A mob allegedly torched a State Reserve Police’s makeshift post and seven private bikes belonging to SRP personnel who were deployed near an open plot at Morarji Chowk, a Muslim neighbourhood in old Bapunagar, where the Gujarat Housing Board (GHP) has proposed construction of affordable housing scheme.
The incident happened at around 11 pm Tuesday when around 3,000 people gathered for namaz at a mosque adjacent to the open plot, recently barricaded with metal sheets. According to police, violence erupted after SRP personnel stopped people from parking their vehicles on the plot.
Locals said police picked up more than 80 people from the spot during the late night combing and released most of them by Wednesday evening. A total of 28 people were named in the FIR, while 10 have been arrested for attempt to murder, rioting, arson and loot among other charges.
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The local police inspector has been transferred and the case has been handed over to the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB).
On Wednesday, meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court sought more clarification on the status of the open plot from the housing board, and also extended the status quo till Monday.
The FIR stated that there was a mob of around 3,000 people who “in a pre-planned conspiracy hurled bottles of petrol and burning rags on police personnel. There was an attempt to burn policemen alive. Private vehicles of policemen were also burnt”. It stated that two containers, belonging to the private contractor constructing the affordable houses, where the construction workers used to live were also gutted.
Locals said tension was prevailing in the locality since construction work began on the plots several months ago and policemen were deployed there to stop people from parking vehicles there. It was reported that some people tried to break the fencing, which led to violence.
“The manner in which the incident has occurred, we can say that there was a conspiracy behind it. We have arrested 10 accused while the hunt for other accused is on,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCB) Deepan Bhadran.
The open plot has been bone of contention between the locals and the government following the announcement of housing scheme. Two petitions have been filed in the High Court challenging the scheme on the ground that the open land was categorised as a playground when the society was created back in 1954 by the then Bombay Housing Board.
After a PIL was filed by some of the residents, the housing board filed two affidavits. In the first affidavit, the housing board denied that the land was never categorised as reserved for playground, but in the second affidavit the officials said that “…in the internal planning of respondent no-2 (GHB), the said land reflected as a playground and by mistake the said nomenclature is reflected in the development plan, which mistake is required to be corrected with the immediate effect”.