The tribal-dominated district of Nandurbar near Gujarat has seen communal flare-ups over the past two days, with shops and houses of both Hindus and Muslims looted and burnt and several policemen injured, locals and police have said.
The clashes were sparked off by an incident on Tuesday afternoon, when a group of boys was stopped from entering a school where Secondary School Certificate examinations were being held. The school, Anglo Indian Urdu High School, is located in Isamu Nagar.
On Tuesday, when the Information Communication Technology examination was on, locals prevented some youth from entering the school, claiming they were supplying cheat sheets to candidates inside. “The boys were loitering around the premises while exams were on. There are girls in this school and we felt that the boys’ presence during exam time was uncalled for. We also felt they were helping students cheat. An argument ensued and one of the youth
got slapped,” said Raju Shaikh, a local activist who witnessed the event.
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Soon after the exam ended, the boy came back with a group of supporters and a fight broke out. Both parties attacked each other with stones. Four Muslim houses in Chirag Galli were looted while a shop of a person from the Mali community in Maliwada was broken into and cash and stock worth Rs 75,000 taken away by the mob, the police said.
The two groups also hurled stones at each other for almost 90 minutes, and the police could only bring the crowd under control by bursting 12 tear gas sticks. Twelve police officers, including Police Inspector Anil Katke, were injured.
On Wednesday, the situation deteriorated again, when miscreants looted and destroyed properties of Muslim sweet meat shop owners in the Mangla market.
“These incidents have occurred spontaneously due to a conflict between two groups. Because youth from both communities became involved, the clash turned into a riot,” Nandurbar Superintendent of Police Mahesh Ghurye said.
The Nandurbar police have so far arrested 15 Hindus and 21 Muslims in connection with the incidents. Around 400-500 more unnamed persons have been accused of participating in the riots.
Police sources said the situation had been brought under control. However, this is the second such incident in less than 45 days in Nandurbar. The two communities had clashed on February 5 too, after attempts to shut down a slaughterhouse in the town.
Over the past few months, tension has been simmering in North Maharashtra, with an increase in communal clashes. In January, a riot had broken out in Pachora in the adjoining district of Jalgaon.