Five killed in Madhya Pradesh during nationwide shutdown (Lead)

July 4th, 2008 - 1:01 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

Bhopal, July 3 (IANS) Five people were killed and several injured as communal clashes erupted in many towns of Madhya Pradesh Thursday during a nationwide shutdown to protest the Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to cancel land allotment to the Amarnath shrine. The shutdown, called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - which rules the state - and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), has also affected many other towns and cities in the state.

Curfew was clamped in Indore following violent clashes between groups of two communities, which led to the killing of two people, according to the police.

The curfew-bound areas include Mukeripura, Bombay Bazaar, Pandrinath and Chhatripura while section 144 CrPC - prohibiting gathering of more than four people at a place - was imposed in Khajarana area to control the situation.

Indore’s Inspector General of Police Anil Kumar said four people, killed in group clashes, were yet to be identified.

The situation was tense in old city areas of Bhopal where stone pelting and arson took place as pro- and anti-shutdown groups clashed, the police said.

Half a dozen vehicles were set on fire by a mob forcing the strike near a Bhopal cinema.

Violence erupted near old Bhopal’s bus stand area and adjacent localities when activists of the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the VHP forced the shopkeepers to down their shutters.

They beat up some shopkeepers and passers-by.

A trader in Satna area set himself afire after a mob allegedly looted his jewellery shop, beat him with sticks and threatened him if he reported the matter to the police.

“Bajrang Dal activists in main Satna market reached the jewellery shop of Heera Soni and asked him to close the shop. When he refused, they barged into the shop, looted some jewellery and beat him up,” Narendra Soni, the victim’s younger brother, told mediapersons.

“The activists also threatened him following which my brother out of fear set himself ablaze. The police also beat up my brother so that he does not report the matter to the higher authorities,” Narendra alleged.

Heera was taken to Satna district hospital where he breathed his last in the evening, the police said.

Clashes between people belonging to two communities also occurred in Shahjehanabad, Budhwara, Itwara and Karond in old Bhopal.

According to reports, rioting between the workers of the BJP and the VHP and some shopkeepers also took place in Jabalpur, Indore and Dhar. Several shops were damaged in Jabalpur.

Angry over the forced closure, some people threw stones at the shutdown supporters from the rooftops of their houses, triggering minor clashes in communally sensitive old Bhopal.

Authorities later deployed personnel from the Rapid Action Force (RAF) to control the situation.

Government offices and banks functioned as usual but educational institutions were closed.

The police have been deployed in force at all sensitive places across the state and the situation was tense at several places but under control, the police said.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said that the guilty would not be spared.

“The violence was unfortunate and a thorough probe will be conducted. The situation in the state is completely under control,” he told mediapersons at his residence late Thursday evening.

The Jammu and Kashmir government Tuesday formally cancelled the allotment of 40 hectares of forest land for the Amarnath board that manages the pilgrimage to the high-altitude shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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