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Tension prevails in two Maharashtra towns, Munde detained at airport

Monday, September 07, 2009 06:10:31 PM, Agencies

Sangli: Curfew continued in Maharashtra's Sangli and Miraj towns Monday and several leaders of the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were detained following communal clashes that erupted over a poster during Ganesh Utsav festivities last week.


Curfew in the towns of Sangli district, about 400 km from the state capital Mumbai, was imposed at 2 p.m. Sunday and would remain in force till 2 p.m. Tuesday with concessions to enable people to stock essential items, said Sangli Superintendent of Police (SP) Krishna Prakash.


On Monday, Shiv Sena leaders Neelam Gorhe, Diwakar Raote and Parshuram Upkar were arrested for allegedly flouting curfew orders. They had rushed from Mumbai to meet members of some Ganesh Utsav mandals in the two towns, about 35 km from each other. The mandals had not immersed the Ganpati idols to protest the disturbances.


In Mumbai, police detained senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde before he could board a flight to Kolhapur for Sangli and Miraj. BJP legislators Prakash Shendgle and Madhu Chavan were prevented from entering Sangli Sunday.


Last Wednesday, Sep 2, the eve of Anant Chaturdashi, the last day of the 12-day Ganesh Utsav the trouble began in Miraj, which has a population of 265,000, including around 40,000 from the minority community.


A local organisation, Hindu Sanghatana Ganeshotsav Mandal, had put up a large arch depicting Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji killing Mughal leader Afzal Khan.


"This is a historical fact which nobody can challenge, but despite our pleas, the organisers put it up prominently where everybody would take note of it," said BJP legislator Prakash Shendgle.


The organisers allegedly also held a "victory rally" near the arch, depicting all the followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji in saffron and Afzal Khan supporters in green.


Sensing trouble, local police summoned about two dozen important Muslim community leaders and requested them to ignore the developments.


"But, as it always happens, some miscreants exploited the situation to give it a communal twist especially in view of the recently-concluded Ganesh Utsav festival, the ongoing Ramzan month and the ensuing assembly elections," Shendgle said.


He said he rushed to Miraj that day and was addressing crowds of both communities from the bonnet of his official jeep when an unidentified youth also climbed atop the vehicle and tried to shout him down.


Suddenly, there was a hail of stones from different directions, prompting police to start caning the protesters. Some of the stones are also said to have landed at the Ganesh idol, leading to heightened tensions.


This was followed by violent clashes between members of the two communities that afternoon in which the poster depicting Chhatrapati Shivaji and Afzal Khan was ripped off by some unknown persons.


About 300 people from both communities have been arrested.







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