Vadodara: The old city of Vadodara has been reeling under communal tension for last two days as members of two communities resorted to stone pelting and arson both on Thursday and Friday. Local Muslims have accused the police of bias and hotheadedness in dealing with riots, alleging that they entered their houses without permission, used abusive language, and also broke furniture and burnt bikes.
Although exact causes of the strife has not been known yet, it has been reported by a section of media that the incident began with a freak bike accident at Lehripura Darwaza in Vadodara that involved members of two communities.
It has also been reported that a morphed photograph of Ambe Maa on Kaaba uploaded allegedly by one Sanjay Raulji, also became the cause of tension as furious members of the Muslim community gathered outside his house and started pelting stones.
Soon the violence spread as members of two communities’ pelted stones at each other and put some vehicles on fire and damaged several shops. The police had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd in the in Kumbharwad area of the city. Fire fighters of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation were also rushed to the spot to control fire.
“Stone pelting was reported from the area. The cause behind the incident is not known but apparently it was due to some photo circulated on the social media,” Vadodara Police Commissioner E Radhakrishnan told Indian Express.
Sensing tension, there was heavy police deployment in sensitive areas since Thursday itself, still there were reports of tension between two communities and sporadic incidences of stone pelting and clashes. On Friday there were reports of clashes from Nawab Bazar, Yaquub Pura, Patel Ganj, etc.
Although the curfew has not been imposed, there is heavy deployment of police force and there is palpable tension in the area.
On Friday, Vadodara Crime Branch arrested Ayub Hasanbhai Garasiya, a history-sheeter and wanted accused in the recent communal clashes in the Fatehpura and Bhandwada area of Vadodara. Indian Express reported that the cops are not sure if Garasiya instigated mob violence in Thursday’s clash, adding that combing operation is being carried out across the city to round up suspected persons who could “threaten the law and order in the city” during the festive nine days of Navaratri.
Meanwhile, local Muslims accused the Vadodara Police of “bias and hotheadedness atrocities”, adding that they were discriminated against as the police entered their houses, used abusive language and manhandled some of them. They also alleged that police damaged their properties, although these could not be verified independently. There is no report of detention of any Hindu rioter in the incidence or Sanjay Raulji,who had allegedly posted the morphed photograph so far.
It should be mentioned here that in last couple of weeks environment has been communally charged up in Gujarat and other parts of the country in the wake of the propaganda over Love Jihad and the call of the VHP and BJP leaders to ban Muslim youths from participating in garba dance during Navratri, which began on Thursday.
The controversial cleric from Kheda Maulana Mehdi Hasan was arrested and sent to judicial custody for his alleged ridicule of Garba festival, when he apparently called garba a festival of devils. He was even slapped by the VHP worker in the court compound.
VHP has cautioned Gujarat home Secretary S.K. Nanda against government advisory note not to stop anyone from entering Garba venue. Its Ahmedabad secretary Raju Patel issued a release stating:”Is Nanda a religious leader? Do his relatives associated with famous Jagnnath temple allow Muslims in their temple?. First he should stop Mosques’ loud speakers and then he should order banning loud speakers in garba”.
Gujarat was comparatively free from communal riots in last one decade after the atrocious 2002 pogrom. There is fear that an attempt is being made to revive the communal tension in an already polarized state.
(Abdul Hafiz Lakhani reported from Gujarat.)