Indian Bishops call for peace after Muslim shrine is razed

.- The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on Wednesday condemned the continuing violence in the city of Vadodara and said the outbreak of riots is a setback to the healing process that had begun in India’s western state of Gujarat.

In a press statement, Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes said the Catholic Church in India is “saddened by the violence in Vadodara,” reported ICNS, the Indian bishops’ news site.

Five people were killed and dozens injured in clashes in the walled city over the demolition of a dargah, a Muslim shrine built above the grave of a well-respected religious person. On Wednesday morning, a 32-year-old man was burnt alive by a crowd of 1,500 people.

The trouble started when the Vadodara Municipal Corporation squad started demolishing the 200-year-old dargah and locals of the area began shouting slogans and later attacked officials involved in the demolition.

Police said people of the minority community had requested the authorities and city mayor Sunil Solanki not to demolish the dargah, due to its historic and sentimental value to citizens. They demanded that the dargah be declared a heritage site.

However, the largely Hindu squad went ahead with its demolition as the structure was obstructing traffic, police said.

People from two groups started pelting stones at each other and set on fire four shops, officials said. Police fired at least 10 rounds and lobbed more than 30 tear gas shells to disperse the violent mob.

In their press statement, the bishops also appealed to all groups to promote reconciliation and peace processes and not to provoke harmful religious sentiments.

“It is unfortunate that the razing to the ground of a holy shrine, symbol of peace and harmony, should also bring crumbling down the fragile edifice of trust and harmony that was surfacing in this communally-sensitive state,” Archbishop Fernandez said.

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