On the third day after communal violence broke out in Khambhat, a town in Anand district, the Gujarat government announced that it would place parts of the town under the Disturbed Areas Act, blaming its demographic situation for repeated incidents of violence. The continuing hostilities between the communities are being blamed on an eight-year-old land dispute.
Clashes broke out in Akhbarpura area of the town on Sunday, leading to arson and rioting in which 13 people were injured. The Rapid Action Force (RAF) was called in on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Khambhat remained shut following a bandh called by members of the Hindu community, even as sporadic incidents of violence was reported from various parts of the town. Local police along with additional force from Ahmedabad and Kheda, and the RAF was continuously patrolling the streets.
Condemning the violence more than 3,000 people from the Hindu community gathered at the Gawara tower, a central location in the town, to express solidarity in Bhawasarwada, on Tuesday morning. The crowd walked to the spot from various localities and was later dispersed. At the same time, a locked house and two vehicles outside a garage were torched.
The state government transferred the Superintendent of Police of Anand district, Makarand Chauhan, and his deputy, Reema Munshi. Ahmedabad city traffic DCP Ajit Rajian and Bharti Pandya have been appointed in their respective positions.
Following a meeting held by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in Gandhinagar, Director General of Police (DGP) Shivanand Jha was sent to Khambhat to ensure violence does not spread to other parts of the state.
After the Sunday violence, four separate FIRs were registered, over 2,000 people were booked and 47 people were arrested under charges of rioting, arson and attempt to murder.
According to the FIR, a mob armed with stones, sticks and other sharp-edged weapons gathered at Akhbarpura over a stone-pelting rumour.
Members of the two communities hurled abuses at each other and the matter soon turned violent. It also spread from Akhbarpura to nearby localities, including Lal Darwaza, Pirajpur Bhawsarwad and Bhochbari.
Several members of the Muslim community locked their homes and took refuge in madarasas, police said.
Alirakha (36), a resident of the area, on Tuesday managed to visit her home in Akhbarpura after two days, where she locked up her in-laws in a single room on a terrace.
She carried two packets of buns for them. Alirakha along with over 100 women and their children have taken shelter in a nearby madrasa as their houses were burnt down.
“On Sunday itself, we decided to leave our houses and come here. We don’t know when we will go back to our houses. My in-laws are old and unable to walk so I had to leave them locked up there. Our children had exams but now we can’t even send them to schools. Their books have been burnt,” she said.
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