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Ram Navami violence: Day after clashes, uneasy calm in Gujarat towns

According to police, a rally of around 4,000 people under police security left Ramji temple in Shakarpur for a “Shobha Yatra” on Sunday. Hardly 500 metres from the temple, a clash began between two communities near a police pocket.

Written by Vaibhav Jha | Anand, Khambhat |
Updated: April 12, 2022 7:59:13 am
Policemen stationed at Shakarpur village in Khambhat, Gujarat, on Monday, a day after violence broke out during Ram Navami procession. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

A day after communal clashes were reported in Khambhat town of Anand and Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha, leading to the death of one person and several others getting injured, an uneasy calm prevailed in the localities on Monday even as police maintained strict vigilance.

In Khambhat town, residents took out the funeral procession of Kanhaiyya Lal Rana, 57, a resident of Chatari Bazaar in Khambhat town, who was found dead amid a clash between communities in Shakarpur village. Rana was on his way home from Ramji temple in the village Sunday afternoon when he was caught in a clash between communities during a Ram Navami procession.

Minutes later, police found him lying injured and unconscious. Rana was taken to hospital by a 108 ambulance where doctors declared him brought dead. He was the only casualty in the clash between communities in Shakarpur village on Sunday afternoon.

“My father had left on foot to attend the puja at Ramji temple, which is three kilometres away from our place. He was returning home with prasad when he was attacked,” said Bhavesh Rana, his son who works a daily wage labourer.

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Both police and villagers of Shakarpur confirmed to The Indian Express that Rana was not part of the procession.

According to police, a rally of around 4,000 devotees under police security left from Ramji temple in Shakarpur for a “Shobha Yatra” on the occasion of Ram Navami. Hardly 500 metres from the temple, a clash started between two communities near a police pocket. Heavy stone-pelting followed, after which police resorted to teargas shelling to disperse the mob.

On Monday, a team of The Indian Express visited the spot where the clash took place. Stones and bricks lay on the road leading to Shakarpur village even as heavy police presence ensured the law and order situation was under control.

The total population of Shakarpur is around 12,000 among which Muslims constitute 30% per cent. The village has Ramji temple, which is believed to be over 100 years old and a centre for religious and social activities.

“From 2017, every year, we take out a Shobha Yatra from the Ramji temple to the tower (ghantaghar) in Khambhat. In the past two years, the rally was cancelled due to Covid restrictions but this year we got permission. The rally was organised by temple management and Ram Sena, a social organisation. Hardly 500 metres after the rally started, people hiding in the bushes threw stones at us. Police then stopped the procession,” said Dinesh Patel, sarpanch of Shakarpur village.

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The Indian Express tried to reach out to families residing in the area regarding the incidents that occurred on Sunday afternoon but they refused to be identified fearing retribution.

“The attendees in the rally were carrying swords and sticks with them. Who gave them the permission for that ? They were raising instigating slogans. Stones were thrown at our houses. Before Sunday, no communal incident has ever taken place in our village,” said a 35-year-old man who refused to be identified.

Taking cognisance, police lodged two FIRs in the matter. In the first incident, as many as 61 were named accused and 100 unknown persons from Shakarpur village were booked under IPC sections 307 for attempt to murder, 332 for assaulting public servant, sections of rioting and 338 for grievous hurt.

The complainant in the case is Dinesh Patel, sarpanch of Shakarpur village, who claimed that a mob of around 200 persons threw stones at the rally. In another FIR, police have booked four named and 1,000 unknown persons who were part of the yatra. The complainant in the second FIR is Razzak Malek, also a resident of Shakarpur, and the accused have been booked under similar sections.

On Monday evening, V Chandrashekhar, Inspector General (IG) Ahmedabad range, held a press conference in Khambhat.

“Based on the complaints, we have lodged two FIRs in the clash which took place on Sunday. In the first case, nine persons have been detained. The exact cause of death of Kanhaiyya Lal will be ascertained after forensic reports. Police are investigating from all angles. The law and order situation is completely under control,” the IG said.

In Himmatnagar, senior police officials organised a peace meet between two communities on Monday, a day after reports of stone-pelting, arson and looting of shops were reported in Chhaparia area of the town.

Sabarkantha Collector Hitesh Koya told The Indian Express that a curfew under CRPC section 144 prohibiting assembly of four persons and more has been imposed in Himmatnagar from April 10 to April 13.

“After the untoward incident in a Shobha Yatra on the occasion of Ram Navami, a peace meet under the Gandhinagar range inspector general Abhay Chudasma and collector Hitesh Koya was held on Monday,” read a statement from the office of Koya.

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