Muslims, Christians clash in Thiruvananthapuram Kerala, 5 killed, 38 injured
Posted by jagoindia on May 19, 2009
On Sunday afternoon, a group of youth from Bheemappally stormed into Cheriyathura, hurling bombs at the people of the rival side. The police opened fire, killing four people on the spot, as the mob moved towards a local church. Another person succumbed to injuries on Monday. Nearly 38 men have been injured in the incident.
May 19, 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: An eerie silence had descended upon the coastal region of Bheemappally-Cheriyathura, only to be intermittently ruptured by police sirens criss-crossing the narrow roads. Securitymen in different uniforms stood guard in front of shops which remained closed for the second day after the police firing to avert communal clashes claimed five lives.
The fishermen village looked deserted as families fled fearing retaliation from the rivals side. Gutted country boats and fishing nets remained testimony to the flames that had suddenly engulfed the village.
It all began on Saturday when a goon from Cheiryathura, a Christian belt, tried to extort money from merchants at Bheemappally, a Muslim-dominated region. After being manhandled by the locals, the goon, Shibu, rushed to Cheriyathura only to return with a company of his men to retaliate. The gang from Cheriyathura set ablaze a fishing net at Bheemappally.
Though the police intervened on Saturday night itself, they lowered their guard assuming normalcy had returned. On Sunday afternoon, a group of youth from Bheemappally stormed into Cheriyathura, hurling bombs at the people of the rival side. The police opened fire, killing four people on the spot, as the mob moved towards a local church. Another person succumbed to injuries on Monday. Nearly 38 men have been injured in the incident.
“There was nothing communal about the incident. The police should have taken action against the goons who had forcibly collected money from the other side,” said Christopher Raj of Cheriyathura.
“Police inaction precipitated the crisis. They failed to clamp prohibitory orders on Saturday night itself,” Bheemappally Jama-at president N V Aziz said. He said the police sprayed bullets on the mob without exhausting other avenues. “A goon’s action should not have snowballed into a communal flare-up. The police failed to prevent his attempt to collect money from visitors of the Bheemappally mosque,” he said.
But police sources refuted the charges. “We had stuck to all formalities before the firing. The region and nearby areas are too sensitive to bear a minor provocation. The coast’s history is replete with several communal clashes. We had no other option but to fire to prevent a major clash between Christians and Muslims,” police sources pointed out.
The Muslim community reacted in an emotive manner towards the incident. They took away two dead bodies from the spot of firing and kept them until midnight demanding the intervention of senior police officers and ministers.
All Muslim organisations on Monday came out in protest against the police action. They sought a judicial probe and adequate compensation for the families of victims. A march to the Secretariat was attended by all organisations.
The LDF Government instantly ordered a judicial probe. A meeting chaired by Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan also announced compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the families of each victim and Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh for the injured.
But Muslim organisations are demanding better packages. They have also called for a dawn-to-dusk shut-down in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.
Police sources said the situation was under control as battalions of Rapid Action Force, CRPF and Kerala Armed Police were camping in the region. Meanwhile, the goon who triggered the violence was taken into custody on Monday evening. End
Express News Service : 19 May 2009
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Cheriyathura, which is bleeding from the wounds inflicted by the police on Sunday, is the same place where three persons were killed in the police firing in 1959.
The struggle that followed had led to the downfall of the EMS Ministry.
A pregnant woman, Flori, who was killed in that firing, had emerged as a martyr of the Liberation Struggle.
Sunday’s police firing killed five persons. Though there are no political and social issues involved in the clashes, the Popular Front of India (PFI), an offshoot of the erstwhile NDF with its extremist brand of politics, is all set to draw political mileage out of the issue. The character of the coastal regions of the Thiruvananthapuram district has always been volatile; ready for the most violent reaction at the slightest provocation. Earlier, on July 18, 1992, a very minor incident had resulted in a massive riot at the neighbouring Poonthura.
The political situation prevailing then after the demolition of the Babri Masjid had added fuel to the fire.
Last Saturday night, a criminal Kombu Shibu, alias Shibu, of the fishermen’s colony at Cheriyathura had gone on an extortion drive in the nearby Beemapally area.
Shibu had been regularly engaged in collecting extortion money from the traders of Beemapally, notorious for the smuggled goods business.
When the traders refused to give extortion money, Shibu and his friends damaged some shops there. He also destroyed fishing boats anchored at the Beemapally shore. In retaliation, a group of young men from Beemapally entered Cheriyathura area and damaged vehicles parked there. What followed was a group war. As both groups belonged to different communities, the clashes took a communal colour soon. The police team, which rushed to the spot, could ensure a temporary truce late on Saturday night.
But, things went out of control on Sunday. The attacks were repeated more violently. Houses and fishing boats were attacked in both Cheriyathura and Beemapally.
Several people were seriously injured. When the police team arrived on the spot, country bombs were reportedly hurled at them. The police resorted to firing, killing five men. This is the version the police give off-the-record.
Locals point out several loopholes in the police theory. Their allegation is that the police resorted to firing without taking the lathi-charge or tear gas shell-firing routes. There are also reports that Sub Collector K. Biju had refused to order firing.
A police officer in the rank of Assistant Commissioner stationed in the area had ordered the firing – disregarding the advice of the Sub Collector – after receiving approval from some quarters.
The incident would have been controlled if the police had taken steps to control the activities of Shibu. Shibu was released from jail only recently and had resumed collecting extortion money from the traders of the area.
There were reports that Shibu had recently collected extortion money even from an ASI of the Valiyathura police station.
There were also reports that the police had not been able to nab Shibu reportedly owing to his connections with some persons in the police force.
It was on the same Cheriyathura beach that Flory Pereira and her fellow martyrs of the Liberation Struggle, Lazer Pereira and Antony Rebeira, were killed in the police firing of July 3, 1959. They had lost their lives during a protest march against the EMS-led Government.
Thiruvananthapuram, Tuesday19 May 2009
Various Muslim organisations have jointly called for a dawn to dusk hartal in Thriuvananthapuram today, following the killing of five people near the Beemapally area in the city in police firing on Sunday evening.
Five persons were killed and 36 were injured when police opened fire to prevent a mob from attacking a place of worship on the Cheriathura beach here on Sunday afternoon. Two houses and a boat were damaged in the violence.
The State government has deployed two companies of the Central Reserve Police Force in the area. The locality is under curfew.
The police suspect Badusha, Hakim and Syed Ali, alias Nissan, of Beemapally to have died from bullet injuries. Joy, 38, Rajeev, 34 and Antony, 48, from Cheriathura were among those who received bullet wounds. The police suspect Ahmed Salim of Beemapally to have been killed in the communal clash.
The violence was the consequence of a minor clash between traders at Beemapally, a foreign goods business centre, and a gang of extortionists and drug peddlers operating out of Cheriathura on Saturday night.
Anticipating trouble, the police had posted men to the beach separating the two localities, each dominated by either of the communities.
Deputy Commissioner of Police A.V. George said 600 men from Beemapally, many of them armed with swords and crude bombs, advanced towards Cheriathura around 4 p.m. They torched two houses and a fishing boat. Cheriathura residents marshalled their community members and advanced towards the Beemapally group.
The small police party, three of them armed with rifles, were caught sandwiched between the advancing groups. He said the police targeted the mobs after lobbing of teargas shells and firing into the air failed to dissuade them from the attack. The police were repeatedly attacked with firebombs, he said. They later recovered several unexploded crude bombs from the spot.
Ward councillor Beemapally Rasheed said the police action was one-sided and directed against the members of a particular community. He said the police had targeted innocent residents who had gathered on the beach after they felt threatened by the aggressive grouping of their neighbours.