Gujarat limps to normalcy under army watch

Ahmedabad: Ravaged by violence since Tuesday, Gujarat limped back to normalcy on Thursday even as the army was moved into three more cities to curb tensions following riots that claimed nine lives, officials said.

Besides Ahmedabad, soldiers joined paramilitary and state police in Surat, Rajkot and Mehsana to patrol the cities.

Though there were no major incidents of violence on Thursday, the situation remained tense, and roads were deserted in most major cities and towns.

Schools and colleges were shut, and so were most shops, offices and commercial establishments.

However, all government offices as well as public and private banks reported near normal operation on Thursday.

Curfew imposed in certain areas of Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and other cities since Tuesday was relaxed on Thursday, enabling residents to go out and buy essentials including milk, vegetables and medicines.

But night curfew may continue in the worst-hit cities and localities, officials indicated.

While auto-rickshaws and taxis started plying on Thursday, public transport, which bore the brunt of mobs in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and other cities, operated only partially.

The BRT system, in which buses and stops were badly damaged, are expected to resume normal operations only by next week.

The Gujarat State Road Transport Corp services also resumed partly after many buses were attacked and burnt. Rail tracks damaged by rioters were being repaired, delaying intra-state and inter-state services.

The two days of unrest figured prominently in the Gujarat assembly where a vociferous Congress demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, forcing two adjournment of the house.

The speaker suspended around 30 Congress legislators for the day after they rushed towards him shouting slogans against the government.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the violence in his home state.

"Modi's ideology is of anger... which is what is happening in Gujarat. Anger helps no one except Modiji," Gandhi tweeted.

In Ahmedabad, Hardik Patel, 22, the convenor of Patel Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), denounced the government for the police action on Patidars on Tuesday which resulted in a riotous Wednesday.

"Children and women were hurt. Police officers responsible for this should be suspended," Patel said, warning that essential supplies to Ahmedabad would be stopped until the guilty policemen were punished.

He demanded a compensation of Rs.3.50 million to the families of each victim killed in Wednesday's violence.

Most major cities and towns in Gujarat erupted from late Tuesday after police caned members of the Patidar community who had taken out a mammoth rally in Ahmedabad demanding caste-based reservations.

By Wednesday evening, 133 companies of the Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force, SRPF, RAF and BSF besides Gujarat Police were engaged in controlling violent mobs in various cities including Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Morbi, Vadodara, Mehsana and Banaskantha.

The PAAS mega rally saw the participation of 1.20 million Patidars seeking reservations in education and jobs, virtually swamping Ahmedabad on Tuesday afternoon.

The 'maha-revolution rally', as the PAAS termed it, capped a 55-day long agitation across the state with scores of mini rallies in different towns and cities.

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