Himmatnagar: One dead as groups clash during religious processions, say police
Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi called for an emergency meeting with senior police officials on late night
One person died and several others, including policemen, were injured as members of two communities clashed during Ram Navami processions in Khambhat town of Anand district in Central Gujarat and Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha district of North Gujarat on Sunday.
Shops and vehicles were set ablaze as the groups clashed and threw stones at each other even as police resorted to lathicharge and lobbing of tear gas shells.
According to police, the body of an unidentified man was found in Khambhat town of Anand on late Sunday after the clashes. In Himmatnagar, several persons, including four policemen, were injured in stone-pelting.
Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi called for an emergency meeting with senior police officials on late night.
Speaking to sources, Abhishek Gupta, deputy superintendent of police in Khambat of Anand, said, "The body of a man around 60 years of age has been found from the area where the clashes took place. The victim has not been identified yet and the nature of his death will be confirmed only after a postmortem report. We have begun a crackdown and four persons have been detained… An FIR will be lodged in the matter."
Anand SP Ajit Rajian said, "The law and order situation in Khambhat is completely under control."
According to police, clashes started in Himmatnagar town around noon when a religious procession on motorcycles and four-wheelers reached Chhaparia locality of the town, largely dominated by minorities. Instances of stone-pelting, arson, damaging of shops and vehicles were reported till around 3 pm. Another rally was taken out from the same area by the VHP around 4 pm, which started a fresh cycle of stone-pelting, police said.
A member of the VHP faction in Himmatnagar said, "After residents of Chhaparia locality threw stones, the procession was stopped midway. However, the VHP had already scheduled another rally from 4 pm from the same area. Superintendents of police from three districts were providing security cover for the rally when again stone-pelting began. In total, 15 of our workers received head injuries in stone-pelting."
According to police, four of its personnel were being treated for injuries on Sunday night.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Hitesh Koya, collector of Sabarkantha, said, "Law and order is completely under control in Himmatnagar… We have got additional police force from SRP and neighbouring districts."
Meanwhile, the Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), an Ahmedabad-based rights organisation, wrote to the Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) demanding increased security in the clash-hit areas of Himmatnagar and Khambhat along with taking action against the miscreants.
"We demand action against anti-social elements who in the garb of the religious programmes had been trying to disrupt peace and harmony in Gujarat. All CCTV footage in Himmatnagar should be checked and those caught carrying weapons without permission should be booked and arrested," read the letter.