The Times of India
Maharashtra in fire-fighting mode
COMMUNAL CLASHES: CURFEW IN THREE
TOWNS; MUNDE DETAINED AS HE TRIES TO REACH TROUBLED AREAS
government on Monday launched a major fire-fighting exercise to
contain communal riots in Western Maharashtra. After imposing curfew
in three towns in the region, the state administration detained
several leaders from the saffron camp, including senior BJP leader
Gopinath Munde, as they tried to reach communally tense towns of
Sangli and Miraj.
These cities have
been under curfew for the past two days. The neighbouring textile town
of Ichalkaranji too has been brought under curfew after incidents of
arson and assaults were reported on Monday evening.
started on September 3, when some pro-Hindutva organisations tried to
raise an arch on the immersion procession route depicting the killing
of Afzal Khan, the Mughal Sardar in the court of Aurangzeb, by the
Maratha king Shivaji. A section of the society objected to it
following which communal clashes broke out in the area. In protest,
Ganesh mandals did not immerse the idols.
allegedly also held a “victory rally” near the arch, depicting all the
followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji in saffron and Afzal Khan supporters
in green. Sensing trouble, local police summoned about two dozen
important Muslim community leaders and requested them to ignore the
developments. “But, as it always happens, some miscreants exploited
the situation to give it a communal twist especially in view of the
recently-concluded Ganesh Utsav festival, the ongoing Ramzan month and
the ensuing assembly elections,” a police officer said.
He said he rushed
to Miraj that day and was addressing crowds of both communities from
the bonnet of his official jeep when an unidentified youth also
climbed atop the vehicle and tried to shout him down.
was a hail of stones from different directions, prompting the police
to start caning the protesters. Some of the stones are also said to
have landed at the Ganesh idol, leading to heightened tensions. This
was followed by violent clashes between members of the two communities
that afternoon in which the poster depicting Chhatrapati Shivaji and
Afzal Khan was ripped off by some unknown persons.
Worried about the
communal flare up, the district administration imposed curfew on
Sunday. Sangli superintendent of police (SP) Krishna Prakash said the
curfew will be in force till 2pm on Tuesday. About 300 people from
both communities have been arrested, the police said.
On Monday, Shiv
Sena leaders Neelam Gorhe, Diwakar Raote and Parshuram Uparkar were
arrested for allegedly flouting curfew orders. The police had, on
Sunday, prevented BJP legislators Prakash Shendge and Madhu Chavan
from entering Sangli.
In Mumbai, police
detained senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde at the airport before he
could board a flight to Kolhapur. Mr Munde made the best of the
opportunity by launching a sit-in at the airport. Surrounded by
hundreds of BJP supporters, the agitation created a ruckus at the
airport for quite some time. Mr Munde was later released. He then
proceeded to Miraj by road.
The incident has
come as a major embarrassment for the Congress-NCP government since
state home minister Jayant Patil, along with many veterans like RR
Patil and Patangrao Kadam, come from Sangli. The failure of the
government to contain the situation has left the government worried
about the political fall-out ahead of the state assembly elections