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Violence continues in Vadodara for third consecutive day

By Staff
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Vadodara, May 3: Violence and arson triggered by the demolition of a century old Dargah by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) on Monday, continued for the third consecutive day today with mobs taking to the streets in several areas since morning.

Following last night's widespread violence and rioting in the Panigate area, phase wise relaxation in curfew that was announced in six police station areas for today, was cancelled by the authorities.

Around mid-night, a 2000-strong mob went on a rampage in the Mahavir char-rasta on the Ajwa road and burnt alive a 35-year-old youth in his Tata Sierra. Police took nearly two hours to bring the irate mob attack under control by resorting to lathi charge, teargas shells and firing. The youth identified as Mohammad Rafiq Vohra, was reportedly returning home in his Sierra when the mob gheraoed him, beat him up and finally set him on fire along with the vehicle. He was rushed to the SSG hospital by his brother Firoj only to be declared brought dead.

With the death of Vohra, the toll in the last three days of violence in the city has risen to six, three of whom were killed in police firing.

As violence continued unabeted in other curfew-bound areas too, Gujarat home minister Amit Sahar rushed to Vadodara late in the night and had a high level meeting with police commissioner Deepak Swaroop, collector Rajip Topno and a team of senior IAS and IPS officers.

State police chief P C Pande, who also arrived here today reviewed the law and order situation. According to official sources, Chief Minister Narendra Modi was also expected to visit the riot-hit city this afternoon.

Talking to the media after a review meeting at the circuit house, home minister Mr Shah said his government was preparing an ''action plan'' to restore peace and communal harmony in the city. He asserted that things would come to normal soon with deployment of adequate central paramilitary forces in all sensitive areas. Meanwhile, clashes between two communities were reported in the Bhauchawada and Bawamanpura areas in the curfew-bound Panigate police station area where mob set ablaze a slum. Police lobbed teargas shells and resorted to lathicharge to quell the stone-pelting miscreants.

According to police commissioner Deepak Swaroop, additional four companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and State Reserve Police (SRP) had reached Vadodara and were being deployed in vulnerable areas today to strictly enforce the curfew. Mr Swaroop confirmed that police had to open fire at several places in the city last night as situation went out of control due to mob violence, particularly in the sensitive Panigate and Ajwa road areas. However no one was injured in police firing, he said.

In view of the last night's incidents of violence, the earlier decision to give phase-wise relaxation in curfew in all the six police station areas had to be shelved, the police chief said adding that so far around 90 people had been arrested in connection with the violence in the city.

While the City and Navapura police station areas were under curfew since Monday, curfew was re-imposed in Panigate, Raopura, Wadi and Karelibaug at 1700 hrs yesterday after a couple of hours relaxation given to enable the people to buy their essentials.

With the authorities deciding to enforce curfew more strictly, all main roads in the walled city areas looked deserted today. Due to scarcity, prices of vegetables and other essential items had almost been double in many areas. Thought violence had not spread to seven other police station areas, tense situation prevailed across the city.

Reports said two policemen, including one SRP jawan, were injured following acid bulb attack and stone pelting at Ektanagar out-post last night. Both were admitted to the hospital. The miscreants also set ablaze two factories in the Sardar Industrial Estate in the Panigate area in the overnight violence.

The authorities of the M S University had postponed the on-goinhg examinations of different faculties till Friday stating that fresh dates would be announced in due course.

Meanwhile, Vadodara mayor Sunil Solanki had alleged that he had been issued threats over phone for the demolition of the Dargah at the historic Champaner Gate. Mr Solanki, who was given armed police protection for receiving similar threat calls in the last fortnight, said the corporation was determined to remove all encroachments despite all odds. Police was investigating into the case to nab the anonymous caller. The mayor's in-laws house located in the Salatwada area was also reportedly attacked by a stone- pelting mob, but the situation was saved due to immediate police intervention.

UNI

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