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New Delhi: During a bandh called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Amravati on November 13, Saturday, shops owned by Muslims were torched and destroyed, officials told the Indian Express. The bandh was called after members of the Muslim community on November 12 took out a protest march against the anti-minority violence that rocked Tripura.
According to the report, police officials told the daily that they were outnumbered by a massive gathering of around 6,000 Hindutva activists from various organisations such as the BJP, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, in the Kotwali area. This is when the violence erupted on Saturday.
“They gathered at Rajkamal Chowk. A section of this crowd turned violent, burnt two shops, damaged some other shops, burnt vehicles. Almost all the victims are from the minority community. It appears that the violence had been planned a day in advance in retaliation for the violence on Friday by some members of the minority community,” a police official told the newspaper.
A senior police official in Mumbai told IE that the force was taken by surprise by the violence. “But we are sending out a strong message that this cannot happen again,” he said.
The report further said that nine policemen were injured in the violence on Saturday, and one police vehicle was damaged.
On Friday, a 35,000 strong crowd, primarily comprised of Muslims, marched to protest the communal violence in the northeastern state. Some protesters also attacked local shops. Stones were thrown at the house of local BJP leader Pravin Pote, breaking a window. He was seen in a video urging BJP workers to gather at Rajkamal Chowk, and also instructed that there should be no violence, the report said.
So far, 72 people have been arrested, including former Maharashtra minister and senior BJP leader Anil Bonde, in connection with the violence. As many as 26 first information reports (FIRs) have been registered at four police stations in Amravati.
Meanwhile, the police are also on the lookout for Pote, who has been missing from Amravati.
“The situation is completely under control. We took out a flag march on Sunday (November 14) in the city,” Rajender Singh, additional director general of police, law and order, Maharashtra, who was in Amravati to take stock of the situation, told the newspaper.
The Kotwali area is being policed, said the report.
The Wire had reported, citing eyewitnesses, that the police did not take the matter seriously at first and took too long to respond to the situation.
Internet services remain suspended in the city.
The communal clashes have hit those at the very bottom of the economic pyramid. Ravindra Singh Saluja, president of Amravati Restaurant and Lodging Association, told the daily: “First COVID-19 and now this petty politics have ruined our business. It’s like another lockdown. Not just us, but everyone, especially the poor, are suffering due to this.”