Source: Times of India
Violent clashes erupted between members of two communities over a piece of land adjoining a gurdwara in Saharanpur on Saturday, leaving two dead and over 24 injured. Alarmed that the violence could spread so quickly and wide, the district administration deployed ten companies of PAC, which now dot the streets of the city. Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, banning assembly of more than five people, has been imposed, and is likely to stay in force for at least two days.
The riot began after about 500 people gathered outside the gurdwara and started pelted stones. “It was around 6 am that the rioters first pelted stones, and then started looting shops in the gurdwara market. It all happened so quickly that it appeared pre-planned,” said Balbir Singh Dheer, gurudwara pradhan.
The situation flared up after minor construction work was undertaken in the disputed plot. While one group claimed the land belonged to the state government’s Wakf Board, the gurdwara committee said it had bought the land 15 years ago, and had the required documents to prove its ownership. Angry Sikhs brandishing swords shouted slogans. The police have recorded the site on video and are getting ready a detailed report of the sequence of events that led to the riots to be submitted to the state government.
By noon on Saturday, the violence had taken the shape of a massive riot that engulfed the entire city. The armed rioters did not even spare the police station at Qutub Sair, where a mob of 2000 youngsters tried to complain about the construction at the disputed site.
The police used lathis and also fired shots. “Cops had to run for their life. It was only after a policeman was shot that reinforcements arrived. By then, the rioters had dispersed and moved towards Ankit Talkies,” said Anil Sharma, a local resident.
Black smoke could be seen bellowing over the city. The rioters shot at a BJP leader, identified as Harish Kocchar. Police constable Sahanspal Malik, who took a bullet wound in the melee, now battles for life in Jollygrant hospital. Another victim, Rinku, owner of Khalsa Motors, suffered serious injuries and is admitted to a private hospital
SSP, city, RK Pandey said: “The situation is under control and police have identified certain culprits. The victims, including policemen, are being provided all kinds of help.”
Indefinite curfew has been imposed in the city, leaving hundreds of residents stranded. The phones at the SSP’s office kept ringing through the day, as anxious relatives called about stranded people. Ten companies of PAC have been deployed at riot-sensitive areas and night patrolling has been intensified in all residential colonies.