The old city of Hyderabad remained tense today after a fresh bout of violence near Charminar, which left 10 people injured, including five policemen.
A curfew-like situation settled in the usually busy markets as police sealed all routes leading to the iconic monument. Streets in the surrounding areas wore a deserted look as fear gripped people following the violent incidents in the afternoon.
The Charminar area was rocked by violence after Friday prayers, breaking the fragile peace that was returning to the commercial hub after days of tension over a temple abutting the monument.
As many as 10 people, including five policemen, were injured in stone throwing by an unruly mob and baton charge and firing of teargas shells by police.
Police commissioner Anurag Sharma said around 2,000 people, who came out from the historic Mecca Masjid after Friday prayers, pelted stones on policemen deployed near Charminar and its surrounding areas.
The mobs set afire five four-wheelers and five two-wheelers at Pathargatti, Mitti Ka Sher, Kali Kaman, Esra Hospital and near Charminar police station.
The police chief said the mobs also resorted to stone throwing at Khilwath, Laad Bazar, Machli Kaman, Rein Bazar and Yakhuthpura railway station. He described the situation as tense but under control.
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 the people to cooperate with the police and maintain peace.
The communal tension during the last few days has crippled economic activity, severely affecting the traders in the centuries-old markets in the Charminar area.
Charminar, famous for pearls, bangles, clothes and its eateries, is the main commercial hub and lifeline of the old city, the region to the south of the Musi river.
Asaduddin Owaisi, member of Parliament from Hyderabad and president of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), who visited Mecca Masjid in the evening, blamed chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy for the violence. He accused the police of committing excesses and demanded the immediate release of "innocent" Muslim youths.
The communally sensitive old city has been witnessing sporadic incidents of violence for the last two weeks following a row over the Bhagylakshmi temple abutting the Charminar.
Muslim groups have been opposing attempts to expand the temple on the ground that it was illegal and had marred the beauty of the four-centuries-old monument.
The Andhra Pradesh high court had on November 5 ordered status quo as of October 30.
However, erection of a canopy over the temple structure, in reported violation of the court orders, last Sunday triggered violent protests.
The government claimed that it was allowed only to implement the court's orders.
Accusing the Congress government of colluding with "communal" elements, the MIM then withdrew support to the government.