Mobs hurled bombs and pelted stones at each other as violence erupted in Kanpur after groups of people tried to force shopkeepers to down shutters over an alleged insult to Prophet Mohammed on a television show.
Clashes broke out in Pared, Nai Sadak and Yateemkhana areas of the city after Friday namaaz, police said.
The two sides hurled bombs and opened fire as members of one of the groups attempted to shut shops over alleged insulting remarks made by Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma during a television debate recently, a senior police official said.
Those who allegedly forced traders to shut shops clashed with police personnel who then used batons to disperse the mob.
Meanwhile, 18 people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
"Those involved in the violence are being identified with help of video clips of the incident. Eighteen people have been arrested," said Additional Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar.
"The accused and the conspirators will be booked under Gangster Act and their properties will be seized or demolished," warned the officer.
Kanpur police commissioner Vijay Singh Meena said two people have been injured in the violent episode.
Some local leaders, including Maulana Mohammed Ali (MMA) Jauhar Fans Association chief Hayat Zafar Hashmi, had called for closure of shops on Friday in protest against the remarks.
They had also taken out a procession during which they confronted members of other community, an official said, adding that as a result of which clashes broke out.
Kanpur's District Magistrate Neha Sharma told PTI, "Members of a particular community took to the street in protest and indulged in violence. Several people were seriously injured and have been sent for medical assistance."
"Heavy police force has been deployed in the affected areas. The police have also sought additional reinforcement," she said.
Kanpur police commissioner Vijay Singh Meena, who reached the spot, told reporters, "Suddenly, around 50-100 people came and started raising slogans, which was opposed by the other side. Then there was stone pelting. The police force controlled the situation to a great extent."
He said the situation is under control now.
The district magistrate said strict instructions have been issued to maintain a close vigil on the situation.
12 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) have been sent to the area to maintain law and order, police said.
Senior officials are also being sent there to monitor the situation.
Reacting to the incident, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said in a tweet in Hindi, 'Owing to the failure of the police and the intelligence machinery, at a time when the president, prime minister and chief minister were in the city, the provocative statement given by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma caused unrest. The BJP leader should be arrested. We appeal to all to maintain peace.'