Shops of Ram Navami violence accused demolished in Gujarat
Authorities in Gujarat’s Anand district on Friday demolished a few unauthorised shops belonging mostly to people accused of stoking violence during a Ram Navami procession on April 10, officials familiar with the matter said.
At least eight to 10 illegal shops and other structures were razed in Khambhat town, where stones were pelted at a Ram Navami procession when it was passing through a Muslim-dominated area on Sunday. Police had to fire tear gas to control the mob after several shops and vehicles were set ablaze. An elderly person died in the violence, for which 11 people have been arrested so far.
However, not all shops and structures brought down by the district administration on Friday belonged to the accused in the clashes, officials said.
“Most of the illegal shops and properties that are being razed down belong to the accused who are being investigated for their role in the violence,” a state government official said on condition of anonymity.
In recent days, the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh governments razed structures owned by men accused of instigating trouble, triggering allegations that the administration was bypassing due process.
Anand district collector Manoj Daxini said “a stretch running about half a kilometre in Khambhat is being cleared of encroachments”. “Shops and other unauthorised structures had come up on government-owned land in the past few years. The demolition drive in the area will continue for the next two to three days,” he said.
The accused in the Ram Navami violence had taken shelter in these structures to pelt stones at the procession, officials said. The anti-encroachment drive was carried out by the revenue department.
Anand superintendent of police Ajit Rajyan said “details of transactions and communications (of the accused) are also being studied”. “Now the investigation is fully technical,” Rajyan said.
Reacting to the administration’s drive, state Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Dr Rutvij Patel said: “The government has taken action against illegal encroachers at Khambhat today. The incident should not be linked with the Ram Navami violence but if it is, for the sake of argument, the government’s action shows that nobody can break the law and get away with it.”
“I am traveling and haven’t followed the latest developments closely. But looking at the incidents that took place recently at Khambhat, Himmatnagar and other places of the country, it seems that elections are closer,” Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani, said.
Elections in Gujarat are slated to be held later this year.
Earlier this week, Anand police said the attack on the Ram Navami procession was a pre-planned one. The accused in the violence were influenced by provocative messages and videos on social media, they added.
Six accused, led by a religious leader, were part of the core group that hatched the alleged conspiracy, police said. All of them are among those arrested.
A first information report (FIR) for arson and instigating violence has been registered.
At a press conference in Ahmedabad on Thursday, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi accused the state government of failing to maintain law and order. He alleged that the government had not done enough to prevent the clashes.
Owaisi also claimed that “innocent people who were offering namaz at the time of the incident” were booked by police in the case.