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Godhra curfew after festival riot

Ahmedabad, Sept. 5: Communally-sensitive Godhra town simmered again today after an immersion procession of the Ganesh festival turned violent, prompting the authorities to clamp indefinite curfew in this flashpoint of last year’s Gujarat communal carnage.

Twenty people, including two police officers, were injured in the resultant pelting of stones and about a dozen shops were looted and set ablaze in sensitive Polan Bazaar and a truck torched and several other vehicles damaged.

Trouble started around 5 pm when a slogan-shouting procession of devotees reached Rani Masjid. They were to pass through a stretch of Polan Bazaar, dominated by the minority community.

Some members of the procession were said to have raised “provocative slogans”, prompting protests from people in the mosque. The resultant commotion ended in stone-pelting by both sides.

A resident, however, claimed that the trouble actually started when a member of the festival procession scribbled “Jai Shri Ram” on the wall of the mosque, angering the people who had gathered for Friday prayers.

The skirmish spiralled into mob violence in no time as the confrontation spilled to Neelam Hotel and Station Road locality, the main trouble-spots of Godhra town, Panchmahal district superintendent of police Manoj Anthani said.

According to Anthani, some altercation over shouting of slogans resulted in heavy stone-pelting from Rani Masjid, located on the “border” between minority-dominated Polan Bazaar and nearby houses of the majority community.

The mob then ran amok, looting and burning shops across a-half-kilometre stretch from the spot which the procession was passing through.

Members of the majority community vented their anger on the police chowki, which they pelted with stones, demanding action against the “troublemakers”.

The police cane-charged the mob and lobbed 80 teargas shells and finally resorted to firing in the air. Five rounds managed to disperse the mob.

The injured included a deputy collector, a police inspector and two other policemen, the district police chief said. According to PTI, official sources said at least 20 people who were part of the procession were injured in the clashes.

Curfew has been imposed on five police chowki areas that cover all the town’s sensitive localities. The situation was now under control and immersions in other places passed off peacefully, the sources said.

According to the news agency, director-general of state police K. Chakravarthi said a company of the Rapid Action Force has already been deployed in sensitive areas. He also said the inspector-general of police (Vadodara range) was supervising the situation.

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