Lucknow: Violence erupted in the temple town of Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of prime minister Narendra Modi, on Monday when saints and Hindu religious groups taking out a ‘Pratikar Yatra‘ to protest against a lathi charge and ban on immersion of idols in Ganga, turned violent. Schools, colleges and other institutions remain closed in Varanasi on Tuesday, following Monday’s violence.
Curfew was imposed in four police station areas. While the procession was underway in a peaceful manner, there was a sudden stone pelting from somewhere and the rallyists turned violent and started targeting the police personnel escorting them. Police resorted to a mild cane charge and fired rubber bullets to disperse the unruly mob. It also lobbed tear gas shells on the crowd after it targeted police vehicles and set on fire a police outpost. Situation limped back to normal as the curfew lifted by Monday midnight, an official said, adding schools and colleges were closed as a matter of caution.
Home department officials said that prohibitory orders have been issued in most parts of the city and it was a state of undeclared curfew in Girjaghar, Chowk, Gaudolia, Dashashmeghghat Marg, Madanpur and Baans Fatak areas. Police have put up barricades on these routes and are preventing people from taking to these roads. Unconfirmed reports suggest that there have been stray incidents of firing also. Police has appealed to the people to remain calm and ensure that no harm comes to property or lives.
The procession, attended by over 10,000 people, had begun from the Town Hall grounds with sloganeering and chants of Baba Vishwanath. The procession, attended by thousands was led by a ‘palki’ of Lord Kashi Vishwanath, followed by women and saints. Many Hindu groups had called for the protest march against a lathi charge and banning of immersion of idols in the Ganges, as has been the tradition during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Navtatri.
Rapid Action Force (RAF) and provincial armed constabulary (PAC) have been deployed in Varanasi, Dalji Chowdhary, additional director general of police (Law and Order) said.
At least 26 people have been arrested for their involvement in the violence, that injured over 50 people, including a magistrate and a circle officer.