The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Solapur flare-up

Mumbai, Oct. 12: One person was killed in police firing and another stabbed to death today, taking the toll to seven, as arson and rioting continued for the second consecutive day in the textile town of Solapur in Maharashtra despite the imposition of curfew.

Nearly 120 people have been injured in the two days of violence, while police have arrested 258 people so far. Curfew was clamped in the town after yesterday’s communal violence, which claimed five lives and injured 70, and kept residents indoors.

Violence broke out in this industrial city after a bandh called by Muslim organisations, protesting against American Baptist priest Jerry Falwel’s comments on Prophet Mohammad, turned into a communal face-off between Hindus and Muslims.

Falwel, in a recent interview to an international news channel, had said that the Prophet condoned violence.

Official sources said five persons had been killed in the clashes yesterday, while unofficial estimates put the toll at eight.

While three died in police firing, two others were stabbed to death by rioting mobs. All educational institutions and shops remained closed today as the police maintained that Solapur was tense, but under control.

Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who dashed to Solapur to review the situation following the clashes, said that the police and the administration were monitoring the situation and adequate security had been provided to tackle any contingency.

Bhujbal held the media responsible for the violence. The media, he said, should have been more careful before flashing Falwel’s remarks.

“The media should have thought before carrying such reports as it can lead to ill-feeling among different communities and evoke sharp reactions in India,” the deputy chief minister said. Pouncing on the opportunity, the state BJP today blamed the state government for its “laxity” and called for a high-level probe into the incident.

Terming the riots a “conspiracy to stoke communal passions”, BJP spokesman Prakash Jawdekar, while talking to reporters here, expressed surprise that there had been no reactions to Falwel’s remarks even in Muslim countries.

“Why was there a reaction to Falwel’s statement in Maharashtra alone while nobody in the US or in Muslim countries responded to the reported remarks,” Jawdekar asked. Blaming the government for “failing to contain Muslim fundamentalist organisations”, the BJP demanded that the army be called in.

to maintain the law and order in Solapur.

The BJP also condemned the attack on the house of former BJP MLA Narsingh Menji, whose house was first pelted with stones and then set afire. No one was injured in the attack on Menji’s house.

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