During the late hours of Saturday (1 October) and the early hours of Sunday (2 October), clashes erupted between Hindus and Muslims over the hoisting of flags on an electric pole in the town of Savli near Vadodara, Gujarat.
Police Sub Inspector (PSI) A R Mahida told The Quint that 40 people had been arrested after the clashes that took place in a vegetable market, with more than a dozen from each community. Subsequently, they were all released.
The police removed both the saffron and the green flags that were hoisted on the electric pole.
Sub-inspector Mahida also said that normalcy has been restored in the area and people have been going on about their daily lives.
How Did the Clashes Start?
Communal clashes are not rare in Savli, sources told The Quint.
Due to a string of Hindu festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri, the youth belonging to the Hindu community and some Hindu organisations had erected a saffron flag on an electric pole in Dhamiji ka Dera (a locality within Savli), as a way of celebrating their festivals.
On the other hand, Muslims will soon commemorate Eid Milad un Nabi, which is the day on which they observe the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. This year, the Eid Milad un Nabi is scheduled to be observed from 8-9 October.
To begin their decorations for Prophet Muhammad's birthday, something which happens across Gujarat, some Muslims in Dhamiji ka Dera wanted to hoist a green flag on one of the electric poles.
On the significance of the colour green, Sahal Qureshi, an Ahmedabad-based journalist told The Quint, "Just like Hindus use a saffron flag with 'Om' marked on it, some Muslims like to use a green flag with a moon and a star with Allah written on it. This in no way is the flag of Pakistan but some Hindu organisations like to mislead people."
The Muslims in the area did not want to create any trouble by taking down the saffron flag, the sources continued. So they decided to erect a green flag next to the saffron one on an electric pole. They even used a bamboo stick for this and ensured that the saffron flag remained untouched.
Some Hindus in the area got irked by this, leading to a confrontation between them and the Muslims. The tensions escalated and both groups started pelting stones at each other, though nobody was injured in the fighting, Mahida told The Quint. A car and a shop, however, were damaged.
First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed from both sides and a case was registered for rioting and unlawful assembly, Mahida added. ANI news agency quoted PR Patel of Vadodra Rural Police as saying that 40 people were arrested, with 25 from one community and 15 from the other (which community had more arrests were not revealed).
All have now been released, sources confirmed to The Quint.
Violence in Savli College During Garba Celebration
The skirmish over the flags was not the only incident of violence in Salvi over the weekend. At the BK Patel Arts & Commerce College, four Muslim boys were arrested for attacking a group of Hindu students after Islamic songs were played at a Garba event.
Sources told The Quint that a professor of the university had started playing some Sufi Qawwali songs at the event, to which the Hindu students objected. In response, they were beaten up.
All four Muslims boys were arrested but were later bailed out. Normalcy has been restored in the college as well.
Legislative Assembly elections are to be held in Gujarat in December later this year to elect 182 lawmakers. An opinion poll released recently by the ABP-News (the C-Voter survey) predicts a thumping victory for the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party.