Communal embers re-kindled in Gujarat

Four people died on Monday, May 1 in Vadodara, Gujarat, following the Municipal Corporation's demolition of a dargah which local residents say is over 200 years old. Apparently the demolition was necessary because the dargah was obstructing a road which the Corporation had picked out for expansion.

Objecting to the demolition, the residents threw stones at the municipal staff and police. The police lathicharged a mob and fired teargas shells to disperse it. When their efforts failed, police opened fire resulting in the death of two persons and injuries to 14 persons. At least eight others, including police and municipal staff, were injured in stone throwing.

The incident threatened to take a communal turn with two incidents of stabbing reported, including one from a neighbouring locality. (link)

Apparently other structures (including those of other religious faiths) had been demolished as well:

Mayor Sunil Solanki said the demolition of unauthorised structures had been going on for a fortnight to widen roads. He said nearly 1,500 illegal structures had been removed. More than a dozen religious places of different communities had been removed. At many places the members of different communities volunteered to remove the obstructions.

But there doesn't seem to be any effort in the media to find out more about these structures, where they were, which faiths they belonged to, and if in fact they actually existed.

Since the demolition there have been various outbreaks of violence despite curfews and added police. The police, in fact, were nowhere to be found in once instance of violence on Tuesday, when a mob burned a man to death in his car.

The local residents said they saw a mob grouping in the area and sought police assistance but no help was forthcoming. They complained that the police control room refused to send reinforcements, saying that there were not enough men available to patrol all the affected areas. (link)

The People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has come out strongly against the demolition.

It was a well known fact that the provocative utterances of the city Mayor, Sunil Solanki, had already vitiated the atmosphere and created apprehensions among the minority community of the city. For instance the Mayor had taken exception to the reported stand of the Police Commissioner that if they (the Police) are informed at the last moment, the Police would not cooperate. In response, the Mayor had allegedly threatened to launch the demolition of the dargah (mazhar) with the help of an “army” of [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] and [Bharatiya Janata Party] workers. (link)

At this point there's very little transparency as to the sequence of events which led to the demolition of the dargah. PUCL and community members insist that the Municipal Corporation didn't provide adequate warning, while the Corporation says that it took all necessary steps.

Why was it necessary to fire on the crowd? After their role in the 2002 riots, the Gujarat police don't have much credibility, and if they're accused of brutality, I'm ready to believe it.

I'm also keen on seeing a list of the other demolished buildings.

Will update as new information emerges over the next few days.

Latest:

According to NDTV, eyewitnesses reported seeing mobs attacking Muslim colonies on Ajwa road in Vadodara.

"We kept calling the police but the phones were either switched off or busy. We finally called police control and they said go to Pakistan. We would request the government to take action against the people in the control room," said Yusuf Sheikh, an eyewitness.

Muslim residents said the police refused to help on account of shortage of forces.

State authorities have so far maintained silence on the incidents of violence in Vadodara.(link)

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Comments

Human Rights Watch has issued

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement calling for the end of communal violence in Gujarat and Kashmir.

Yeah I really fail to see how

Yeah I really fail to see how you can rationalise a 200 year old dargah being an "encroachment". Did someone physically transport it to obstruct this road? Or was the road perhaps 1000 years old, or perhaps timeless and therefore there first?

[...] I’m so sick and tired

[...] I’m so sick and tired of people being arrested for bullshit reasons under laws which aren’t even being used for their intended purpose. As Sepoy at Chapati Mystery points out, the ringleader of the MSU “raid,” Niraj Jain, also played a hand in the destruction of a Sufi Dargah last year, the aftermath of which we blogged here. [...]

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