Communal tension erupts in Vadodara, India

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Violence erupted in Vadodara in the state of Gujarat after municipal authorities demolished a dargah (Muslim shrine). The shrine was an unauthorised structure that was obstructing a road-widening project.

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The Muslim community objected to its demolition citing the fact that it was at least 200 years old. They also observed that many Hindu temples that were unauthorised were spared. Despite the reservations of the minority community, the authorities decided to proceed with the razing of the dargah, leading to rioting.

At least 6 people were killed in the clashes, and one citizen (35 year-old Rafiq Vora) was burnt alive in his car by an angry mob. Curfew has been imposed in the troubled areas and the sending of instigatory text messages prompted authorities to temporarily block the sending of mobile-phone text messages in the town.

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Vadodara is infamous for the horrific Hindu-Muslim clashes in 2002, which left thousands dead. To avoid the recurrence of such a tragedy, six battalions of Rapid Action Force anti-riot police and multiple companies of the Central Reserve Police Force have been rushed to Vadodara. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was Chief Minister during the 2002 Gujarat violence, for which the state government was accused by various independent human rights groups as well as major Indian newspapers of supporting, and in some cases instigating, the violence, is visiting Vadodara and has promised that all efforts would be made to prevent the situation from escalating any further. Home Minister Shivraj Patil is also monitoring the situation closely.