A protest march organised by members of the Maldhari community turned violent in Gujarat’s Mehsana district on Friday, prompting the police to lob teargas shells to control the situation, an official said.
At least 73 people were detained, he said.
The march was organised by Maldhari community leaders seeking ‘justice’ for Raju Rabari, a community member who was killed at Rajpur in the district on July 25.
The traditional occupation of the Maldhari community is cattle rearing.
Demanding arrest of the main culprits in the case, a large number of community members marched towards Nandasan, a communally sensitive village off the Mehsana-Ahmedabad Highway from Rajpur, on Friday morning.
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On the way, some people started pelting stones at the police and blocked the busy highway, forcing the men in uniform to act, said Deputy Superintendent of Police Manjita Vanzara.
“We lobbed some 15 teargas shells (to disperse the mob) and have detained 73 people for the violence,” the officer said.
Rajpur and its surrounding areas are on edge since the killing of Rabari with some Maldhari leaders claiming he was a ‘gau rakshak’ (cow protector) who was killed by people “involved in cow slaughtering”.
While the police have arrested seven people, most of them from a minority community, for the killing, Maldhari leaders alleged the main culprits were still at large.
However, Vanzara maintained Rabari’s death had nothing to do with cow protection.
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“He and the accused (those allegedly involved in the killing) were running criminal gangs and facing many cases of loot and extortion. The murder was a result of a dispute over distribution of money,” the police officer said.
“The agitators wanted the police to arrest the sarpanch of Rajpur (who belongs to a minority community) and some others who were not even present on the (crime) spot.
“We cannot arrest someone without concrete evidence,” Vanzara added.