The Gujarat Police on Monday arrested at least 40 people in connection with the violence that broke out in Kutch district during a rally organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to collect funds for the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, The Indian Express reported.
The arrests were made on charges of murder, rioting, arson and conspiracy, among others, according to NDTV.
One person died and at least three people were injured in the clashes that broke out between two communities in Kidana village on January 17. Three first information reports, including one by sub-inspector GB Majirana, were lodged at the B division police station in Gandhidham.
The FIR filed by Majirana stated that the violence broke out “after those leading the rath started shouting religious slogans loudly at Kidana Masjid Chowk, provoking the other community”. This led to stone-pelting, arson and “violent attacks with swords and sticks”.
The sub-inspector said the police tried to pacify both sides, “but they did not oblige”. “While we were trying to maintain law and order, stones were hurled from nearby houses of the other group,” the sub-inspector added. “As stone-pelting intensified, a mob of around 200 to 300 rushed towards the rath, wielding weapons like swords, scythes and knives.” Subsequently people accompanying the rath also resorted to stone-pelting, Majirana added.
The police, meanwhile, said the “rath yatra” organised by the Hindutva group did not have required permission. “The VHP had permission to take out the rath yatra on Monday but they did it a day early [on Sunday],” Kutch Superintendent of Police Mayur Patil told The Indian Express.
Death of migrant worker
Amidst the violence, a migrant worker died after he was attacked with sharp weapons. The police said that Arjun Sovaiya, a native of Jharkhand, died of stab wounds. His body was found near a gaushala in Kidana village hours after the clash, The Indian Express reported.
A separate FIR was filed in Sovaiya’s case based on the complaint of an autorickshaw driver with whom the migrant was travelling on the day of the assault. Nurmamad Chavda, in his first information report, stated that Sovaiya was on his way home in his auto, along with five other passengers, when they were caught in the violence.
The driver said he saw a mob near Ahir Samajvadi in Kidana village. “Before I could comprehend anything, around 40 of them attacked my rickshaw with sticks and knives... passengers riding my rickshaw ran helter-skelter,” the FIR stated. “The assailants targeted me also... I managed to escape and ran towards my village chowk.”
Meanwhile, the third FIR in connection with the violence was lodged by Vipul Jaru, a resident of Kidana, who had joined the rath yatra in his village. He alleged that a mob of around 200 people of “the other community” hatched a conspiracy to not allow the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s rath yatra to pass through their area, blocked its path, and resorted to stone-pelting and vandalism.
Jaru further alleged in his complaint that the assailants looted the donation amount kept in the rath. Jaru named five persons and a mob of 200 as accused, and police have booked them for criminal conspiracy, rioting, robbery, among other charges.