Faizabad’s day of chaos: identical sparks, SMS rumours, harried cops

FP

For a city that remained calm even after the Babri Masjid in neighbouring Ayodhya was demolished in 1992, the sudden communal riots in Faizabad on Dussehra day last month came as a shock police are still trying to unravel.

The violence was not just limited to Faizabad but it also hit the three major towns of Bhadarsa, Rudauli and Shahganj that surround it within a span of about an hour. Besides, the reasons that triggered them were also similar, causing investigating officers to suspect it may have all been pre-planned.

Two people were killed, several injured and more than 200 shops and houses burnt, looted or badly damaged.

Faizabad DIG of Police P K Mishra confirmed the division of police forces on October 24, but refused to comment on whether the incidents were connected. "The police received information of violence from different places at around the same time and police forces were deployed from Faizabad accordingly," Mishra said. He added that investigations into the incidents were on and that it was too early to determine whether it was all pre-planned.

Faizabad police received the first distress call from Rudauli, 40 km away, at 4.30 pm. "We were told that while a procession of Durga idols were being taken for immersion, someone had thrown gulaal or colours into a masjid nearby," a senior police officer said. By then text messages had been sent to hundreds of phones about either a temple or a mosque being targeted by members of the other community.

The Faizabad Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and District Magistrate — both now transferred — gathered security personnel and rushed to Rudauli. Officials were in the process of clearing a traffic jam and restarting the immersion process when the second call came in at 5 pm.

"We were still on the national highway just a few kilometres short of Rudauli, when we received a call that violence had erupted in Faizabad. But by this time Rudauli was under some police control, so the SSP and DM rushed back to Faizabad, leaving a small force behind, but the roads were totally jammed with vehicles so it took longer," said a city police inspector. More inflammatory text messages were sent and calls made at this point, he said.

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