AURANGABAD: At least 12 persons, including 10 policemen, were injured after a mob of around 500 people went berserk and hurled stones and petrol-filled bottles when the cops tried to control the situation following a clash between two groups near a Ram temple in Maharashtra's Aurangabad city, officials said on Thursday.
The incident, in which 13 vehicles were torched by the miscreants, occurred during the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday in the city's Kiradpura locality that houses the famous Ram temple, they said.
Ram Navami is being celebrated on Thursday.
The police used tear gas and fired some plastic bullets as well as live rounds to control the mob, the officials said, adding that eight teams have been formed to identify and arrest the perpetrators.
The situation is now under control and security personnel have been deployed across Aurangabad, now named Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar.
"It started after two groups, each comprising around five persons, clashed near the Ram temple. After some time, one group left the place and the police soon came to the site. After an hour, a mob gathered there, bringing stones and petrol-filled bottles along, which they threw at the police personnel," Aurangabad Police Commissioner Nikhil Gupta told ABP Majha, a Marathi news channel.
The street lights in the area were also damaged by the miscreants, so there was darkness in the area, he said.
"We had to use extra force to disperse the mob. They burnt police vehicles near the Ram temple beside hurling stones and petrol-filled bottles at the police personnel. The police used tear gas extensively along with some plastic bullets and live rounds in this case," he said.
"We have formed eight teams to identify the miscreants and arrest them. We have also got additional force which is now deployed in the city to maintain peace. The administration will hold an all-party meeting over maintaining peace," the police commissioner said.
Talking to PTI, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Shilwant Nandedkar said an offence has been registered at Jinsi police station against 400 to 500 people.
"Thirteen police vehicles were set on fire by the miscreants. Ten policemen and a couple of others were injured in the incident," he said.
The offence has been registered under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class), 147 and 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly) and others, as well as the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, he said.
Speaking at his residence in Nagpur on the violence, Deputy CM Fadnavis, who also holds the home portfolio, said, "The incident that happened in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar is very unfortunate and efforts are on to maintain peace in the area.
However, some people are trying to vitiate the atmosphere there by making provocative statements.
"I feel that political leaders should know how to behave in such situations. Hence, if anyone is giving such wrong statements, they should refrain from it. Everyone should maintain peace. If anyone is trying to give political colour to this incident, then it is unfortunate," he said in response to a query about some leaders accusing him of being responsible for the episode.
The incident gave ammunition to the opposition parties in the state, with the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leaders accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the All India Majalis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of orchestrating violence, and alleged that it was aimed at disturbing the Maha Vikas Aghadi's (MVA) upcoming rally in the city.
The opposition MVA, comprising the Shiv Sena (UBT), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, is scheduled to hold a rally in Aurangabad city, now named Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, on the coming Sunday.
Targeting the BJP and the AIMIM over the incident, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Chandrakant Khaire claimed, "Imtiaz Jaleel (of the AIMIM), Devendra Fadnavis and Union minister Bhagwat Karad (who hails from Aurangabad) are friends. It is their plan. The violence is aimed at disturbing our (MVA's) rally scheduled on April 2. People are also saying that the AIMIM is a 'B' team of the BJP."
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut alleged that tension is being created deliberately and the Home Minister (Fadnavis) should know who the perpetrators are.
"The MVA's rally on April 2 will go ahead as scheduled. It will be a huge success and preparations are on for it," he said.
Speaking in Nashik, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Ajit Pawar, said, "Is this an attempt to create hatred between two communities? The police should inquire and find the mastermind. The police should work without any political pressure."
Responding to the allegations against him, AIMIM's Jaleel told reporters, "This is being done to hide their failure. According to them, when anything good happens, it is because of them, but if anything bad happens, it is due to AIMIM. I want an inquiry into the incident. All the leaders in Aurangabad should ensure that peace prevails in the city," the Lok Sabha member of the AIMIM from Aurangabad said.