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11 hrs before Hindu-Muslim clash, police met Jodhpur peace panel for ‘maintaining harmony’

Police officers say meeting with peace committee took place around 12 noon. Dispute at the Jalori Gate roundabout, epicentre of Hindu-Muslim violence, began around 11 pm.

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Jodhpur: About 11 hours before Hindu-Muslim clashes rocked the city of Jodhpur on 2 May, a meeting had been held between police and the city peace committee, where “maintaining peace and harmony” was discussed, ThePrint has learnt.

Violence between Hindus and Muslims Monday night and Tuesday left 33 people, including nine policemen, wounded. It came at a time when two festivals — the Islamic Eid-ul-Fitr and the Hindu festival of Parashuram Jayanti — coincided.

Two senior police officers confirmed to ThePrint that a meeting with the local peace committee had taken place around 12 noon Monday morning at a community hall in the Police Lines. The dispute at the Jalori Gate roundabout, the epicentre of the violence, began at around 11 pm.

“There was a discussion over maintaining peace and harmony, the routes that could be taken after Eid prayers to avoid causing traffic congestion, and the timing for Eid prayers, especially at major locations such as the (Jalori Gate) Idgah, which sees large gatherings,” Javed Hussain, a member of the peace and harmony committee in Jodhpur who attended the meeting, told ThePrint.

“But no alarm was raised at the meeting. We cannot say whether the police had intelligence inputs, but nothing of that sort was discussed,” Hussain said.

On his part, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Hawa Singh Ghumaria told the press that a probe had been initiated.

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Delayed response

The violence began with a quarrel over decorations at Jalori Gate around 10.30 pm on 2 May, the eve of Eid.

Eyewitnesses claimed that by 11 pm, they saw two journalists in the area but no police.

A senior officer told ThePrint that the police got its first distress call at 11:21 pm and a team of three led by an assistant sub-inspector-rank officer went to the spot. The policemen soon called in reinforcements, and by 12:30 am, some 300 were in the area, the officer said.

A senior police officer at the Sardarpura police station, who did not want to be named, said security arrangements are usually put in place on Eid, not the day before. The Sardarpura police station is 1.5 km away from Jalori Gate.

This officer, however, conceded that the police had not factored in the two festivals coinciding while making security arrangements.

Lack of preparedness

Tuesday’s violence began outside the Jalori Gate Idgah 500 metres from the roundabout  — after Eid prayers, and spread to adjoining localities within a 2-km radius. It saw not only stone-pelting, but also armed mobs of people attacking each other with rods, baseball bats, and knives.

“There were stones flying everywhere,” Sabir Hussain, a resident of Jalori Gate, said. “Groups of people were chasing each other with bats and other things but nobody knows where those things came from. The police should have been better prepared. It’s not possible for the police to not have anticipated the violence. And if they were unaware, then the lack of preparedness is even more concerning.”

Another resident wondered how there was not enough police presence in the area despite a Hindu and Islamic festival falling on the same day.

“How could the police say they didn’t anticipate any untoward incident? They should have had some officers deployed at the roundabout for security,” said Anil Pushkarna, a resident of Jalori Gate.

A senior officer at Jodhpur Police Commissionerate told ThePrint Friday that the scale of violence caught the police off guard.

 “The force we initially deployed was definitely not enough. You could call that our failure,” the officer said.

The officer, however, said that the police had “overall been successful” in having brought the situation under control by Tuesday afternoon.

“First, the police came between the conflicting groups at multiple points and that is why nine officers were injured. Second, we managed to bring the situation under control by 2 pm Tuesday without any deaths or life-threatening injuries to people,” the officer said.

ThePrint also approached Rajasthan’s Director General of Police M.L. Lather through phone calls and text messages, but did not receive a response.

The police said they had registered at least 14 cases in connection with the violence and apprehended more than 200 people until Friday.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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