Shrimp farming rivalry root of Bharuch riots, finds probe

SP says Aliya bet prone to ‘infiltration’, urges state govt to declare it off-limits to outsiders

By: Express News Service | Surat | Published: January 30, 2015 3:33 am

Bharuch district superintendent of police, Bipin Ahire, has urged the state government to declare Aliya bet, the creek where the Narmada river meets the sea, as a prohibited area, given its vantage point for “infiltration”. The area is home to thousands of shrimp farms, which are being demolished after the communal riots that broke out earlier this month in Hansot and Ambheta villages of Hansot taluka in Bharuch district, claiming three lives.

Five days after the riots that began on January 14, in which two Hindus and a Muslim were killed, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said in a release that the Hindu men killed were its members. It also warned the state government of the proximity of Hansot to the sea that had seen a rise in anti-national elements acting on the directions of disruptive forces across the sea.

Communal riots broke out in Hansot, Ambheta and other villages over trivial issue. Police registered ten FIRs: One of them against BJP MLA Ishwar Patel’s brother, Vallabh Patel, an accused.

During investigations, police found that the intense rivalry in the shrimp farming business was at the root of the riots. The monopoly over the business was the prime provocation since shrimp farmers were giving protection money to “anti-social elements”.

Aliya bet area has around 1,300 shrimp ponds of which maximum run illegally. Bharuch district collector Avantika Singh had also reported about the unauthorised shrimp business to the state government. The demolition has begun after the directions of the government. Sources said that the officials had demolished over 17 such illegal shrimp ponds in Aliya bet in the last three days, and the work was still on under police supervision.

District police chief Ahire said, “It is an isolated area and even Dahej port is visible from Aliya bet. We have done the survey of the entire area. Keeping in mind security measures, the area should be prohibited to outsiders. We have made recommendations to the state government to declare Aliya bet prohibited. Till now, however, we have not witnessed infiltration of any suspected persons.” Sources said there were around 50 migrant families from Kutch settled in Aliya bet for many years. According to Ahire, the revenue from the shrimp ponds would be around Rs 1,500 crore per annum.

“Some anti-social elements take protection money from the shrimp pond owners. The investors failed to approach police as they knew that they have invested money illegally and their business would be destroyed. The annual income of the notorious elements who take protection money from the shrimp pond investors, would be around Rs 100 crore yearly. The total area where shrimp pond farming is done is approximately 8,448 hectares. During investigating the communal riots, we found that the actual fight is to get dominance in collecting protection money from shrimp pond investors,” said Ahire.

Trucker held with shrimp consignment

Bharuch police have arrested a Mumbai trucker carrying a consignment of 550 kg shrimps worth Rs 2.50 lakh without authorised papers, near Dahej port. The container driver failed to produce necessary documents, so the police seized the consignment.

The driver was identified as Ratanlal Shukla, a resident of Andheri West in Mumbai. Dahej Mairne police station sub- inspector S D Sharma said, “The driver had disclosed that the consignment was likely to be delivered to a person named Rajubhai, a broker in Mumbai’ s Manish Market. He told us that he got the consignment at Aliya bet. We will investigate the case and find out who owns this consignment and to whom it was likely to be delivered.”

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