Night curfew extended in Amravati till Monday as police grope for answers

Even as normalcy returns to the Maharashtra town, the puzzle of the ‘Raza Academy’ taking out an unauthorized procession is yet to be solved

Violence and vandalism took place in Amravati on November 13
Violence and vandalism took place in Amravati on November 13
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Anil Jadhav

Even as Amravati, the Maharashtra town with a population of 7.6 lakhs 154 kilometres from Nagpur, is limping back to normal, curfew and Internet shutdown in the city have been extended till Monday. A six-hour relaxation in curfew was allowed from Thursday, enabling people to go out between 11 am and 5 pm.

Police meanwhile are looking for pieces in the jigsaw puzzle to determine how a ‘non-existent’ organization on the ground in Amravati could mobilise 50,000 people out of the blue in a town with a Muslim population of merely 1.5 lakhs.

“People are tired of curfew and there is resentment brewing. They want the curfew to be lifted. It is necessary to reassure people and deal with their apprehensions,” says former guardian minister of the district and Congress leader Dr. Sunil Deshmukh. “We will review the situation on Monday and take a final call then,” said Commissioner of Police, Dr. Arti Singh.

As many as 14 thousand people have been booked for stone pelting, arson and loot while over 200 people have been arrested. The situation is fully under control, said Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Rajender Singh, who has been camping here since November 13.

Police and Amravati city were caught unawares when 50,000 Muslims took out a morcha to the collectorate under the banner of Raza Academy protesting against violence against Muslims and demolition of mosques in far-away Tripura. The Muslim March was part of a Maharashtra Bandh call given by the Academy.

While police intelligence reports had mentioned that the morcha would not be of more than 500 people, the massive turn out of 50,000 people caught the police napping. The processionists marched peacefully to the collectorate and submitted a memorandum there. On their way back some miscreants pelted stones at them from the railway yard. This infuriated some of the members of the morcha, who then allegedly attacked business establishments nearby, manhandled a few traders and damaged their property. Police were mute spectators as they were outnumbered.

BJP called for Amravati Bandh on November 13 to protest the vandalism, which, according to Rajinder Singh, was not ‘very serious in nature.’ Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organizations joined hands with the BJP and traders announced their support to the Bandh.

On November 13 morning, hundreds of BJP and VHP activists gathered at Rajkamal square, the hub of the city, waving saffron flags and shouting slogans. Despite heavy police deployment there, the charged mob ran in batches in different directions, making it difficult for police to follow them. The mob targeted Muslim business establishments, garages and vandalized two Darghas. Paan kiosks were burnt down, vehicles in garages in Ambapeth and Hamalpura were set on fire.

In retaliation, stones were thrown at a temple, which allegedly injured a priest. Both the communities clashed in various parts of the city and engaged in brickbatting. The day long violence left nine policemen including an officer and four civilians injured. Police used tear gas shells, water jets and mild caning to disperse mobs. Addl. ADGP Rajinder Singh said, “Police did a good job in controlling armed mobs.”

Police Commissioner and Special IG of Amravati Range were both on leave. Nagpur’s Addl CP Sandeep Patil, who was holding charge, ordered curfew in the city around 2 pm and internet services were shut down.

CP Arti Singh, cut short her vacation in Jaipur and rushed back late on November 13 evening. The next day she and Rajinder Singh led a route march in sensitive areas, appealing for peace and urging people to pay no heed to rumours.

On Sunday, police detained BJP MLC Pravin Pote, ex-guardian minister Dr. Anil Bonde and BJP’s Rural district president Nivedita Chaudhary as tension mounted following BJP’s call for another bandh in the district.


BJP leaders Anil Bonde, Mayor Chetan Gawande, BJP State spokesperson Shivrai Kulkarni and several BJP corporators were arrested on Monday and produced before the court, which granted them bail. BJP MLC Pravin Pote, former guardian minister Jagdish Gupta and 13 other BJP activists surrendered before Kotwali police station on Wednesday. They too got bail when produced before the court.

CP Arti Singh confirmed that the morcha taken out by Raza Academy had not been granted permission by police. She also confirmed that damages caused by vandals and violence on November 12 were not worth more than Rs. 5.15 lakh or so.

Shutting down Internet services put people to great inconvenience. Banks were paralysed until their internet services were restored on Wednesday. Online classes remained suspended. Work from Home stopped, forcing people to go out of the city in search of Internet connectivity.

While BJP blamed the ruling alliance in the State for November 12 violence, Congress State Vice President Dr. Sunil Deshmukh lashed out at the police for its failure in gathering intelligence and for not taking quick action to avert the next day’s violence. “Had the curfew been announced on Nov. 13 morning itself and leaders been detained on Nov. 12 night, events on Nov. 13 could have been avoided,” he said.

He blamed the police for extending curfew to hide its failure. “When the need of the hour is to normalise the city, they (police) are adding to prevailing fear by extending curfew,” he said.

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