Youths clash with police, indulge in violence and arson

Violence erupted in Old City here on Friday as namajis coming out of Mecca masjid after completion of noon prayers clashed with police, burnt vehicles and attacked property in lanes and bylanes.

Mobs torched four cars and four motorcycles even as policemen in riot gear chased them in different directions from Charminar and lobbed teargas shells. A policeman sustained injuries, while some youths were caught hurling stones.

As news about violence spread, tension gripped the entire Old City, which had been witnessing frequent communal incidents beginning with burglary in the Lal Darwaza temple a month ago. Filing out of the mosque, slogan-shouting crowds surged towards the Bhagya Laxmi temple, which abuts Charminar. Alleged expansion plans of the temple had become a bone of contention between two communities.

Huge contingents of policemen, including that of Rapid Action Force, deployed there to meet any eventuality in the backdrop of escalated tension, prevented them a few feet away from the temple. After persuading them in vain to move back, police began caning them.

But agitated youths allegedly pelted stones, prompting the police to use teargas. The retreating mobs continued to hurl stones and went on the rampage, damaging both government and private vehicles on different routes.

Notwithstanding presence of large number of policemen at Gulzar House, they broke open fuel tanks of two cars parked near a shopping complex and burnt them. Meanwhile, thousands of youths gathered outside Mecca Masjid and protested against use of force and teargas shells.

As the situation appeared to be going out of hands, police lobbed teargas shells and made a lathicharge to disperse them. While the situation was brought under control within an hour at Charminar, violence spread to places such as Eithebar Chowk, Moghalpura, Talabkatta, Reinbazar, Yakutpura, Panjeshah and Syed Ali Chabutra where heavy stone pelting was reported. Home Minister P. Sabitha Indra Reddy warned that persons provoking people with statements would be dealt with firmly. She appealed to people to observe restraint and not to believe rumours. Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who withdrew support to the ruling Congress at the Centre and in the State after a spree of communal tensions, said the MIM would not be cowed down by use of force.

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