Varanasi tense as police, seers clash

Police vehicles, shops torched by mobs

Dozens of people, including saints, policemen and media personnel, were injured as police made a lathicharge, used tear gas shells and opened fire in the air after violence broke out during a protest march by sadhus in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi on Monday.

The march was organised in protest against police lathicharge on saints a fortnight ago over immersion of Ganesh idols in the Ganga. Several saints were injured in the police action.

People torched many shops and vehicles, including those of the police and also indulged in heavy stone pelting on the police personnel, police sources here said.

Indefinite curfew was imposed in the four police station areas, including Dashshwamedh, Luxa, Bhelupur and Chowk, and additional security forces were rushed to the town from adjoining districts, the officials said.

The curfew was, however, lifted late Monday night.

The trouble sparked after some participants in the march turned violent when it reached Godwalia area on way to the banks of river Ganga.

A police booth and a jeep were torched prompting the police to deploy lathicharge to disperse the trouble mongers.

The violence soon spread to other areas and some shops and vehicles were torched by the rampaging mobs.

The officials said they had not expected such a large crowd at the march, which turned violent.

Sources said four companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and two companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed in the town.

The officials through loudspeakers were also making an appeal to the people to maintain calm.

Sources said that the situation was still tense and stray incidents of stone pelting were still on.

The plan to hold the march had triggered alarm bells in the district administration and the officials had visited Swami Avimukateshwarananda – who was injured during the earlier police action – and tendered apology to persuade him to call off the march.

However, the seer rejected the apology saying that they would not be satisfied until Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav himself expressed regret over the police action. 

Several sadhus were injured, some seriously, after police had made a lathicharge to disperse agitating seers and other saffron activists, who were protesting denial of permission to immerse Ganesh idols.

The administration had refused to permit immersion of Ganesh idols in the Ganga following a court order.

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