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Meerut: Anti-encroachment Drive Triggers Violence; 150 Shanties Burnt, Vehicles Damaged

The widespread melee resulted in shopkeepers downing their shutters.

Meerut: Over 150 shanties were burnt down and several vehicles damaged by mobs that went berserk after local authorities tried to remove encroachments in the city’s Sadar Bazar area.

The police said their men were also fired at from the rooftops.

Over two dozen cars and two-wheelers and eight or nine buses were damaged in the violence triggered by an attempt by the Cantonment Board and the police to remove encroachments in Bhusa Mandi.

Police said miscreants set some jhuggies on fire after they arrested four men.

People from the Hindu and the Muslim communities blamed each other for starting the fire, escalating tension in the area.

The police said the situation was later brought under control.

A magisterial inquiry has been ordered, District Magistrate Anil Dhingra told PTI.

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He said the situation was “tense but under control”.

Asked about the reason behind the incident, he said it would be clear after the enquiry.

The trouble began when Meerut Cantonment Board members accompanied by a police team reached Bhusa Mandi under Sadar Bazar police station area to remove illegal encroachments from the market, said officials.

Agitated over the civic authorities actions, the miscreants resorted to stone pelting at officials and snatched a wireless set from a police man and a mobile phone from one of the Cantonment Board members.

It led police to baton the agitated crowd and arrest four of the miscreants, the officials said.

Reacting to the police action, the anti-social elements in the agitating crowd set a few nearby jhuggis on fire, which spread rapidly, engulfing and gutting over 150 of them.

The agitating crowd too swelled rapidly, spilling on to the streets right from the Bhusa Mandi to Mahtab theatre and further up to Delhi Road, where the mob disrupted traffic and damaged over two dozen private cars and bikes and eight or nine Uttar Pradesh roadways buses, the officials said.

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The miscreants even resorted to firing upon the police team from their rooftops, said officials, however, adding that there were no casualties due to firing.

The widespread melee resulted in shopkeepers downing their shutters and a strong police posse was deployed in the troubled area to control the situation, they said.

Meerut district magistrate and police superintendent too were patrolling the area.

As a precautionary measure, the police diverted traffic on Delhi Road and blocked all roads leading to Mahtab theatre to control the riotous situation.

Bus driver Sunil Kumar of Meerut’s Bhaisali depot told PTI that his bus, bearing registration number UP 17 – 4737 was attacked by a mob of over 100 people, who seriously injured nearly 30 passengers, including a woman and her child.

Kumar said during the attack, he kept on calling police on police control number 100, but failed to get any response, while the berserk mob had a free run and indulged in rioting and looting passengers of several buses.

Eyewitnesses said amid the reports of arson in Meerut, Golcha cinema located near the Bhusa Mandi cancelled its show midway and a stampede like situation cropped up with the movie goers rushing out of the cinema hall amid the reports of fire.

According to reports, broken pieces of some bottles too were found at the trouble spots, giving rise to doubts that the miscreants also used patrol bombs during the melee.

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