The police burst about a dozen teargas shells and resorted to lathi charge to disperse a violent mob which had attacked the police causing serious injuries to nearly two dozen senior police officers here on Thursday.

About 5,000 people, said to be supporters of the controversial religious leader, Asaram Bapu, took out a rally in Gandhinagar to protest against the police action against some disciples of the Bapu in connection with the death in mysterious circumstances of two boys, Deepesh and Abhishek, both aged about 10 years, in the Ashram school last year.

The rallyists were also protesting against a local media house which had been spearheading a campaign for action against the Bapu and his ashramites alleging them of practicing “black magic” in the Asaram Ashram at Motera on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

Just as the rally reached near the Gandhinagar district collector’s office to submit a memorandum, the supporters suddenly turned violent and pounced on a group of policemen trailing the rally with stones, lathis and other weapons. The slogan-shouting supporters removed the banners using the stumps as lathis to beat up the police personnel. At least 25 policemen, including the district superintendent of police, Piyush Patel, himself were injured in the attack by the supporters. They also pelted stones on the police and passers-by injuring several others.

As the situation threatened to go out of control, police reinforcement was summoned and they burst about a dozen teargas shells and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the mob. A section of the supporters while retrieving also clashed with local youths. The police also recovered 25 baseball bats from a car with Delhi registration seized at the site of the commotion.

Probe ordered

Later the State Director-General of Police, S. S. Khandwawala, said 180 supporters were arrested for rioting and other offences. He said a high-level inquiry was ordered into the incident, particularly to investigate whether it was a pre-planned attack on the police because of the suspicion caused by the recovery of baseball bats.