Saturday, May 11, 2002
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By Manas Dasgupta
Army and Rapid Action Force personnel walking past burning shops in the Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad on Friday. AP
The city witnessed large-scale arson as fire brigade staff went on a flash strike late on Thursday night after three of their personnel were beaten up and a fire brigade ambulance was set afire by a violent mob. The strike was called off late this afternoon and the firemen resumed duty to douse fires only after the new Police Commissioner assured protection to each of the fire tenders going to the disturbed areas.
An indefinite curfew has been clamped in the Kagdapith, Gaekwad Haveli, Dani Limda and Kalupur police station areas since this morning following incidents of bomb blasts, arson, stone-throwing and group clashes. Mob set fire to the Laati Bazar (timber market) on the Geeta Mandir road this afternoon causing great damage.
Police said there had been "innumerable incidents'' of bomb blasts in various parts of the walled city. At least one person was killed and dozens were injured. The police housing colony in Gaekwad Haveli was attacked by a mob which set fire to a police motorcycle and snatched a rifle. A police constable dragged out of his house, however, escaped.
Four persons were killed in police firing in Jamalpur and the Gaekwad haveli where one person was also stabbed to death. A 27-year old fruit trader passing through the Kalupur locality was burnt alive by a mob barely a few metres away from the Kalupur police station. The person going on a two-wheeler was thrown into a garbage dump and burnt.
While one person was stabbed to death near the Vasant-Rajab crossing in Kagdapith, another died of injuries sustained in a bomb blast in Raikhad. Police opened fire in the Raikhad, Jamalpur and Kagdapith areas repeatedly as violent mobs of rival communities regrouped and attacked each other. About 100 shops and cabins, two-wheelers and houses were set ablaze in different parts of the walled city which also witnessed a stabbing spree. Five persons sustained stab injuries while 30 were injured in stone-throwing.
In a late night reshuffle of the top police brass, Mr. Pande and almost his entire team of officials were shifted out of the city following a meeting between the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, and his security advisor, the former Punjab police chief, K. P. S. Gill. Mr. Pande was succeeded by the Additional Director-General of Police (CID Crime), Mr Kaushik, who was also looking after the investigation into the Godhra train carnage, but has no experience of heading a police commissionerate. Both the Joint Police Commissioner, M. K. Tandon, and the Additional Commissioner, Keshav Kumar, who was brought to Ahmedabad a fortnight ago, were also transferred and their places would be taken over by two young officers, Satish Sharma and Satish Verma.
In an apparent attempt to ward off the criticism that police officials from the minority community have been marginalised, A.I. Sayeed, Joint Director, State Police Academy, was appointed the Security Advisor to the Chief Minister. Sayeed would hold this post as an additional charge.
The changes were announced immediately after the fire brigade went on a flash strike plunging the city into chaos even as arsonists had a field day. The firemen went on a strike after three of their personnel who had taken an ambulance to the Raipur Chakla to rescue the sons of two fire officers allegedly kidnapped by a mob and beaten up, faced the mob fury. The firemen were dragged out of the ambulance which was set afire and were beaten up. As the news reached the Danapith fire headquarters, the entire staff collected at Raipur and struck work. The strike was later called off.
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