AT LEAST 26 people were injured, one of them critically, after Hindu and Muslim groups clashed following a flare-up during a Durga immersion procession at the historic town of Achalpur in Amravati district, some 200 km from Nagpur, on Monday night.
Rioters ransacked and burnt several jewellery shops in the town and the police had to resort to firing.
Achalpur, once an important cotton and silk manufacturing centre, has been a communally sensitive area. But Monday’s violence is being considered as a major-flare up, the kind the town hasn’t seen before.
The trouble started when a Durga immersion procession passed through the Chawalmandi area of Achalpur, according to reports coming in.
As youngsters danced to the drumbeats, a small quantity of gulal is believed to have fallen on a Muslim religious place. This led to an argument between the two groups which soon turned to stone-pelting and rioting, eyewitnesses said.
A mob set fire to a shop and an autorickshaw. The violence spread to other areas. Some miscreants looted and burnt the local jewellery market. Arson was also reported from the Devadi area.
The injured were taken to the Amravati district hospital. The police, who used teargas shells and lathi-charge, had a tough time controlling the stone-pelting rioters.
They then reportedly fired at least 50 rounds to disperse the mob. Policemen were among the injured.
The administration has declared an indefinite curfew in the town since Monday night. “The situation is under control, but tension remains,” Superintendent of Police Srikant Tarwade of the Amravati district told HT.
District officials, including the collector and superintendent of police, have rushed to the area. Six platoons of the state reserve police force have been deployed in Achalpur. Tarwade said over 120 people were rounded up for the rioting.
The town, which was upgraded as a municipality in 1869, is full of old buildings that bear testimony to its fortunes under different rulers. The area was ruled by the famous Sultan of Bahman Shah and Sultan Khan, who built the fort in Sultanpura in 1754.