Shoot-at-sight orders were issued in a violence-affected Ichalkaranji town of western Maharashtra on Monday evening after one person was stabbed and 40 places torched in communal riots.
The communal riots that started on Wednesday in Sangli and Miraj, some 350 km south-west of Mumbai, have spread to neigbhouring textile town of Ichalkaranji (in Kolhapur) and several places in Satara districts.
“We ordered shoot-at-sight to control rioting today. The curfew will also stay till further directives,” said Kolhapur District Collector Laxmikant Deshmukh.
Refusal by over 100 Ganesh Mandals in Sangli and Miraj to immerse the idols over removal of a cutout that showed Maratha King Shivaji slaying Adilshah knight Afzal Khan sparked violence in the areas.
The cut out was removed by the administration after Muslims demanded it. The mandals want the cutout restored.
The saffron alliance bagged this opportunity to politicise the issue ahead of the October 13 polls. The violence-affected places are in Home Minister Jayant Patil’s native district.
The administration barred several BJP and Shiv Sena leaders from entering the violence-affected areas on Monday. The police used force to disperse activists and detained some Sena leaders in Sangli and Miraj.
BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde was detained at Lonavala while traveling with several party MLAs by road to Miraj on Monday evening. Earlier in the day, he was not allowed to fly out to Kolhapur from Mumbai. The protesting BJP activists were lathicharged.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan alleged political conspiracy. “We have asked the police to handle the situation with iron hands.”
Ichalkanji has been tense for past five days and witnessed incidents of stone pelting, arson and stabbing.