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Since 1st March, 1999
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Law loses speed, lynch mob at large

Ahmedabad, May 4: More than 36 hours after 11 persons were named in the murder of Mohammed Rafiq Vohra in an FIR, not one has been arrested, raising questions about the government’s sincerity in punishing rioters.

Yesterday, chief minister Narendra Modi had warned rioters that the “law will do its duty”.

But Rafiq’s killers, identified by his brother Abdul Gani, are at large. The 38-year-old businessman was dragged out of his car by a mob, stabbed and burnt alive on Tuesday night. The mob was led by neighbours, Abdul said.

Vadodara police chief Deepak Swaroop could not explain why not one of the 11 has been arrested. “Since there is a named FIR, they will be arrested,” he said.

The violence in the city that has claimed six lives has revived memories of the 2002 riots. This time, too, the police have been accused of refusing to protect the minorities and of targeting them.

Mehmmudmiya Sheikh, a 58-year-old handcart puller, said from SSG hospital that he was passing through Bhoyvada around noon on Monday when the police stopped and asked him his name, reports PTI. “They fired at my legs when I told them.”

Julfikar Ahmed, 24, also in hospital with bullet wounds, said policemen fired at him from a jeep when he was passing through Hatikhana on Monday wearing a skull cap.

Police say that only rioters were hit by bullets.

Eighty-three people were rounded up during the day, which passed without incident. Curfew was relaxed for women and children for two hours. All 83 are “known anti-social elements'. Some of them were involved in rioting cases”, Swaroop said.

Last night, a bakery was burnt and a police station attacked. In 2002, another city bakery ' Best Bakery ' was burnt with 14 people inside.

Minority leader Chirag Sheikh alleged that the police were not sincere about arresting Rafiq’s killers and that the 11 named in the FIR were deliberately allowed to escape.

Additional police commissioner V.M. Pargi said his team had searched homes of their friends and relatives. “They appear to have gone into hiding but our efforts are on.”

Vadodara city VHP chief Ajay Joshi readily accepted Ashok Thakker, one of the 11 named by Abdul, as one of their own. “He may not be an active member of the VHP/ Bajrang Dal but we consider him our man like 10 other Hindus named in the FIR.”

Asked if the chief minister’s warning to rioters was also aimed at the VHP, Joshi lost his temper. “I know you people are minority agents and anti-national,” he said, adding that the statement was directed only at those who had attacked civic officials doing their duty.

The officials were attacked by some minority community members on Monday for demolishing a dargah.

Today, the army staged a flag march in the troubled areas even as human rights activists and Congress leaders on a peace mission reached the city.

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