The Chhattisgarh Police imposed a curfew in Kawardha town on Tuesday evening, two days after clashes were reported between two communities related to the removal of religious flags on a street, the Hindustan Times reported.
At least 12 people, including three police officers, sustained minor injuries in the clashes.
Tension began in the area on Sunday evening when people belonging to two communities engaged in a dispute related to the removal of religious flags from the Lohara Chowk area, according to the Hindustan Times.
The administration had on Sunday imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 (bans assembly of more than five persons) of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the area to defuse the tension.
On Monday, the police said six people involved in Sunday’s clashes had been arrested, and two first information reports had been registered. The police had also organised a peace committee meeting, during which residents of the area were asked to remove religious flags from Lohara Chowk.
However, on Tuesday, a mob of approximately 3,000 people, led by Hindutva outfits, took out a rally on the streets with swords, lathis and other weapons, according to The Indian Express.
The mob allegedly attacked the homes and vehicles of people from a minority community. The crowd also threw stones at the police. One of the officers, who sustained injuries, had to be hospitalised.
“On Tuesday, a protest organised by a right wing organisation turned violent when the protesters entered the areas dominated by the other community,” said Director General of Police DM Awasthi, according to the Hindustan Times.
Kabirdham district’s Superintendent of Police Mohit Garg said that at least 40 people have been arrested so far. But Inspector General Vivekanand Sinha told The Indian Express that 59 people have been arrested and the police were reviewing videos to identify the miscreants.
Videos of the demonstrations on Tuesday showed people hurling stones at one another and hitting each other with sticks. In one of the videos, people were seen throwing stones at shops and hitting closed shutters with sticks.
A few police officers could also be seen in the videos trying to control the clashes between the two groups. An unidentified police officer told the Hindustan Times that some two-wheelers were burnt.
Following continued tension on Tuesday, a curfew was imposed and internet services were suspended.
Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, whose hometown is Kawardha, blamed the local administration for the violence.
“The administration and the police were unable to solve a minor issue between the two communities, which led to violence and clash,” he said. “Now the town is peaceful but what happened was unfortunate.”
Minister in-charge of the district TS Singh Deo called for strict action against those responsible for the violence. “Stern action should be taken against whoever has broken law and adversely affected the law and order situation,” he said.