Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan yesterday ordered a probe into Sunday’s communal riots in Dhule town which left five dead and over 200 injured, including police personnel.
“The probe will be conducted by the district magistrate and its report will be submitted within two months,” Chavan said Monday afternoon.
State’s Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order) Ahmad Javed has been directed to go to Dhule and restore normalcy in the riot-scarred town.
According to an official of Dhule district police control, the situation was “peaceful and under control” with prohibitory orders banning gathering of five or more people enforced in some parts of the town in north Maharashtra.
The riots which broke out over a trivial issue of paying a restaurant food bill also saw at least 70 people, including 20 policemen, injured. They are being treated in local hospitals. Officials said on Sunday that there was a fracas at a restaurant in the Fish Market Square when a youth argued with the owner and refused to pay a food bill.
Enraged, the hotelier assaulted the youth, who ran away only to return with some friends. The ensuing arguments and fisticuffs led to widespread rumours and within minutes, there was full-scale rioting in the vicinity, which has a mixed community population, and surrounding areas of Machhi Bazaar, Pala Bazaar and Madhavpura.
When police rushed there, they were unprepared to handle the situation and remained busy protecting themselves from stones, bricks, acid and soda water bottles being flung around liberally. Besides, rioters indulged in arson, pelting at vehicles and attacks on houses and shops.
After reinforcements were rushed to the scene, police first resorted to baton charge, followed by tear gas shells, firing plastic bullets. They finally had to open fire at the rioters.
As many as 11 police officers, 102 policemen and 100 people sustained injuries in the riots. At a high-level meeting yesterday afternoon, Chavan said that the state government would pay the medical bills of all the injured people. The state government will also pay for the funeral expenses of those killed in police firing, he added.
Generally considered peaceful, Dhule had witnessed a communal conflagration in October, 2008 when a police outpost was burnt by mobsters and the town was placed under a curfew for a week.