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Shopping of Swords on Flipkart Related to Aurangabad Violence, Online Procurement of Weapons Becoming
a Pattern in Communal Violence (Picture for representational purpose)

Police have connected an online order of swords through e-commerce site Flipkart to the Aurangabad communal violence of May 11 and 12, 2018. Maharashtra police are moving towards booking the company on criminal conspiracy charges, the Indian Express reported. The move comes after Aurangabad Crime Branch recovered a consignment of 30 weapons, including 12 swords and 16 knives, that were ordered online through the e-commerce firm.

According to police, the orders for most of these weapons were placed on May 16 by 24 local residents. The weapons are said to have reached the courier company’s office on May 21. It has now become clear that these weapons were available on the website under the categories ‘toy swords’ and ‘kitchen appliances.’ Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad is also part of the probe.

On Tuesday (May 29, 2018) the Aurangabad Crime Branch seized eight parcels, which contained eight swords, a knife and a khukri (Nepalese knife), from a local office of the courier company. It later seized 18 parcels containing four swords, 15 knives and a traditional dagger from another office of the company. Eight customers who placed the orders have been arrested and the others are being probed, police sources said.

An officer told the Indian Express that the police were investigating if there was a common thread to the orders of weapons and if the weapons were meant to create a law-and-order breakdown.

There were various versions of what had caused the Aurangabad violence in Maharashtra. In one, a local mango vendor had refused to sell mangoes to miscreants who were drunk, which provoked the latter. Another version says that the miscreants asked for money for drinks from a mechanic in the area and that he was assaulted when he refused to give money. In both the versions, it is said that a large group of people, ready with sharp edged weapons joined in soon after the assault. The local shop owners were forced to lower their shutters after this. Rumours of water connection being disrupted also added to the violence, it was said.

This is the second time that online booking of weapons has been made in relation with communal violence. In the violence against Muslims in Aurangabad, Bihar, that took place in connection with the Ram Navami festival, it was found that the weapons reached the perpetrators through online orders.

An independent seven-member fact-finding team of journalists and social activists that investigated the violence had found that the Ram Navami related violence was pre meditated and was facilitated by local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers. Around 2 lakh swords were procured from outside the state prior to the Ram Navami ‘celebrations’. Orders were placed on an online shopping portal, which connected the buyers with supplier who delivered the consignment through a courier service in different districts of the state. The fact finding team found that a businessperson in Patna alone had bought 50,000 swords for the occasion.

In the case of violence in Maharashtra, the police say that the orders were placed days after Aurangabad witnessed communal violence on May 11 and 12 in which two people, including a minor were killed. The violence that broke out in Maharashtra saw over 30 people getting injured in various parts of the city. A curfew was imposed and heavy security was deployed in the area.

The trend of using Hindu festivals to incite communal violence has seen a rise during the BJP rule and has intensified in 2017. Many see this is as a deliberate polarisation technique that RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu fundamentalist umbrella party under which BJP operates) uses to retain power in the 2019 elections.

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