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Cricket ignites tinderbox town

Ahmedabad, Nov. 2: The tinderbox syndrome in post-riot Gujarat was on full display today with a cricket ball triggering a communal clash that left three persons dead.

One person was killed in police action and the other two fell to bullets allegedly fired by a former councillor.

Indefinite curfew has been clamped in Viramgam, 70 km from here and one of the most sensitive towns in Ahmedabad district, after police opened fire to disperse mobs that looted and torched more than a dozen shops.

Deputy inspector-general (Ahmedabad Range) A.K. Sharma said former municipal councillor Purshottambhai Jadhav was arrested and his licensed gun, with which he had fired, was seized. Two used cartridges have been recovered. Twenty-four others have been held in combing operations.

The victims were identified as Sharifbhai, Zakir Allarakha and Zakir Yusuf.

Thirty-five people were injured in the incident, most of whom have been admitted in hospitals here.

Violence erupted around 10.30 this morning over a cricket match being played by minority community boys on the Chandfadi grounds.

The police claimed that trouble started when the ball fell into a temple.

Residents disputed the claim. Haider Khan, a petrol-pump owner in Viramgam, said over phone that the ball smashed the windowpane of a house and the angry owner began abusing the players.

Alerted by the commotion, women from the locality gathered and the exchange turned ugly. Soon a crowd built up and began pelting stones.

The house owner went up to the roof and opened fire, killing two persons on the spot and exposing the depth of polarisation and insecurity after the post-Godhra riots in the state where all it takes to ignite a riot is a cricket ball.

An FIR has been lodged against Jadhav who, local residents said, is a bootlegger. The police said he might have opened fire in self-defence as the mob had surrounded his house.

Twelve-year-old Mohammed Shoaib Abdul Kader, who is under treatment for multiple shrapnel injuries, told PTI that Jadhav opened fire at them from his 12-bore gun.

He alleged that Jadhav’s friends also opened fire, injuring others.

The situation spun out of control as gangs of miscreants took to the fast-emptying streets of Chandfadi and Sheth Vaad areas, torching shops and roadside vegetable stalls.

Police lobbed teargas shells and charged with batons, but failed to scatter the mobs. The force then fired at least 20 rounds to quell the rioters.

Finally, as the frenzy showed little sign of subsiding even after an hour, the local authorities clamped curfew.

 

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