Old Hyderabad tense after fresh violence near Charminar

Violence broke out once again near Charminar in the old city of Hyderabad Friday over a temple row.

Hyderabad: The old city of Hyderabad remained tense Friday after a fresh bout of violence near Charminar over a temple row.

A curfew-like situation settled in the usually busy markets as police sealed all routes leading to the monument. Streets in the surrounding areas wore a deserted look as fear gripped people following the violent incidents in the afternoon.

Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy told reporters that the situation in the old city was under control. "Additional forces were mobilised and if necessary more forces will be deployed," she said while appealing to people to cooperate to maintain peace.

The Charminar area was rocked by violence after Friday prayers, breaking the fragile peace returning to the commercial hub after days of tension over a temple abutting the monument.

The communal tension has crippled the economic activity, severely affecting the traders in the centuries-old markets. The Charminar area, famous for pearls, bangles, clothes and the eateries, is the main commercial hub and lifeline of old city, the region to the south of Musi river.

At least seven people were injured in stone throing by an unruly mob, and baton charge by police as fresh violence rocked the area.

Teargas shells were also burst by the police to disperse the mob, which set afire four vehicles and damaged several other vehicles, witnesses said.

Trouble broke out soon after Friday prayers at the historic Mecca Masjid when a large number of people coming out of the mosque tried to proceed towards Charminar to offer `salam` at a religious symbol abutting the monument.

Policemen and paramilitary personnel, however, stopped them by setting up barricades.
Raising slogans against police and demanding that restrictions be lifted, the protestors started pelting stones at policemen and attacking vehicles and shops.

Police resorted to baton charge and burst several teargas shells to disperse the mob, which was pelting stones from three sides of the Charminar.

Member of Parliament from Hyderabad and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi, who visited Mecca Masjid in the evening, blamed Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy for the violence. He accused police of committing excesses and demanded immediate release of innocent Muslim youths.

The communally sensitive old city had been witnessing sporadic incidents of violence for the last two weeks following a row over the Bhagylakshmi temple abutting Charminar, which symbolises the historic city.
Muslim groups have been opposing attempts to expand the temple on the ground that it was illegal and had marred the beauty of the 400-year-old monument.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court Nov 5 had ordered status quo as on Oct 30.

However, the erection of a canopy over the temple structure, in alleged violation of the court orders last Sunday, triggered violent protests.

The government claimed that it was allowed only to implement court orders.

Accusing the Congress government of colluding with communal elements, the MIM withdrew support to the government.