7 cops injured in attack by protesters; 18 arrested

Ahmednagar (Maha): Seven policemen were injured today after members of a community allegedly attacked them with sticks and stones, when they were stopped from razing a fence put up around a disputed land here.

Police arrested 18 people, mostly youths from the community, in connection with the violence and booked them on attempt to murder and other charges.

The community members had gathered to hold protest against a private builder’s move of putting up a fence around 15 acres of land located in the heart of the city. The land in question originally belonged to American Marathi Mission, but was apparently sold to a private builder by a group of its trustees several years ago.

The sprawling piece of land currently houses, among other things, a church, hostel for girls and a high school for boys of Christian community.

“Around 300 members of the community gathered at the site around 2 pm to protest against the builder’s move. However, when the protesters tried to pull down the fence, police stopped them from doing so. This angered the protesters, who attacked us with sticks and stones,” Inspector Somnath Malkar of Kotwali police station told PTI.

Malkar, who sustained minor injuries, said senior police officer Bajrang Bansode and five others were also wounded in the attack.

According to sources, the disputed land had been sold to the builder by a faction of Mission’s trustees and the realtor started putting up the fence around it last week.

Nirmala Kedari, a teacher and one of the organisers of today’s protest, said, “We have been coming to this place since our childhood. There is a church inside, where we hold prayers. Today, we tried to hold a peaceful protest, but were stopped by police. It was as if the police were acting at the behest of the builder.”

Police have booked the arrested accused under IPC Sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 147 (rioting), among others.