Army deployed in Vadodara
Vadodara/New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Barring sporadic instances of violence in the morning, Vadodara remained calm Wednesday, even as the central government decided to deploy the army to restore peace in the city after three days of strife that has claimed six lives.
Two army columns conducted a flag march late Wednesday, Vadodara police chief Deepak Swarup said.
"The flag march began at eight (p.m.) and continued till 10 (p.m.). Another flag march might take place tomorrow evening because the people feel frightened, particularly when it is dark," Swarup added.
Meanwhile, a fire broke out in an oil mill in Narsinh Estate in Gagrawadi area of Vadodara late Wednesday night, fire brigade sources said. There, however, were no reports of any casualty in the incident.
The violence was sparked Monday when two people were killed in police firing meant to disperse a crowd protesting the Vadodara Municipal Corporation's demolition of a 300-year-old Muslim shrine.
The toll, however, rose to six by Wednesday after sectarian violence in parts of the city, even as curfew was clamped in the areas under six police stations.
In New Delhi, Home Secretary V.K. Duggal said the priority was to restore normalcy in Vadodara.
"Our priority is to bringing normalcy in the city and the army has been deployed to bring peace in the area and stop violence," Duggal said.
According to him, over 1,000 army personnel would be deployed in Vadodara. He said the decision was taken after reviewing the law and order situation in Vadodara. The army was also on standby in Gujarat's main city of Ahmedabad, Duggal added.
"We have asked for a detailed report on the violence and would like to know why police had to resort to firing while removing encroachments," Duggal told reporters earlier.
"The situation has gone somewhat beyond control and both the state and centre are trying to get peace back in Vadodara.
"The next 48 hours are very important and vital for the state to maintain peace in the area," Duggal added.
Earlier Wednesday, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said he had asked the central government for more paramilitary forces and for an army flag march in parts of the city.
The situation in the city was under control, said Modi, visiting Vadodara for the first time since the violence broke out here Monday.
The chief minister appealed to all communities to maintain peace.
"As a precautionary measure, I have asked the home ministry to send more battalions of RAF (Rapid Action Force) and other paramilitary forces, as 24 companies of the state were deployed in the states where the assembly elections are on," Modi told reporters after holding talks with officials here.
While the three-day old violence brought back memories of communal violence in the state in 2002 that had claimed at least 1,000 lives, Modi indicated the state government would not let strife escalate in this city, about 110 km from Ahmedabad.
"Peace is necessary for our state. Those who feel that they have suffered any injustice can approach the judiciary. The doors are open for them, but they should not try to take law into their hands for vengeance.
"I warn rioters that law will take its own course and nobody will be spared," he said.
Modi, however, evaded a query whether the state government would form a judicial commission to probe the violence.
Also avoiding a question about fixing the responsibility for the controversial demolition of the 300-year-old shrine, he said: "I am not a judge here to decide who was responsible for this."
Modi remained non-committal on the issue of compensation to the families of the deceased and to those who were injured in the violence.
He earlier visited some of the 40-odd people injured in the skirmishes at the SSG Hospital.
Police, meanwhile, have arrested about 100 people and complaints have been registered against 15 for rioting near the Pani Gate area and against 11 for burning a man alive late Tuesday night.
Curfew, imposed Monday in areas under the jurisdiction of six police stations in the walled city, was also relaxed in some parts.