Tension prevails in Loni after violence over eviction drive

July 25th, 2008 - 10:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Loni (Uttar Pradesh), July 25 (IANS) The situation remained tense in this Uttar Pradesh town Friday, a day after an eviction drive by government officials turned into a communal clash between the police and members of a community here Thursday. Angry mobs Thursday clashed with the police, jammed traffic on the highway and set on fire a police outpost and vehicles after the district administration allegedly demolished the boundary wall of a mosque on a state-owned land during an eviction drive.

Sources said that Shahi Imam (head cleric) of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari Friday attempted to visit Loni but was stopped by the police. The district administration convinced Bukhari that violence could flare up again if he visited the site.

The Ghaziabad district administration had deployed 500-strong police force to maintain the peace in the town.

The police took out a flag march and senior police officials, including the inspector general of police, are camping in the town.

At least 20 civilians and a dozen policemen were seriously injured in the violence though eyewitnesses say the casualties are much higher.

The incident occurred at 8.00 p.m. Thursday when five officials of the district administration, accompanied by the police, went to Ram Park colony here to get vacated a state-owned land where a religious structure had been built by the alleged encroachers to evade government eviction.

The clerics warned the officials not to proceed with the eviction drive as it was a religious structure. When their warning went unheeded they called upon the residents to take up positions and resist the government move.

Soon the situation turned into a free for all as mobs started pelting stones at the police and in some cases even firing upon them.

A large mob jammed traffic on the Delhi-Saharanpur road while others resorted to arson, setting on fire a police outpost, a sub-divisional magistrate’s ‘gypsy’ van and several public and private vehicles.

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