Violence, brief curfew in Dhar | india | Hindustan Times
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Violence, brief curfew in Dhar

CURFEW WAS briefly clamped in Dhar after a surging crowd of Hindu devotees turned violent when prevented from entering Bhojshala at 1.30 pm today to offer prayers. However, police enabled a group of 14 Muslims to offer Friday namaz at the disputed site and averted communal flare up. The curfew was lifted later.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 12:42 IST

CURFEW WAS briefly clamped in Dhar after a surging crowd of Hindu devotees turned violent when prevented from entering Bhojshala at 1.30 pm today to offer prayers. However, police enabled a group of 14 Muslims to offer Friday namaz at the disputed site and averted communal flare up. The curfew was lifted later.

This was a major challenge for the two-month-old Shivraj Singh Chouhan Government. Given the fact that militant Hindu outfits had warned of massive mobilisation at Bhojshala on Basant Panchami in defiance of the Muslims’ appeal to let them offer prayer on a stipulated duration, the administration’s persuasive skills finally paid off.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan must have heaved a sigh of relief over relatively smooth passage of the day. His success is all the more significant in view of the lurking overt and covert threats to the State Government from Uma Bharti supporters.

Since namaz was to be conducted inside the monument between 1 pm and 3 pm today, police stopped the entry of Hindu devotees at noon. However, the crowds waiting outside the monument to offer prayers turned violent over police’s refusal to grant them access. The police, subsequently, had to use mild lathi charge to disperse the crowd. But the crowd became restive after some time and attempted to break the barricades in order to go in for the prayers.

The police prevented them but soon lost control over the agitated mob. As a result, it resorted to lathi charge and lobbed several rounds of teargas shells. The Hindu activists retaliated by pelting stones at the police force deployed in large numbers at the venue. Police and devotees fought a pitched battle for over an hour in and around the historic structure.

An unspecified number of persons, including three IPS officers, were injured. A police jawan was rushed to Indore for treatment. In the melee, Indore DIG Pramod Phalnikar and other police personnel received injuries. However, the police succeeded in evacuating Hindu devotees and the namaz was finally held under curfew.

In all, 14 Muslims offered prayers on the first floor of the Bhojshala, where tents were erected. A handful of devotees remained inside and raised slogans against police and district administration for disrupting Basantotsav, which they had planned to celebrate from morning till sunset.

Once the namaz was over, the Hindu devotees were allowed inside Bhojshala after 3 pm. The curfew was imposed to prevent flare up of sentiments among the large crowd of devotees celebrating Basant Panchami in the Bhojshala, a protected archaeological monument, claimed as a religious place by both the communities, District Collector R K Gupta said.

Under an agreement, Friday namaz was offered by Muslims at a makeshift arrangement made on the structure’s roof, official sources said.

The commotion started at Lakkadpeetha area behind the controversial structure where around 300-400 Muslims were heading towards the complex for offering namaz during the stipulated period and were stopped by devotees participating in the Basant Panchami festivities, Gupta said.

Police resorted to lathi charge and cleared the Bhojshala, he said, adding while most of the people reached their homes after the curfew was announced, those on the streets were escorted out.