More than 30 people were injured and a woman lost an eye in a communal clash that broke out in the famous Khichdi Mela of Jahanabad town, 35km from Kanpur and in Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
The violence occurred just an hour before VHP president Praveen Togadia and Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti were scheduled to attend a related event.
The disturbance began after members of a right-wing group, armed with swords and saffron flags, took out a procession, calling on people to attend the programme.
As the procession was passing through the town, a youth snapped an electricity wire to allow a tempo, which contained dozens of loudspeakers, to pass through. When a few members of the Muslim community raised an objection, the group began raising slogans.
An ensuing argument led to a full-fledged clash, with members of both communities opening fire and pelting each other with stones and other missiles.
The Fatehpur police rushed additional forces, including two companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), to bring the situation under control. The police had to lathi-charge the rioters who had started indulging in arson.
Around half a dozen shops were set on fire and an equal number of vehicles damaged in the clash. Two deputy SPs were also injured in the brick-batting, which eyewitnesses claimed lasted for more than 40 minutes.
The police allowed Togadia and Niranjan to attend the event but asked them to leave within 15 minutes. While the BJP criticised the decision, the police said their presence could have further inflamed the situation.
The police sealed the Fatehpur border along with four districts — Kanpur city, Hamirpur, Raebareli and Unnao. They also announced that political leaders would not be allowed to enter the district. Senior BJP leaders, including MP Devendra Singh Bholey, were stopped by the police at the Kanpur-Fatehpur border while trying to enter Jahanabad with their supporters.
Two of the injured have been sent to Kanpur’s LLR hospital, while the wounded police officers are under treatment at a private hospital in Fatehpur.