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Agra tense, Taj Mahal shut

One dead, many hurt in violence after truck mowed down four in Agra, reports Jatin Gandhi.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2007 01:41 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times

With one dead and nearly 50 injured in clashes between protestors and the police, during violence that erupted after a speeding truck killed four people attending a Muslim religious festival, the city of Taj remained tense on Wednesday despite curfew imposed in six localities.

The authorities have closed the Taj Mahal, recently voted one of the Seven Wonders of the World that attracts an average 20,000 visitors every day. Thousands of tourists are still stranded in the city while schools and colleges have been asked to remain closed for next three days.

The state government has issued an advisory asking tourists to stay in their hotels until situation improves.

The violence erupted after a truck (AP U9-7874) ran over four teenagers men participating in the Shab-e-Baraat procession in Dhakran on MG Road here around 4 a.m. on Wednesday. As the truck driver fled, angry mob set it ablaze sparking off rioting and large-scale violence that engulfed pockets of the city.

By the time, police arrived at the scene, violence had spread.

Those crushed to death by the truck were identified as Wahid, Chand, Farhan and Wasim. All four were residents of Dholikhar. While Anwaar, a resident of Nai ki Mandi, was killed in an alleged police firing.

The mob’s anger was fuelled by the slow response of the police and the fact that trucks are normally not allowed to ply on the road during the procession every year.

Agra MP Raj Babbar who is also an actor, blamed the administration for the violence. “There was not enough police deployed at the procession and the police were very slow to react once the deaths occurred. I tried to call up Chief Minister Mayawati at 7 am in the morning but she was not available. If she had called up a few officers at that time and asked them to act, things would have been different,” he said.

“The instructions from the administration were clear. We do not know how these trucks were allowed to ply. An enquiry has been ordered into it,” Mukesh Meshram, District Magistrate, Agra, told the Hindustan Times.

He added that a decision on the curfew would be taken at 10 am on Thursday. “Things are under control but there is some tension,” he said.

Companies of the Rapid Action Force and BSF have also been deployed to patrol the streets.

Despite the curfew, mobs burnt down a police jeep, a fire tender, 17 trucks and six cars. Several shops and two factories were also set ablaze. The situation nearly took a communal turn when residents whose vehicles and property were damaged sided with the police fighting the protestors.

The mob used soft drink bottles and petrol bombs against each other and the police. The police fired several rounds of bullets to disperse the mobs. Anwaar was allegedly killed in police firing.

The administration later issued a statement saying six policemen including a sub-inspector were injured while two civilians were seriously injured. Locals, however, disputed the administration’s claims saying many more people were injured.

First Published: Aug 29, 2007 09:11 IST