January 13, 1999
SURAT, Jan 12: With another prayer hall targeted in the strife-torn Dangs district around midnight on Monday — the second such incident since Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Ahwa on Sunday — police said they were seeking additional reinforcements.
Talking to The Indian Express on Tuesday night, District Superintendent of Police Manoj Sashidhar said that since the route patrol was not proving effective, they were seeking additional reinforcements. These forces would be drawn from those that had recently been deployed in area on VVIP duty.
According to the police, a group of miscreants torched the prayer hall at Lahancharia village, 21 km from Ahwa on the Saputara road. Incidentally, the hall had been targeted on November 12, much before the attacks took an organised form on Christmas Day.
A police complaint filed on November 16 said that the hall had suffered minimal damage, but last night’s attack destroyed part of a wall. The DSP however said the hall had suffered greater damagein the first attempt.
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A villager who had woken up at night first spotted the flames, but a couple of bamboo poles had burnt down before the villagers could put out the fire, according to the police. A complaint was lodged with the Ahwa police station on Tuesday.
A similar arson attempt had been reported early on Monday in the Dhuda village. The two incidents — after an apparent calm of more than 10 days — has disturbed the peace of the Dangs, with the Christian community voicing fears of more attacks.
CNI superintendent Rev T V Gaikwad said the two hate attacks in quick succession had increased their sense of insecurity. “The prime minister’s visit has only worsened the situation,” he said, claiming that Hindu fundamentalists had derived moral support from the visit.
Meanwhile, the police brought leaders of the Hindu and Christian communities together and held an impromptu peace committee meeting there. As a gesture of harmony, members of both communities joined hands to clean the place. A similarexercise was undertaken at the Dhuda village.
In another development, a batch of 50 Christians was reported to have reconverted themselves to Hinduism at the Unai hot spring on Tuesday. While police received reports of the reconversion, Rasik Surti of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad said, “Reconversions are taking place everyday.”
Sources said villagers from Shivbara, Sepuamba and Bondveer villages, located about 10 km from Subir, were taken to Unai. Prayer halls in Shivbara and Sepuamba villages have been attacked recently.
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