Curfew, which was imposed in various areas of Varanasi on Monday evening after violence erupted during the ‘anyay pratikar yatra’ taken out by seers in protest against lathi-charge on sadhus and batuks (religious scholars), has been lifted.
In a joint statement, divisional commissioner Nitin Ramesh Gokarn and district magistrate Rajmani Yadav said, “Curfew was imposed for only two hours in areas under four police stations to disperse the crowd and maintain law and order situation. It has been lifted. The section 144, which is already in force, will be enforced in an effective way.” About two dozen people were taken into custody.
The trouble arose as anti-social elements set a police booth and six vehicles, including two police jeeps, on fire.
The unidentified troublemakers also indulged in stone-pelting, injuring 10 persons, including six police personnel, one of whom sustained a severe injury. A photographer of a leading daily was also hurt. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The violence erupted around 3.30pm when the yatra, taken out from town hall park, was just 100 metres away from Godowlia intersection on way to its culmination point at the Dashashwamedh Ghat.
The stone-pelting triggered a minor stampede. The mob damaged a fire-tender which reached the Godowlia intersection to douse the flames at the police booth there.
Some women pilgrims, who were returning home after taking a dip in the Ganga, were reportedly caught in the melee and sustained injuries.
Reserve police force personnel resorted to a cane-charge to disperse the mob. Police personnel, led by district police chief Akash Kulhari, lobbed tear gas shells to control the situation.
Divisional commissioner Nitin Ramesh Gokarn confirmed that the curfew was imposed in four police station areas in the city.
“After some anti-social elements tried to disturb the peace during the anyay pratikar yatra, curfew has been imposed in areas under the Chowk, Dashashwamedh, Luxa and Kotwali police stations,” the commissioner said.
Gokarn appealed the people not to pay attention to rumours. He said strict action would be taken against rumour-mongering, especially through social networking sites. He also said that the administration was monitoring the social networking sites.
Earlier, the yatra led by Swami Avimukteshwaranand of Vidya Math began from the town hall park where sadhus addressed a gathering of thousands.
Following the violence, Swami Avimukteshwaranand and Swami Balakdas, who were leading the yatra, stopped at a temple near Godowlia. He asked the administrative officials to allow him to move towards Chittranjan Park but the demand was rejected.
Thereafter, the seer along with other sadhus moved towards Dashashwamedh Ghat at around 6pm for the conclusion of the yatra. Heavy police force has been deployed at the Godowlia intersection and the routes leading to it from Maidagin, Sonarpura, Benia and Luxa have been sealed.
The injured police personnel, including constable Dinesh Chandra who sustained serious injuries, were admitted to the district hospital.
On September 21 night, the administration had enforced an Allahabad high court order and denied permission for immersion of a Ganesha idol in the Ganga, leading to sit-in. The police resorted to a lathicharge in the early hours of September 23 in order to disperse the protesters. The idol was later immersed in Laxmi Kund (a pond) nearby.