Fresh tension in Rajouri: curfew defied at 3 places

Fresh tension in Rajouri: curfew defied at 3 places

9 March 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Curfew was defied at three places by the majority community as one of the processions taken out after Friday prayers at Kheora turned violent and clashed with police on outskirts of Rajouri district leading to fresh tension in the town prompting administration to go ahead with curfew for third consecutive day today. People from majority community took out processions at various places across twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch protesting remarks of Vishwa Hindu Parishad national working president Praveen Togadia and alleged biased role of administration in dealing with the situation. Deputy Commissioner-cum District Magistrate, Rajouri GA Khwaja said the situation didn’t warrant any relaxation in curfew, which continued for third day today within Municipal limits of Rajouri. He added all senior officers of the district would review the situation tomorrow morning at 10 am before taking a decision on giving any relaxation in curfew. Tension erupted at Kheora, the site of new District Hospital when the youths from majority community started taking out a march after Friday prayers shouting slogans against Praveen Togadia and district administration. Police asked the processionists to disperse peacefully but they subjected the cops to heavy stone pelting. Police and para-military personnel subjected the protesters to mild lathicharge. The ding dong battles between the two sides continued for half an hour after which the mob dispersed. Police have taken five persons into preventive custody for leading and instigating the mob to take out procession after Friday prayers and pelt stones on police and para-military personnel. Situation remained tense in Kheora but it was under control, SSP Rajouri Vijay Singh Samyal said. The District Magistrate maintained that there was no curfew in Kheora as it didn’t fall within the Municipal limits of Rajouri. People defied curfew at Broian Wali Masjid and Jamia Masjid in the heart of Rajouri town to offer Friday prayers. The people didn’t stop despite being asked not to come out of their houses. However, the people at both these places dispersed peacefully after the prayers. The DC Rajouri said the people didn’t move in groups and proceeded to the Mosques one by one. Official sources said police and para-military personnel had been deployed in full strength outside all the places of religions in Rajouri town and outskirts to prevent any untoward incident and defiance of curfew. 'Barring Kheora incident, situation passed off peacefully in entire Rajouri district’’, they said, adding that authorities were keeping a strict vigil in all sensitive areas to prevent any fresh trouble. Asserting that there had been no meetings between the two communities so far to resolve the issue and defuse tension, the Deputy Commissioner Rajouri said that the administration has asked leaders of both the communities to open channels of talks and come to them for formally arranging a meeting so that tempers cooled down and curfew was lifted. 'So far such a situation has not emerged’’, Khwaja said, adding the authorities too wanted the situation to cool down before giving any relaxation in curfew. He added that authorities have also opened communication channels with both the communities and wanted to create a platform for a common meeting with their representatives to restore peace and calm in Rajouri, which reeled under curfew for third consecutive day today. People from majority community also took out processions at Manjakote, Budhal, Darhal, Thanna Mandi and Kandi in Rajouri district and Mandi in Poonch district besides various other places of the two districts after Friday prayers. They shouted slogans against Togadia for his remarks against majority community and the administration for what they called inept handling of the situation. Processions at all these places dispersed peacefully. Curfew was clamped in Rajouri on Wednesday evening after Bhairav procession taken out by the minorities on Holi festival was attacked for second time at City Chowk, Rajouri by the majority community in protest against Togadia’s remarks made in a meeting of the VHP on March 4. Authorities said in view of tense situation a meeting couldn’t be arranged between the two communities as neither side was coming forward to take initiative of breaking the stalemate. The DC Rajouri said they have kept Army stand-by. The Army has said that they were already in readiness in view of militancy in the district and would be available as and when required by the civil administration to maintain law and order. Sources described situation in entire Rajouri town and outskirts as ‘very tense’, which didn’t warrant any relaxation in curfew. They said both the communities were agitated. While the majority community was up in arms against Praveen Togadia’s remarks, the minorities have resented the attack on their annual religious Bhairav procession twice. Police have detained nearly 20 persons in connection with clashes after attack on Bhairav processions followed by stoning on police and para-military. While some of the arrests were preventive, others have been made formally. Meanwhile, making a statement in the Legislative Assembly on Rajouri situation, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said Praveen Togadia made provocative and inflammatory remarks in a meeting organized by Dharam Raksha Nidhi in Rajouri on March 4. A FIR was registered against Togadia under No. 92-2012 and Section 153-A RPC. Mr Sagar said on March 5, Muslims took a protest rally against Togadia’s speech and raised objectionable slogans at City Chowk. 'On March 6, a Jhanki procession was taken out by Sanatan Dharam Sabha led by Dinesh Sharma. The Muslims also took out a procession and both came across each other. Saner elements from both sides prevailed and police also intervened. However, some youths pelted stones on the procession from roof top. Police used teargas shells. The DC and SSP Rajouri rushed to the spot and controlled the situation’’, he added. Mr Sagar said on March 7, Hindus take out Holi Processions organized by Sanatan Dharam Sabha to Bus Stand and raised objectionable slogans. There were counter slogans by the Muslims. The jhanki procession was stoned by the mischievous elements at Town Hall, he said, adding 11 persons have been arrested so far. Asserting that no one will be allowed to disturb peace, Mr Sagar said the IGP Jammu has also reached the spot and adequate deployment has been made to keep the situation under control.