Riots in Maharashtra's Dhule district, 3 killed, 110 injured

In the second major communal conflagration in north Maharashtra in the past fortnight, three people were killed and more than 110 injured in Dhule after violence broke out in the crowded Machchi Bazaar area of the district. The injured included 49 policemen.

Police are yet to confirm the identity of the dead. The areas hit by violence have been put under curfew.

The incident is said to have been sparked off by a minor tiff over payment of a restaurant bill. Eyewitnesses claimed that a group of youths had a fight in the afternoon with the owner over the bill and the quality of food served.

"After some time the violence spread around the locality," Inspector General of Police Deven Bharti said. After Machchi Bazaar, clashes were seen in Maulvi Ganj, Tasha Gali and Azad Nagar with members of two communities clashing with each other.

Policemen, who first used tear gas, were singled out for attack and had to open firing as the intensity of the violence increased. Among those injured was Deputy SP Monica Raut. While residents claimed the three deaths were caused in police firing, police said they were yet to confirm this.

"All the forces from the state have been sent to Dhule. Rapid Action Force has also been sent," State DGP Sanjeev Dayal said.

Earlier, on December 25, three people had been killed in Raver in neighbouring Jalgaon district in violence between two communities.

Local activists claimed the violence was planned, with an eye on the elections in 2014. On Sunday, the rioters were armed with acid as well as petrol and kerosene bombs. "The entire incident is a failure on the part of the police machinery," Dhule MLA Anil Gote said.

In 2008, Dhule had witnessed one of the worst riots seen in the state in the past few years. Ten people had been killed and nearly 100 injured in violence ahead of that year's municipal elections.

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