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Rumours of statue desecration spark violence in Nippani

Staff Correspondent

Three vehicles damaged, police video cameraman attacked



CENTRE OF CONTROVERSY: Minister for Agriculture Marketing Prakash B. Hukkeri and Nippani MLA Kakasaheb Patil garlanding the statue of Chatrapati Shivaji in Nippani on Monday.

Belgaum: Rumours of desecration of the statue of Chatrapati Shivaji in Nippani sparked violence forcing the police to disperse an unruly mob on Monday.

Glass windowpanes of two police vehicles and the windowpanes of a North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) bus were smashed. The miscreants damaged shops and business establishments. As news spread, merchants and businessmen pulled downed shutters in the main market. Vehicular traffic was affected in the town.

Nippani MLA Kakasaheb Patil and the former Minister Veerkumar Patil and MLC helped the police bring the situation under control within an hour. The two leaders pacified the angry mob, reliable sources said.

The angry group attacked police video cameraman S.B. Murgod while he was shooting the proceedings. Suresh Guruling Wali and Dhanaji Kangle of a Marathi daily were attacked and their camera was damaged, Additional Superintendent of Police C. Mohan said.

Trouble started when a few individuals informed the police about the suspected desecration of the Shivaji statue at Shivaji Chowk at about 8.30 a.m.

He said that the statue had a garland of footwear. But the people living in the area said this was not true at least till 7.30 a.m.

As a group of people gathered at the spot and rumours of desecration started spreading, a police team led by a Sub-Inspector rushed to the spot. Interestingly, the person who informed the police about the incident could only show two footwear near the roadside gutter, which he said could have been used to desecrate the statue.

But no one could establish that a garland of footwear was on the statue.

Meanwhile, police video cameraman was shooting the proceedings at the spot and a few members from the group attacked him out of fear of being identified. The cameraman retaliated adding to the confusion and the police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the miscreants.

Soon, the mob turned unruly and started throwing stones on roadside shops and commercial establishments. In the melee, two photographers were attacked and injured.

The miscreants attacked the office of the Nippani Municipality office and smashed the windowpanes.

Additional Superintendent of Police C. Mohan said the situation was brought under control within an hour and additional forces have been deployed as a precautionary measure.

An alert was immediately sounded in other parts of the district, which remained unprovoked.

He appealed to the people not to heed to rumours. He said no body had come forward to lodge a complaint till evening and therefore, the police would register a suo motu case and take up investigation.

Nippani City Police Station Sub-Inspector B.S. Patil was suspended immediately on charges of dereliction of duty.

Mr. Mohan said the police had been keeping vigil over all statues and sensitive points in towns and cities and the constables stationed at Shivaji Chowk had noticed any desecration of the Shivaji statue till 6 a.m.

Hukkeri blames police

Meanwhile, Agriculture Marketing and district incharge Minister Prakash B. Hukkeri rushed to the spot and offered a garland to the statue of Shivaji. He criticised the police for not being alert.

Bus services were resumed in the town by 4 p.m.

`Bandh' called

The Madhyavarti Sarvajanik Sri Shivajayanti Utsav Mandal has called for a "bandh" in Belgaum city on Tuesday in protest against the alleged desecration of the statue of Chatrapati Shivaji in Nippani on Monday.

This was decided at the madal's Executive Committee meeting here on Monday.

Mandal vice-president Ramesh Pavale, Prakash Murgod, Bhau Shahpurkar, Dayanand Badiwale, Mahadev Patil, Vijay Patil, Raju More and Vishwanath Survanshi attended the meeting.

The meeting demanded a judicial inquiry to bring the culprits to book. It appealed to all admirers of Shivaji to observe a "bandh" to protest against the incident in a peaceful manner on Tuesday, according to a release by Mandal President Deepak Dalvi.

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