Tension gripped Bhopal’s Old City on Tuesday night after arson and stone pelting following differences between Muslims and Hindus over the right to pray inside Hamidia Hospital complex.
There were two rounds of stone pelting in the area and at least four vehicles were set on fire near Peer Gate. The first was reported around 8.30pm when a large number of Muslims had gathered on the road for Iftar and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) members started heading towards a temple inside the hospital complex to offer prayers, said a police officer who did not want to be named.
Police cane-charged the mobs and also used teargas shells to disperse them. There were reports of injuries to some people, but they could not be immediately confirmed. Arson was also reported from the area.
The stone pelting spread panic and shops closed. A second round of stone pelting started around 10.30 pm when Muslims came out on the road after namaz in a nearby masjid. Police repeatedly cane-charged the mobs, but they kept coming back.
At the time of filing the report, sporadic stone pelting continued. Police said they were in control.
“The situation is now under control. There was heavy stone pelting from both sides and we had to use teargas and cane-charge the mobs. Heavy force has been deployed to maintain peace,” Arvind Saxena, superintendent of police (north), Bhopal, told HT.
Trouble has been brewing in the area for a few days. Some minarets were recently discovered in a structure during digging on the Hamidia hospital premises. Members of the Muslim community claimed it was a masjid and wanted to offer namaz there. The administration, however, did not allow it, saying that there was insufficient proof that it was a masjid, and experts would decide on it.
On Monday, members of the Hindu community wanted to pray in a temple inside the hospital campus next to the newly discovered minarets. The administration did not allow them to do so.