Aurangabad (Maharashtra), May 12 (IANS) At least two persons were killed and more than 40 injured, including 10 policemen, when clashes broke out between two groups in this famed Maharashtra tourist town, an official said.
Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar said that the violence erupted late on Friday following a trivial local issue which angered the people in some areas.
“Due to rumours which circulated like wildfire on social media, it quickly flared up and spread,” Kesarkar told IANS.
In the final tally, the minister said two persons have lost their lives, including one in an arson incident and another in the plastic bullets firing by the police.
“Three Assistant Commissioners of Police and around 10 policemen, besides more than 30 civilians have also been injured. One ACP’s condition is serious and he will be operated on later,” Kesarkar added.
The full-scale rioting resulted in heavy stone-pelting and torching of vehicles and shops in the affected areas even as local police forces rushed to the areas around 10.30 on Friday night.
The authorities snapped Internet and social media networks in the city as a precaution late on Friday to prevent rumour-mongering.
Attempting to control the rampaging mobs, police resorted to caning, lobbing teargas shells and fring plastic bullets and imposed prohibitory orders, banning assembly for four or more persons.
However, Kesarkar denied allegations that police may have played a partisan role in the whole affair and said they managed to bring the situation under control very soon.
Aurangabad Police Commissioner Milind Bharambe said there were two rounds of violence, one Friday evening followed by another on Saturday, but “now the situation is under control”.
“It was a small issue… It escalated due to rumours and the tensions spread… Some anti-social elements indulged in setting ablaze shops and vehicles in the locality,” Bharambe told the media.
The worst-hit areas were Shahganj, Nawabpura, Rajabazaar and Angribaug which continued to remain calm but tense even 24 hours later.
Local eyewitness accounts said over three dozen shops mostly belonging to small businessmen, were reduced to ashes and many private vehicles and at last two police vans were also torched.
The state government deployed units of the State Reserve Police Force, Indian Reserve Battalion from the city, besides rushing forces from neighbouring Beed and Jalna to maintain peace.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has been apprised of the matter while Kesarkar rushed to Aurangabad to take stock of the situation along with Aurangabad Collector Uday Chaudhari, Bharambe and other officials.
The officials have appealed to the people of the city to remain calm and not get misled by rumour-mongers.
Attacking the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena, Leader of Opposition in Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said: “Fadnavis should own up moral responsibility for failing to prevent the riots and submit his resignation.”
“It is a clear failure of the Police Department and since the past four years, the Home Department is handled by Fadnavis. He has proved to be ineffective in maintaining law and order with incidents reported daily from all over the state and must quit,” he demanded.
Hitting out at the law enforcers for “a complete failure of the intelligence department,” Leader of Opposition in Council Dhananjay Munde demanded a judicial probe into the riots and compensation for the victims.
Opposition Congress state President Ashok Chavan called upon the people to maintain peace and remain vigilant to “foil the nefarious designs of communal and divisive forces” trying to spread social unrest between communities.
“The rioters have burnt over 100 shops in the city. What was the police doing when these anti-social forces were on a rampage the whole night? Do they enjoy government patronage,” he asked.
Meanwhile, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen President Asaduddin Owaisi appealed to Fadnavis to take strong action against the miscreants indulging in the rioting.
Located in the Marathwada region of the state, Aurangabad is world-renowned for the famous Ajanta-Ellora Caves, Bibi Ka Maqbara and other historical landmarks.