in the morning and by the evening things turned violent. Police should have acted swiftly in the morning itself and taken preventive measures,” Barkhat said. 

Responding to allegations of police failure, Inspector General, Hyderabad Multi-Zone -1, AV Ranganath said they will conduct an internal probe. The SP however faulted the right-wing groups for the flare up. “If there were any illegalities they should have informed the police instead of taking the law into their own hands. We will not tolerate such behaviour.” 

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