THREE people were killed in police firing after communal clashes broke out in the Kishanbagh area of Rajendranagar in Hyderabad on Wednesday morning.
Police said trouble started after a flag outside a gurdwara in Sikh Chawani was found burnt. Some members of the Sikh community then reportedly barged into a house in Bahadurpura — a Muslim-dominated area — and attacked two youths there.
The youths raised an alarm, and the violence escalated with groups from both communities indulging in stone-pelting and arson. As the news spread, mobs attacked houses in the lanes and bylanes.
Police Commissioner C V Anand said central and paramilitary forces which had been requisitioned for election duty were rushed to the area. Police opened fire when the violence continued near Kishanbaug, as the mobs set fire to vehicles and houses.
Those killed in the firing have been identified as Wajid Ali, 38, Mohammed Shajuddin, 42, and Nazir, 28. A member of the local peace committee said Wajid Ali also had sword injuries on his body.
The committee member said on condition of anonymity that the flag may have caught fire due to sparks from a nearby copper-extraction shop where they incinerate electrical wires. “We are assuming that early in the morning, between 3-4 am, something happened in the shop due to which sparks flew and the flag caught fire. I think it was an accident. This is just our preliminary reading of what may have happened,” he said.
“In the morning, some members of both communities noticed the burnt flag and the elders decided to replace it before the incident gained communal colour,’’ he said. However, even as this was being done, the news spread through SMSes and internet. A photograph of the burnt flag was also uploaded.
“The clashes started over the burnt religious flag of one community in Kishanbagh area early on Wednesday. Incensed over this, the men of this community entered the houses of the other community, burnt their houses and vehicles. They then got together to replace the flag,” said Cyberabad Police Joint Commissioner Y Gangadhar.
“About 1,000 men from the other community then attacked them and started pelting stones. Several policemen were also injured. I was also attacked and my personal security officer was hit on the head and suffered a leg fracture,” he said.
“To control the clashes, police opened fire — three men died in the firing. We have formed several teams and are carrying out searches to arrest the miscreants who indulged in the clashes and arson. Indefinite curfew has been imposed,’’ said Gangadhar.
Tension continued in the area for several hours even as police stepped up security in the neighbouring Old City area.
Condemning the clashes, MIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that some miscreants attacked the residents of Arsh Mahal with swords and daggers and set several vehicles on fire. “The residents pelted stones in self-defence. In the meantime, the police reinforcements rushed to the spot. Instead of controlling the assailants who were brandishing swords and attacking the members of the other community, the police personnel opened fired on the area’s residents, killing three youths and injuring a dozen others,” he claimed.
“Instead of using the usual methods like lathicharge, teargas shells and rubber bullets, they opened fire on the crowd. It is not clear who ordered the police firing,” alleged Owaisi, demanding a full-fledged judicial inquiry by a sitting high court Judge and strict action against the police personnel.