A day after the violence that followed the alleged desecration of a holy book in Ghaziabad,it emerged that at least six people were killed in the rioting that also gutted several shops and perhaps two dozen vehicles.
Two people died of gunshot wounds,and four after injuries caused by blunt objects during stonepelting,the police said on Saturday. Witnesses said all six Hayat (35),Asif (19),Wasim (18),Wahid (18),Amir(16) and Lukman (14) might have been hit by bullets.
Some 40 people were believed to have been injured,12 of whom are policemen,officials said. Masuri and Dasna were deserted on Saturday,barring swarms of police and paramilitary personnel. Section 144 has been imposed… RAF and PAC are patrolling the streets and railway station. We will review the situation tomorrow, Ghaziabad district magistrate Aparna Upadhyaya said.
From accounts provided by policemen and civilian eyewitnesses,the trouble that escalated into what constables described as absolute madness began around 12.30 pm on Friday,when pages torn from a religious text were allegedly thrown out of a train at Adhiatmak Nagar station.
Local people believed the torn pages had abusive words scrawled on them. At around 6.30 pm,a group of 50 people led by the muezzin of the local mosque,Abdul Qadir,came to the police station to register a complaint, a police officer said.
Police officials and some senior members of the community tried to pacify the crowd. A phone number written on the pages was called,and an abusive response was received, the officer said. Policemen tried to tell them that the number would be put under surveillance,but the crowd kept growing,and becoming more restive.
While an FIR under Sections 295,295A and 153A was eventually registered,there appears to have been some delay,and the situation spun out of control at some point in this duration.
Some in the mob began to overturn vehicles parked on the police station premises,and set fire to the building. Several people were carrying locally-made firearms,and they started shooting,officers said.
After the firing started,we instructed the policemen present to return fire. Shots were fired by the police. It was only after this that the situation was brought under control, DM Upadhyaya said.
Some officials said the attack may not have been entirely spontaneous. At the most dangerous time,the 20-30 policemen at the police station were facing perhaps a 3,000-strong mob. The violence happened at the time of the weekly Friday bazaar,when the area outside the police station is the most crowded.
The youngest of those killed,14-year-old schoolboy Lukman,was hit by a bullet as he got off a bus.
He had come from Meerut to visit his maternal grandfather. His nana went to look for him,but couldnt find him in the melee. This morning,we received a call from the kotwali,asking us to identify his body, Jahan,Lukmans distraught aunt,said.
Asif,who lives opposite the police station,was hit by a bullet as he stood watching on the terrace.
Officials said an inquiry had been ordered,and ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh had been announced for the dead,besides Rs 50,000 to a lakh for the injured.
At this point,no FIR has been registered against any rioter. We are in the process of finishing investigations. We can establish whether there was a failure of local intelligence only after investigations are complete, Ghaziabad SSP Prashant Kumar said.