BHOPAL: Sectarian violence erupted in the city with over 60 houses of a minority community torched by a mob on Thursday. Aman Colony in Karond resembled a war-torn site with thick smoke billowing from gutted houses, women screaming and injured being rushed to hospital. At least 75 people, including women and children suffered critical injuries.
The area was cordoned off by police and rapid action force and prohibitory orders have been clamped. Over 12 fire tenders were rushed to douse raging fires and 12 ambulances were pressed into service.
Victims said thousands of attackers, wielding firearms, petrol-bombs, sharp-edged weapons and stones attacked the colony from all sides. For close to two hours, the marauders wreaked havoc and police were nowhere to be seen. Despite simmering tension the previous night, only a few cops had been deployed.
Over 35 two-wheelers and household goods were set ablaze. Victims claimed that the attack had been planned at the behest of a local politician for over a fortnight.
Rapid Action Force personnel patrol after clashes broke out between two groups in Karond area of Bhopal, on December 11, 2014.
By the time police finally arrived to take charge of the situation, the mob had wreaked mayhem. Cops lobbed teargas shells, opened fire in the air and lathicharged the attackers. Residents of Aman Colony have been shifted to their relatives’ homes at Irani Dera near Bhopal railway station. Police asked residents of neighbouring localities to remain indoors and not to venture on rooftops. At least four fire-fighters, battling fires, were injured by the mob.
The exact cause of dispute between the two groups is yet to be ascertained. Officials said the immediate trigger was a scuffle on Wednesday night over a trivial issue. Residents of the colony claimed harassment after they objected to the unlawful activities of a woman. Another reason blamed some people blocking the road and disrupting traffic.
When TOI visited the spot, infuriated victims pointed to delayed action by police. Farida Bi, 40, who suffered injuries, said the mob entered her house and destroyed everything. “Where should I go for justice?” she asked.
A group of people moving to safer places after clashes broke out between two groups in Karond area of Bhopal, on December 13, 2014.
“We were tense all night. As soon as we slept, thousands of people barged into our colony. They set our houses and vehicles ablaze. The cops were nowhere to be seen as the violence spiraled,” said Bano Bi, 26.
Shabir Hussain, 20, said, “I heard an announcement from a religious establishment, egging attackers to chop off our heads.”
Malika Bi, 70, an injured woman said, “Mobs entered our houses, dragged us outside and set them ablaze. What was our fault? Why did they attack our children and damage our holy books and place of worship?” she asked.
“Attackers put a sword to my neck and said they would rape me if I don’t move out. They beat my husband severely,” said Fiza Ali, 38.
Women cry at the loss of their houses after clashes broke out between two groups in Karond area of Bhopal, on December 11, 2014.
Three minor girls in the age-group of 8-10, Rida, Shanu and Zenam, who were waiting for a bus to move, said they didn’t want to leave their colony. Residents fought back tears while salvaging their possessions.
Bhopal range deputy inspector general of police, D Sreenivasa Varma, who took charge of the situation, mobilized manpower from the old city, control room and reserved forces.
Around 70 families with a population of 200 belonging to a religious sect moved to Aman Colony a year ago. The colony is hemmed in by members of another community, who are opposed to the presence of the minority group in the neighbourhood, said police. Most of the houses are newly constructed.