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We were forced to fire: Vadodara police

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
May 01, 2006 16:26 IST
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Following the communal tension at Fatehpur, near the Champaner Gates in Vadodara, a large part of the old city has been placed under curfew. Two people have been killed and seven injured in the violence.

"We were forced to fire at the crowd," said Deepak Swaroop, Vadodara city police commissioner, while talking to

While giving chronology of the events, Swaroop said, "The demolition drive has been on for the last 15 days, as per the master plan of the city. There were orders to demolish any kind of encroachment, whether it's a temple or a mosque or any illegal construction in the house of a senior officer."

He added, "As per the order, some temples, too, have been demolished. Today it was the turn of the dargah of Rashidudin Rahimtullah, a Sufi saint." He said no-one knows exactly how old the dargah is but 'it has been here for many decades'.

Since the Muslim community had been agitated over the possibility of the demolitions, Swaroop had arranged meetings between Muslim leaders, the city mayor and the municipal commissioner. However, no consensus was reached and the court did not give a stay order on the demolitions.

"We were compelled to use force as a crowd of over 3000 people gheraoed the dargah. We first used tear gas, then we lathi-charged and only then did we fire, before the demolition work was completed," he said.

When asked why he did not delay the demolition, Swaroop said, "I used to pray at a Sai Baba temple right across from my house. Even that was demolished a few days back and I could do nothing about it."

Hemant Gandhi, a resident of  Vadodara who witnessed the tussle around the dargah said, "We expect more tension because there are two other dargahs on the list to be demolished and one of them is in the middle of a road. We expect the tension to continue if the city corporation does not delay the demolition drive."

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi