Dhule riots toll rises to four, probe ordered

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 07, 2013 13:20 hrs

Mumbai/Dhule, Jan 7 (IANS) Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Monday ordered a probe into Sunday's communal riots in Dhule town which left four dead and over 200 people injured, among them many police personnel.

"The probe will be conducted by the district magistrate and its report will be submitted within two months," Chavan said Monday afternoon.

Maharashtra Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order) Ahmad Javed has been directed to go to Dhule and restore normalcy in the riot-scarred town.

The deaths in the Dhule riots climbed to four Monday with one more dying of injuries in police firing.

According to an official of Dhule district police control, the situation was "peaceful and under control" with prohibitory orders, banning gathering of five or more people, enforced in some parts of the town in north Maharashtra, around 350 km from Mumbai.

The riots which broke out over a trivial issue of paying a restaurant food bill, also saw at least 70 people, including 20 policemen, injured. They are being treated in local hospitals.

Officials said Sunday that there was a fracas at a restaurant in the Fish Market Square when a youth argued with the owner and refused to pay a food bill.

Enraged, the hotelier assaulted the youth, who ran away only to return with some friends shortly.

The ensuing arguments and fisticuffs led to widespread rumours and within minutes, there was full-scale rioting in the vicinity having a mixed community population, and surrounding areas of Machhi Bazaar, Pala Bazaar and Madhavpura.

When police rushed there, they were unprepared to handle the situation and remained busy protecting themselves from stones, bricks, acid and soda water bottles being flung around liberally. Besides, rioters indulged in arson, stoning of vehicles and attacks on homes and shops.

After reinforcements were rushed to the scene, police first resorted to baton charge, followed by tear gas shells, firing plastic bullets. They finally opened fire at the rioters.

As many as 11 police officers, 102 policemen and 100 people sustained injuries in the riots.

At a high-level meeting Monday afternoon, Chavan said that the state government would pay the medical bills of all the injured people.

The state government will also pay for the funeral expenses of the four killed in police firing, he added.

Generally considered peaceful, Dhule had witnessed a communal conflagration October 2008 when a police outpost was burnt by mobsters and the town was placed under a curfew for a week.

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