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“It is not right in God’s sight to obey men rather than God.”

Violent clashes erupt after communal tension in Ranchi

Ranchi: Ranchi on Saturday seemed to walk to the brink before having second thoughts – a bandh declared by the VHP after communal violence in the Lower Hinoo locality on Friday night saw citywide violence that threatened to spiral out of control before being reined in by massive police presence.

A yet-to-be-named youth and the camera-person of a news channel were the only two injured admitted to hospitals, with the former receiving a suspected bullet injury and the latter the victim of stone-pelting. Police spokesperson and ADG (Operations) SN Pradhan said 65 people have been detained. Prohibitory orders have been issued for the city.

The police did not have to resort to anything beyond, in the words of Ranchi Zone DIG Arun Kumar Singh, “mild lathicharging” to disperse the mobs at any point, which raises the question as to how such widespread destruction of public property including the shattering of the windshield of Ranchi SP’s car, was allowed to take place.

Even Hardik Patel, the youngster campaigning for Patidar reservation in Gujarat, was not spared – in the state to attend a meeting of members of the Kurmi caste, his convoy was pelted with stones in the Hatia area of the city. Roshan Mahato, who was in one of the cars, said that the last car in the convoy was affected and that no one was injured.

Trouble that snowballed into Saturday’s near-riot began in the Lower Hinoo locality on Friday night. When power was restored after an outage at 10 pm, local residents noticed an animal’s hide had been placed outside the perimeter wall of a Kali Temple.

Tempers frayed overnight and as a result, a van of the Ranchi Municipal Corporation and a shop selling chicken were set on fire – according to a police statement, by the Hindus.

The police statement said that trouble began on Saturday at 10 am when, “….about 150 people belonging to the Bajrang Dal and other Hindu organisations took out a procession and at the Ratan Talkies Junction, threw objects at the Etra Masjid, abusing.” The Muslims blocked the road in protest, “….and this went on till one in the afternoon….”

Morning saw tyres being set on fire in the city’s prominent spots – Birsa Chowk, HEC, Main Road, Hinoo among them. Youngsters went around on bikes shouting “Jai Shri Ram!” and threatening shopkeepers into downing shutters. However, there were no weapons on display.

At about 11.30 am at Birsa Chowk, two individuals were negotiating with policemen about maintaining peace. Later, one of them said, “What about the temple?” and left on bikes. About half an hour later, the men were spotted again at Hinoo, near a temple, leading the mob that had a standoff with a police team led by DIG Singh and SP Jaya Roy. “It needed only mild lathicharging to disperse them. The situation is under control,” Singh said later.

CM Raghubar Das went around the city accompanied by DGP DK Pandey and interacted with people at various locations. A statement from the government said that the CM visited Doranda, Hinoo, Main Road and Firayalal Chowk.

Mobile internet services were not suspended in the city, though there were rumours that youth were being mobilised over social media platforms, ADG Pradhan said no such instance had yet been unearthed. There were unverified instances of looting from various shops.

A senior police officer admitted that despite being prepared to control the overnight flare-up by deploying two companies each of the CRPF and STF in the Doranda area, police did not expect violence to pop up in other parts of the city. As a result, there was a delay in mobilising personnel. However, once they were in place, the mobs were no match even for mild lathicharging. The last charge took place at 2.30 pm, near Tupudana.

ADG Pradhan said that apart from 200 extra constables, three companies of the CRPF, one of the SSB and two of the state police’s Special Task Force were mobilised.

Police are not ruling out an organised nature to the violence. “The way they were set up, it was as if they wanted to control every major junction,” said a police officer who supervised the law and order arrangements of the day. One community was lauded for its restraint.

“We did not see large-scale rioting because the minority community did not respond to the provocation and take to the streets,” said the officer. “I was myself lathicharging and the boys were pleading while being beaten, saying, ‘Please let us do something. You don’t let us do anything’,” added the officer.

A peace meeting was called at the Doranda Police Station, under which Lower Hinoo falls, at five in the evening. It began acrimoniously, with leaders of various communities accusing each other, but settled into an earnest discussion of the way forward.