Sarbananda Sonowal orders probe into communal clash over Ram temple celebration, Army conducts flag march

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Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday ordered a probe by the director-general of police into the communal clash in Sonitpur district over the bhoomi pujan for the Ram temple at Ayodhya as an indefinite curfew was clamped and the Army conducted flag march in the troubled areas.

The indefinite curfew has been clamped in areas under Thelamara and Dhekiajuli police stations in the district after the clashes took place at Bhora Singori and Goruduba villages under Paschim Borgaon panchayat on Wednesday after a bike rally by Bajrang Dal activists to celebrate the foundation laying of the temple at Ayodhya, officials said.

The Army conducted the flag march at the request of the district administration and the situation is “fully under control”, the police said.

“The DGP has been asked to probe the incident. At the same time, I appeal to all to maintain peace and calm. We should live as brothers,” Sonowal said at a police function in Guwahati. Sonitpur additional superintendent of police Numal Mahata told PTI that the Army conducted the flag march at the request of the district administration during the midnight of Wednesday in the areas under Thelamara police station.

“We have already detained two persons for questioning.

There is no report of any untoward incident since last night. The situation is fully under control,” he said. Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Gyanendra Pratap Singh visited the affected areas to assess the situation and hold discussions with senior officials of the district.

“As per our preliminary investigation, the clash first took place at Bhora Singori and then at Goruduba. We have registered three cases at Thelamara police station and are questioning the two detained persons,” he told reporters.

Two cases were registered in regard to the clashes at the two villages, while the third one is related to the attack on the vehicles of the officials, including the deputy commissioner. “We are trying to collect mobile phone recordings of the clash to identify the culprits. I have instructed the DIG and SP to establish the sequence of events and proceed accordingly,” he said.

The ADGP said that around 12 people from both sides were injured in the clash. Their injuries were, however, “very minor”. “Additional forces have reached the spot, the Army conducted a flag march and four new police pickets have been posted in the troubled areas. The situation is under control now,” Singh said.

Sonitpur Superintendent of Police Mugdhajyoti Dev Mahanta is camping in the area since Wednesday evening and is monitoring the situation. The clash took place on Weddnesday afternoon when a large number of bikers of the Bajrang Dal shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and playing loud music went to a Shiv temple at Bhora Singori under Thelamara police station in a procession without any permission.

A senior official said that local people had objected to the group playing loud music and protested against the holding of a large rally during the pandemic which led to heated arguments that turned ugly. As the news of the clash spread, people of neighbouring Goruduba village blocked the road by placing logs and even dug it up to stop the movement of the bikers.

Both sides clashed there too. Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner Manvendra Pratap Singh, who rushed to the spot, was attacked by both groups who threw stones at him and smashed the windscreen of his official vehicle.

“To control the situation, which had turned into a communal clash, police first lathi-charged and then fired in the air. We have deployed additional forces after many bikes and other vehicles were burnt… The bikers did not have any permission for the procession,” Singh had said. The Bajrang Dal activists were equipped with sharp weapons and several bikes and a four-wheeler belonging to them were set on fire during the clash, he had added.

Assam Congress spokesperson Apurba Kumar Bhattacharjee questioned the government on how “BJP supporters” took out a rally violating all regulations.

“The clash took place because of the administration’s failure. We demand a judicial probe into the clashes,” he added.

BJP spokesperson Hemanga Thakuria alleged that the clash is the outcome of a nexus between a section of the Congress, AIUDF and the Left, which instigated the people.

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