Vehicles, govt building torched as protest by Satnami community turns violent in Chhattisgarh

BALODABAZAR (Chhattisgarh), Jun 10: Several cars, motorcycles and a government building were torched after a protest called by the Satnami community to denounce damage to their religious pillar in Chhattisgarh’s Balodabazar city turned violent on Monday, officials said. Several police personnel were injured in the stone pelting, an official said, adding Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai was briefed on the situation by the chief secretary and the DGP. On the intervening night of May 15-16, unidentified persons vandalized a ‘jaitkhamb’, a structure worshipped by the Satnami community as a sacred symbol, near holy Amar Gufa in Giroudpuri dham in Balodabazar district. The police had arrested three persons for alleged involvement in the desecration, though the Satnami community sought a central agency probe into the matter, the official said. To protest against the incident, the Satnami community had called for a demonstration at Dussehra Maidan here and gherao of the collector’s office on Monday. A large number of Satnami community members gathered to attend the protest. Police had put barricades at several places to stop the protestors from heading towards the collectorate. “The Satnami community had called for a peaceful demonstration but the protest turned violent. Protesters pelted stones at police personnel and entered the collectorate by breaking barricades. They pelted stones at the office building and torched several vehicles parked there,” said Balodabazar Superintendent of Police Sadanand Kumar. Some 5,000 protesters broke police barricades and pelted stones, leaving several personnel injured, he said. They entered the collectorate premises, set several cars and two-wheelers as well as the SP’s building on fire, besides pelting stones at the collector’s office and breaking window panes, Kumar said. The flames have been doused and the situation has been brought under control, the SP added. “We have gathered video footage of the violence and will take strict action against those who have indulged in it. The assessment of damage caused by the violence is underway,” the official said. Visuals from the protest site showed some 50 motorcycles, two dozen cars and the SP office building in the collectorate in flames. A fire brigade vehicle was also torched by the mob. The protesters were seen clashing with police personnel. In a post on X, Chief Minister Sai said he has directed Raipur range Inspector General of Police and Raipur division Commissioner to immediately reach the spot in Baloda Bazar district. He said he had called the Chief Secretary and DGP and took preliminary information about the incident and also sought a report on it. The CM said he had directed officials to take strict action against those who disturb social harmony. He  appealed to everyone to maintain harmony. The state government has already ordered a judicial probe into the vandalization of ‘jaitkhamb’, an official said. “On the demand of various organizations and representatives of the Satnami community, Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Sharma, who also holds Home portfolio, has ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident,” the official said. Sharma, in a statement on Monday morning, said incidents that disturb social harmony will not be tolerated and strict action will be taken against the culprits. The Deputy CM urged people to maintain peace and social harmony. The influential Satnami community, founded by medieval era social reformer Baba Ghasidas, represents a majority of Scheduled Castes in Chhattisgarh. (PTI)