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Agra tense after communal clashes

Parts of Agra were tense after a minor accident triggered off communal clashes where mobs pelted stones at each other and two houses were set on fire.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2008, 11:31 IST

Parts of the city of the Taj Mahal were tense on Tuesday morning after a minor accident triggered off communal clashes where mobs pelted stones at each other and two houses were set on fire late Monday night, police said.

There was large deployment of police personnel in the sensitive areas of the city like Mantola and Sadar Bhatti, an official said.

On Monday night, a two-wheeler accidentally hit a woman in the locality. Though she wasn't seriously injured, the incident snowballed into a riot as angry crowds hurled accusations at each other, pelted stones and even set two houses ablaze. Police had to use tear gas shells and baton charge the unruly crowd to bring the situation under control late in the night.

Mantola is just three kilometres from the Taj Mahal.

Siraj Qureshi, a resident of Mantola, helped save a family of eight after their house was set ablaze.

"I saw a house on fire. I immediately rushed in as smoke had filled the room downstairs and children were sleeping on the terrace. I woke them up and took them out to safety before a fire engine arrived. It could have been a major tragedy but God was kind," Qureshi, a social worker, told IANS.

City authorities were taken by the way a minor accident had led to such communal violence.

"I am surprised how a small incident can trigger off such violence. But we have identified the culprits and we will take drastic action. I have never seen such a stock of stones and bricks in my life. Obviously people were waiting for an excuse to indulge in such anti social activities," said acting District Magistrate Surendra Singh.

About a year ago, there were similar communal clashes in Mantola area and the Taj Mahal had to be closed for a couple of hours.

Residents depndent on the city's tourism industry said such incidents would have a negative impact on the upcoming tourist season.

"This is unfortunate. At the beginning of a new tourist season, such violence and communal clashes are not good. Tourism is a highly sensitive industry. Tourists will go to places where there is peace and security of life. The government should come down heavily on such elements," said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association.

"Violence always has a bad affect on tourist arrivals," said another hotelier.

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