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Maharashtra: Curfew announced amid more violence in Amravati; shops, private property destroyed

The Maharashtra Police dispatched four companies of the State Reserve Police Force and another 125 personnel to rein in the mob after the local police, greatly outnumbered, failed to stop them despite a lathicharge

The curfew has come into effect in the limits of Amravati and will remain in force till further order is issued. (PTI Photo/File)

AMRAVATI city in east Maharashtra was put under indefinite curfew on Saturday and Internet services blocked for three days, following violence during a bandh called by the BJP, with a mob overpowering police to damage shops and private properties.

The BJP had called the bandh against stone-pelting on Friday during rallies held by Muslim organisations in various districts of the state, in protest against the recent Tripura communal violence.

In a statement on Saturday, the Union Home Ministry said news circulating on social media about vandalisation of a mosque in Tripura was “fake” and “a complete misrepresentation of facts”. It also said reports from Maharashtra of violence were “very concerning”.

Violence first broke out on Saturday in areas like Rajkamal Chowk and Gandhi Chowk as a march was being taken out by BJP supporters and other right-wing organisations. Shops and vehicles were burned and stone-pelting was reported. The Maharashtra Police dispatched four companies of the State Reserve Police Force apart from 125 personnel after a lathicharge failed to control the mob comprising hundreds.

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A senior police officer said the situation was tense but under control. Police said curfew would be lifted if the situation normalises. Movement is only allowed for essential services, with Section 144 imposed to prevent assembly of more than five people. The Maharashtra Cyber Police warned people not to share “unverified” posts on social media that can cause tension.

In Delhi, the BJP blamed “false statements” against Hindus by Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, for dividing society and for incidents like at Amravati. The party claimed India was partially a “Muslim nation” when the Congress was in power, with Shariah provisions part of the legal system and given primacy over Supreme Court judgments.

On Friday, violence was witnessed in Amravati, Nanded and Malegaon during processions over the Tripura incidents, taken out without due police permission. At least 28 people have been arrested so far or Friday’s violence, with Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil promising stern action. Five FIRs were registered in Amravati over Saturday’s violence.

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Following Saturday’s violence, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said there was no reason for the BJP to have called the bandh.

“The BJP’s uneasiness is evident following its defeat in the by-elections in 13 states. So it has again started communalising the situation. The riots in the state are sponsored and the truth will come out soon,” Raut said.

Home Minister Patil said the BJP bandh was expected to be “peaceful”. Promising action against “all the guilty”, he said: “The Raza Academy was one of the organisers of the protests on Friday. We are finding out if more organisers were involved.”

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In its statement, the Union Home Ministry urged people not to be “misguided” by “fake” reports of “simple or grievous injury” or “rape or death of any person” in incidents in Tripura. Taking note of the violence in Maharashtra, it urged that peace be “maintained at all costs”.

Maharashtra DGP Sanjay Pandey urged people to maintain peace and warned anti-social elements of strict action.

Raut called the violence a “big conspiracy to destabilise the Maharashtra government and to create law and order problems”. “They used Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, CBI, Income Tax and NCB (Narcotics Control Bureau) first, but could not succeed. So now they are orchestrating riots.” Speaking to reporters in Aurangabad, the MP called the violence a ploy to deflect attention from the rising prices.

BJP leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis questioned the rallies held on Friday over the Tripura incidents, calling them a “well-orchestrated conspiracy” to foment communal clashes. What was alleged to have happened in Tripura “did not take place at all”, he said. “The Tripura government and police have clarified with pictures… Yet, some segments seem to have spread rumours using social media to generate unrest.”

Urging the state government to take steps for communal harmony, the BJP leader demanded action against elected leaders of the ruling coalition who had shared the dais with “those protesting and making provocative speeches”.

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BJP national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi told reporters in Delhi: “From the statements made by Rahul Gandhi, it is clear that he has a lot of hatred against Hindus… Wrong news was spread (about) Tripura… It triggered violence in Maharashtra.”

While 11 FIRs were registered in Amravati over Friday’s violence, five were registered over Saturday’s incidents. No arrests have been made so far. In Nanded, police registered four FIRs over Friday’s incidents, and arrested 18. “Eight policemen were injured in the stone-pelting,” said Nisar Tamboli, DIG, Nanded range.

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The Nashik Rural police lodged five FIRs against the violence in Malegaon on Friday and arrested 10 people. SP Sachin Patil said: “More accused are being identified and will be arrested.”

First published on: 13-11-2021 at 03:13:48 pm
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