By Bosco de Sousa Eremita, March 4, 2006
Panaji (ICNS) -- For the first time, communal riots broke out in Goa after Muslim and Hindu groups clashed at Curchorem, 45 kilometers south of here, injuring at least five, with police bursting tear gas shells in a bid quell the rioting mob last night.
Shops and vehicles, predominantly belonging to Muslims, were targeted by rampaging mobs, even as the police found themselves in a minority, until the Rapid Action Force joined in to salvage the fast deteriorating law and order situation.
Section 144 has been imposed and a bandh call has been given today.
The rumor that armed Muslims from Bhatkal and Hubli were specially brought to cause panic and terror, following damage caused to a Muslim prayer house earlier on Wednesday was attributed to have incited the local Hindus, leading to violence.
Police said a mob of over 500 persons who gathered near the chowk started damaging buses and cars belonging to Muslims, some of whom retaliated. In the free-for-all, window panes of vehicles were smashed and some overturned, shops were broken open and goods looted.
Trouble began on Wednesday, when a Muslim prayer house, which was illegal but was in existence on government land for many years was razed in the night by Hindus, after a stay was granted on its demolition. Hindus feared that a mosque would be built. Seven persons involved in the demolition were arrested.
On Friday, Muslims addressed a protest rally over the demolition, but RSS and VHP organization affiliates who were blamed to for the trouble reportedly surrounded Muslims and indulged in stone throwing, leaving them stranded for several hours until they were allowed to move out of the site with police escort.
A 300-strong contingent of Rapid Action Force is patrolling the area, even as Chief Minister Pratapsing Rane has appealed for peace.
Goa has been traditionally known for communal amity, with Hindus and Catholics who constitute the chunk of the population having common ancestry.