Nashik, which witnessed violence after a 5-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a teenager, limped back to normalcy on Monday amid heavy police presence all over the city and neighbouring rural areas.
“All is well,” Nashik police commissioner Ravindra Singhal said. He, however, said rural areas are vulnerable to violence and police have deployed heavy security.
The police said action is being taken against rioters and those involved in spreading rumours.
Even as the busy Mumbai-Agra highway has been kept open for vehicular traffic, protesters resorted to violence at Padale phatak which is near Talegaon in Trimbakeshwar, around 175km from Mumbai, where a 15-year-old allegedly assaulted the minor girl on Saturday. He was taken into custody within a few hours of the incident.
“The protestors resorted to pelting stones last night and targeted police vehicles. They pushed a stationary bus and a truck that were parked on a slope to harm the police patrolling party. We have arrested seven persons in this regard,” Ankush Shinde, Nashik superintendent of police (rural) whose vehicle was also targeted, said.
On Sunday, agitators set the house of the 15-year-old on fire and also torched 20 vehicles, including three police vans, government buses and private vehicles, demanding action.
Protesters, who were carrying saffron flags, also pelted stones at vehicles bearing blue flags of the Republican Party of India after news spread that the girl belonged to the Maratha community while the suspect was from Scheduled Caste.
Some protesters were heard shouting the slogan ‘Ek Maratha Lakh Maratha’, a call given by the Maratha community in the ongoing statewide stir triggered by the rape and murder of a minor girl at Kopardi on July 13.
It took more than 12 hours for police to clear the Mumbai-Nashik road as heavy vehicles had lined up near Ghoti naka. Many passengers who were going to Nashik and were stranded due to traffic snarls, cancelled their plans and returned to Mumbai.
Police are meeting residents of the village where the incident occurred to ensure that there is no law and order problem. Villagers have been asked not to resort to rumour mongering and give the incident a caste colour.
Initial reports that suggested the girl was raped lead to tension in the village. The police resorted to a lathi-charge and fired a few rounds in the air to disperse the mob. Swift action by the police and a clarification by doctors that the minor was not raped, but sexually assaulted, helped bring the situation under control by evening.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar urged protesters to stop violence, saying the government has already taken action.
“The police have arrested the suspect and the government has assured the charge sheet will be filed soon. As the government has taken action, it is time to end the protests,” Pawar said.
The teenager, who was produced before a local court on Sunday, has been sent to a correction home and the condition of the five-year-old girl is said to be normal.