January 28, 2015 4:00:53 am
The state government ran JCBs over the illegal shrimp farms in Aliya Bet area of Hansot taluka in the coastal district of Bharuch on Tuesday afternoon. It was said to be the root of the communal riot on January 14, that claimed three lives.
Following the government’s order, the Bharuch district administration pressed four machines into action burying four ponds by evening and seizing the shrimps.
On January 14, marking Makar Sankranti, clashes broke out in Ambheta and Hansot villages of Hansot taluka, apparently after a fight over kite catching, which ended in the killings of two Hindus and a Muslim. Five days after the deaths, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh owned up the two — Pratik Patel and Sandeep Patel — as their “active members”. The victim from the minority community was tempo driver, identified as Rafik Patel. Many houses, shops and religious places were torched by the mobs and sugarcane crop was set ablaze.
One of the accused named in one of the 10 FIRs lodged at Hansot police station was BJP MLA Ishwar Patel’s brother Vallabh Patel.
During the investigations, it was found that the issue behind the outbreak of riot was the illegally running shrimp ponds in Aliya bet area. Some notorious elements were taking protection money from the farm owners. To avoid future clashes, the government passed orders to survey and destroy the illegal shrimp ponds.
A talati and a sarpanch, who went for the survey, were also beaten up, said sources. Tuesday’s operation was carried out under police protection.
Ishwar Patel, who is said to have part ownership of some ponds in the area, told the Indian Express Tuesday, “I don’t have a single pond in Aliya bet. My business is agricultural farming. I have written to the district collector earlier, to take strict action against illegal shrimp farming. Some of the notorious people are involved selling land illegally to the people for shrimp farming.”
Sources in the Bharuch collectorate claimed that there were at least 13,00 shrimp ponds on Aliya bet, majority of them are unauthorised.
Bharuch Sub-Divisional Magistrate I A Panchal reached the spot with officials from the fisheries department and police and started the demolition. Some of the ponds were empty but some had shrimps, which the officials seized.
Panchal said, “After getting orders from the government we have started demolition. We have got details of revenue survey number of shrimp ponds owners. Over 70 per cent of the 13,00 shrimp ponds are illegal. We are taking help from the fisheries department to identify the illegal ponds. The work will continue for few more days. We have taken police help as earlier a talati who went to the Aliya bet was beaten up by the notorious elements. Not a single shrimp pond owner had come down to stop us carrying out demolition work.”
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