Why Aurangabad is on the boil over water

As members of two communities clashed, WhatsApp messages began to go viral apparently further fuelling the rioters.

 |  5-minute read |   12-05-2018
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Two persons have lost their lives and over 40 people – including assistant commissioner Govardhan Kolekar – have been injured after violent clashes broke out in the city of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, on Friday (May 11).

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The clashes, which started in the Gandhinagar area of the city spread quickly across the town. Riotous mobs set shops and cars on fire – nearly 50 vehicles and as many shops were set ablaze.

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Reports state a 60-year-old man lost his life as shops were gutted. As members of the two communities clashed, WhatsApp messages began to go viral apparently further fuelling the rioters.  

Speaking to India Today, Dr Kailash Zine, the resident medical officer (RMO) at the Government Medical College, Aurangabad, confirmed the death toll from the violence as well as the number of injured. Dr Zine said two people were brought dead to the hospital, along with 41 who were injured.

"Most people had injuries on their head and eyes due to stone-pelting. Nine people have been admitted and the rest were discharged after being administered first aid," Dr Zine said.

What happened?

Riots broke out late Friday night. According to a report published in DNA, tempers flared after the Shiv Sena-BJP ruled Aurangabad Municipal Corporation carried out a drive against illegal water connections in the old city area on Friday.

However, things took a violent turn after the staff reportedly cut off the water supply to a mosque post. Following this, a mob reportedly gathered at the spot and stone-pelting ensued. As the altercation, grew, members of two communities clashed and hundreds of youth in the city took to the streets, indulging in stone-pelting and vandalism over an issue that began with water, and swiftly seemed to take on a communal colour. 

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The violence which thus began in Gandhinagar spread to other sensitive parts of the city, such as Shahganj, Nawabpura, Rajabazaar and Angribaug, which continued to remain tense. According to reports, several shops and vehicles were damaged in the Chelipura and Motikaranja areas of Aurangabad also.

As violence escalated and members of the two communities clashed, Aurangabad police lathi-charged and fired tear gas shells to control the situation. However, when such measures failed, the police resorted to firing. One youth was killed and another seriously injured, reported India Today

What is being done?

Fearing an escalation of the rioting and violence which has already left 15 police personnel injured, the city police, which, for the last two months, has been functioning without a full-time commissioner, acted quickly to impose Section 144 of the CRPC, making the gathering of four or more people illegal. It has also suspended mobile internet services in the city to curb rumour-mongering.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the acting commissioner of Aurangabad police, Milind Bharambe, urged both communities to maintain peace. He said: "I would like to appeal to the people of Aurangabad to remain peaceful and not taken law unto themselves... If one group is pelting stones, the other group is requested to keep calm, not respond in kind, the police is doing its duty. Section 144 of the CRPC has been imposed, if a group of people are found to be breaking the curfew, we will take strict action against them."

The Aurangabad city police has also issued an advisory on its Twitter handle, asking people not to believe in rumours spread on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. In the tweet, the police also warned that strict action will be taken against any person found propagating such information.

They have also started collecting videos of the clashes and will begin identifying miscreants based on these.

On its part, the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra has deployed units of the state reserve police force and the Indian Reserve Battalion from the city, besides rushing forces to Aurangabad from neighbouring Beed and Jalna to maintain peace.

Also read: A Punjabi living in Bangalore explains why BJP should not win Karnataka elections

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