BJP workers and locals Friday afternoon clashed with the police in Moradabad’s Kanth area when they were stopped from holding a mahapanchayat that was called against the removal of a loudspeaker from a temple.
Earlier in the day, BJP MLA Sangeet Som, an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots, was detained on his way to Kanth. Four BJP MPs were also detained when they tried to defy the ban imposed on the mahapanchayat by the district administration. They were released later.
District Magistrate Chandra Kant was seriously injured in his eye when protesters hurled stones at police and administration officials. Kant was reportedly taken to Delhi from where he is being shifted to Chennai for an eye surgery.
The protesters also blocked the rail route between Bijnor and Moradabad, forcing the police to fire blanks, lathicharge and lob teargas shells to remove them. The police had earlier detained hundreds of BJP workers and locals en route to Kanth.
Besides Som, MPs Sarvesh Kumar Singh (Moradabad), Nepal Singh (Rampur), Kanwar Singh Tanwar (Amroha), and Satyapal Saini (Sambhal) and party’s western UP president Bhupendra Singh were detained at different places when they were headed to the protest venue near Kanth railway station. They all were released later.
Till late in the evening, protesters continued to gather near the railway station even as police and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel tried to disperse them.
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The commissioner said barriers were put on roads but around 450 people came through fields and gathered near the railway track. “They stopped one train. The protesters also damaged the railway track. For now, the route to Ambala has been suspended,” he said.
Moradabad SSP Dharam-vir said people were brought from neighbouring Bijnor and Amroha districts. He said over 30 people have been taken into custody and cases are being lodged against those who indulged in stone-pelting.
Late in the evening , BJP state president Laxmikant Bajpai formed a committee comprising five party MLAs to inquire into the Kanth clashes.
On June 26, the local administration had removed a loudspeaker from a temple in Akbarpur Chendri Nayagaon village in Kanth after complaints from a few villagers.
A protest was also held by Hindu groups and locals who had clashed with the police. As many as 19 persons were arrested then. The local market has remained closed since in protest against the removal of the loudspeaker.
BJP had given the call for a mahapanchayat alleging that the loudspeaker, which they said was in place for 40 years, was removed at the behest of local Peace Party MLA Aneesur Rahman.
On Thursday, a meeting between two communities of the village, one group led by MP Sarvesh Kumar Singh and Sambhal MP and BJP’s Moradabad district president Satyapal Saini and the other by the Peace Party, failed to resolve the issue.