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Sangli Communal Violence

September 7, 2009

Miraj police intervene, immerse Ganpati idols

Communal tension spreads in western Maharashtra

Mohsin Mulla & Baljeet Parmar. Sangli. Mumbai

The police had to play a direct role in the immersion of four Ganesha idols in communally-charged Miraj, even as tension spread to neighbouring areas on Sunday. The immersions had been postponed after a stand-off over a welcome arch put up by the Sangli district head of the Shiv Sena, depicting Afzal Khan being vanquished by Chhatrapati Shivaji.

Last Wednesday, a group pelted the banner with stones, forcing the district administration to remove it. But a day later, 60 Ganesh mandals demanded the banner be reinstalled and refused to immerse the idols until their demand was met.

But the Miraj police served notices on the Ganesh mandals, including four prominent ones, to complete the immersions within a stipulated time. While several organisers took smaller idols home, four big idols remained at the pandals near main roads, Maharashtra director-general of police SS Virk told DNA. These idols were then taken to the immersion spots by the police, who were accompanied by a priest.

Virk, who is camping in the district along with additional director-general of police PP Shrivastav, also said five companies of the state reserve police force and 200 armed policemen from adjoining districts have been deployed in sensitive areas of Sangli.

While Miraj is under curfew till Monday morning, there were reports that communal tension also spread to Kolhapur. Sangli has been under a 24-hour curfew imposed at 2pm on Sunday.
Bandh in Kolhapur

A bandh was called by the Shiv Sena and other organisations to condemn the violence in Miraj and demand reinstallation of the arch. While markets remained close, public transport was halted at several places. The Kolhapur Municipal Transport suspended its service after stone-pelting on 10 buses. Cases of stone pelting were reported from several parts of the district. The police have arrested 150 activists demonstrating at the Shivaji Chowk area. An MSRTC bus was set on fire in Ichalkaranji town on Saturday night.


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