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April 19, 2000
Hindu-Muslim clashes break out in Varanasi
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
Curfew was imposed in the ancient holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, following the outbreak of communal violence on Tuesday night in which one youth was killed.
Varanasi district magistrate Alok Kumar told rediff.com over telephone, "Tension was already brewing in the communally sensitive city between Hindus and Muslims over Moharrum processions passing through a Hindu locality."
Trouble was sparked off following a sudden change in a tazia procession . "The processionists insisted on passing through a locality where they were not permitted; this naturally led to strong objection by members of the other community, who forced the processionists to go back," Kumar said.
As word of this development spread, bands of charged youth came out on the streets in the Muslim localities and blocked the traffic to mark their protest. "It was around this time when a youth was attacked by unknown miscreants while he was passing through a Muslim locality," Alok Kumar confirmed .
In an act of reprisal members of the two communities clashed in that locality, leading to the fatal stabbing of an innocent 22-year old youth, Vinod Kumar Jain, who happened to ride past on his scooter.
According to reports, the victim's only fault was that his scooter accidentally hit another youth on the crowded street. He was beaten up by a mob; and even as he tried to flee from the scene, he was overpowered by another violent mob some distance ahead and stabbed to death. On being rushed to hospital, Jain was stated to have been "brought dead".
This provoked widespread clashes between Hindus and Muslims in neighbouring localities as well. Later, around midnight, the district magistrate clamped curfew in the affected areas.
"There was no choice but to impose curfew and deploy armed police in the affected areas; strict prohibitory orders were also being enforced on the movement of people," UP's principal home secretary V K Mittal told this scribe.
The administration has also ordered the closure of educational institutions in those localities. Ongoing high school examinations in the affected areas have also been postponed in view of the violence.
Even as officials claimed that the situation was "well under control", reports described it an "uneasy calm" prevailing in Varanasi town, which has a long history of communal violence.
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