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Published in the 1-15 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

One dead, 40 injured in AP riot

By Ibrahim Usmani

Guntur: In the first communal clash since the Congress government took charge in Andhra Pradesh, one Muslim youth was killed and 40 others injured when clashes broke out between Muslims and Hindus in Guntur district on 9 August.

The incident broke out when the issue of the widening of a road was being discussed. The Reddys wanted to shift a Dargah, 20 kilometers away from Guntur, situated on the roadside to allow the road to be widened. Locals objected to this but they were adamant. A complaint in this regard was lodged the same day by Mohammed Naimatullah, Vice-President of Aejitela village council with the Chepral police station. The two groups gathered at about 6:30 p.m. and started pelting stones and acid bottles at each other. In the clash, Mohammed S K Mastan was killed in knife stabbing. The clash continued for about one hour with no sign of police though the police maintained that it had reached the spot at 7 p.m. No political leader of any party was present in the area. Locals blamed that although the police knew of the controversy over Dargah shifting and the complaint, it did not take any precautionary measures.

The incident occurred at a time when preparations are under way to celebrate the 100 days of the Y S Rajshekhar Reddy led Congress government in office. Surprise is that no political party leader came here neither on the day of the incident nor after that. There was also no statement from the All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen, the Muslim political party in Andhra Pradesh.

Meanwhile, on 10 August, the deceased Mohammed Mastan was buried with thousands taking part in his funeral. Police is keeping strict vigil in the area and a police party is monitoring the situation. According to Superintendent of Police Guntur District, Dr. Ravi Shankar Iyengar, a 80-ft road is being laid down for which no permission has been taken from the Zila Parishad nor there is any work order. Dr. Iyengar said that a temple and an ashoor khanah adjacent to a mosque were coming in the way of the road-widening. There were several meetings between the two communities to solve the issue. The Reddys demolished their shops adjacent to the temple and told Muslims to follow suit. This led to a controversy. When influential Muslim leaders came, three Reddys who were drunk started arguing with them. Thereafter the clash started at the village crossroads with stone-pelting and acid bottle throwing. Dr. Iyengar said that Mastan was killed when he came under the attack. District Collector and Iyengar himself came to the spot, he said. According to him fourteen people were injured in the incident. After the post-mortem at Guntur Medical College the body was handed over to the relatives and was buried in the presence of the police. Police said that it has identified the three Reddys involved in the murder who are absconding. As a precautionary measure the police picket will continue in the area, he said.

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