Army was called out and curfew imposed in Rajouri town on Tuesday afternoon as tension escalated following pitched battles between Muslim youth and policemen at various places over the burning of an ISIS flag having handwritten Kalima Tayyaba on it by some Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists.
Confirming imposition of curfew in the town, Rajouri Deputy Commissioner, Deepti Uppal, told The Indian Express that the Army has been asked to carry out flag march. The situation is now getting under control, she added.
This followed after violence spread to various parts of the town with groups of youth pelting stones on police who had earlier resorted to lathicharge at Gujjar Mandi Chowk in order to disperse them. The violence forced Hindus also to close their establishments which were open in the morning.
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There was already tension mounting in the town with Muslims objecting to the writing of Kalima Tayyaba with a chalk on a ISIS flag made of a black piece of paper and later its burning by some people in the town on Eid. The VHP, on the other hand, denied any intention to hurt sentiments of Muslim community.
The Muslim leaders had given time till Monday evening for arresting the accused, saying that they will otherwise observe bandh in entire border district. In view of the bandh call, the Muslim youth had started assembling at different places and raising blockades by burning tyres. The shops and other business establishments owned by them in the town too were closed.
The vehicular traffic too had remained off the road in view of mounting tension.
To defuse tension, the local administration on Tuesday morning arranged a meeting of elders from both Hindu and Muslim communities at Government Dak Bunglow. Both sides after discussion between them agreed to defuse the situation by carrying out a joint peace march in the town.
When, however, they reached Abdullah bridge, they were confronted by local Muslim youth who refused to call off their demonstration unless police arrested those burning the ISIS flag. They started raising slogans and held a sit-in on the bridge forcing elders from their community to withdraw from the peace march.
To disperse the protestors, as police resorted to lathicharge at Abdullah bridge, violence spread to various parts of the town. As the news about police lathicharge spread , more and more people from outskirts of the town also started joining the protestors making it difficult for local police to control situation.
Sensing trouble in the town, which had been witness to communal clashes at the slightest provocation in the past, Deputy Commissioner imposed curfew and called Army for help.
Last time, communal clashes had erupted in the town following hate speech by VHP leader Praveen Togadia in 2013. Thereafter, his entry into the state remained banned until March this year when BJP had come to power in coalition with PDP.