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Communal tension persists in Gazole and Ratua

Communal tension persists in Gazole and Ratua

Author: Statesman News Service
Publication: The Statesman
Date: May 10, 2009

Tension between the Hindu and Muslim communities continued in Gazole and Ratua block areas, despite police patrolling and promulgation of Section 144 of the CrPC.

Long-brewing communal tension had been sparked off recently when a Hindu marriage procession had passed a mosque in Gazole, prompting a group of Muslims to complain about the noise. Antagonism was heightened last Friday, leading to a scuffle at a Hindu temple in Gazole during Friday prayers.

The Malda SP Mr Satyajit Bandyopadhyay today held a meeting with the political parties at Gazole police station to restore normalcy there. It was decided that all political leaders would visit the area tomorrow. Police have arrested nine persons from both communities since Friday night in connection with rioting, provocation, and attacking police. However, political leaders alleged that police have not arrested the ringleaders who had provoked communal tension by forming small armed groups and attempting to attack other groups. Police did not disclose information concerning any specific communal encounter since the scuffle on Friday. Malda police have already set up police camps in the region and the rapid action force (RAF) is patrolling 24 hours. During the meeting, the political parties have demanded the setting up of one more police camp in the area. The Malda district magistrate Mr Sridhar Ghosh has instructed all block development officers to remain in station and urged the political leaders to prevent people from creating further trouble. Malda district administration yesterday promulgated Section 144 CrPC in 10 moujas of Gazole and Ratua blocks, banning groups of more than four from congregating in public places. The Malda sub-divisional officer Mr Prakash Pal said: "The prohibitory order will continue until normalcy is restored. Police picketing and patrolling in the sensitive areas will continue until further orders."

In the most sensitive areas, people are staying home, markets remain closed, and shops are shut in the evenings. Farmers, frightened to leave their homes, are facing problems in harvesting their Boro paddy cultivation on the banks of the Srimati and Mahananda rivers here. Boro paddy is cultivated on hundreds of acres of land here on either side of National Highway-81. It may be noted that tribals had once been in control of several of the temples in Ratua and Gazole, during a period marked by peaceful coexistence between the Hindus and Muslims. Now there are very few tribals remaining in the two blocks. In Gazole, the majority of temples are currently controlled by persons from Bangladesh.

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