Mumbai: Two people were killed and 25 others injured when a protest organised by some Muslim organisations to condemn the recent riots in Assam and alleged attacks on Muslims in Myanmar at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai turned violent on Saturday afternoon.
In the disturbances that lasted for nearly two hours, the protesters either set on fire to or damaged at least 25 vehicles, including police and media vehicles.
The injured have been admitted to various hospitals, including St George and GT hospitals.
Talking to media persons later in the evening, Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik said that some miscreants among the 15,000-odd protesters gathered at the Azad Maidan rally circulated some provocative photographs of some people killed or injured in the disturbances in Assam and Myanmar.
Provoked by the photographs, a section of protesters set some vehicles on fire, came outside the ground and hurled stones at vehicles passing by, Patnaik said. Though there was no confirmation as to how the two deaths took place, unofficial sources said that one of them was killed in police firing.
The police resorted to baton-charge and burst tear gas shells to quell the rioting protesters who went berserk at around 3pm, attacked police personnel and targeted all of sorts of vehicles, including the vans of at least three television channels, some police vehicles and a few public buses.
While more than a dozen vehicles, including the vans of Abp Makja, P7 and TV 9 television channels, were set ablaze, at least 15 vehicles, public transport buses run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s BEST, were damaged in the riots.
The protesters rushed to the nearby Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), which is the terminus of the Central Railway, and disrupted services. Not wanting to take any chances, the authorities suspended the suburban train services on the harbour line for over an hour. However, they restored the services at around 5pm.
Huge contingents of police personnel – including the State Reserve Police (SRP) and Rapid Action Force (RAF) – arrived on the scene and brought the situation under control at around 5pm. They took several rioting protesters into custody.
The protests were organised under the aegis of the Raza Academy against the recent riots in Assam in north-east India. Several Muslim organisations in the metropolis like Sunni Jamaitul Ulma and Jamate Raza-e-Mustafa were participating in the protests. A crowd of nearly 15,000 people had gathered at Azad Maidan when trouble broke out at the demonstration.
The protesters, who sported black badges, were demonstrating against the atrocities on Muslims in Assam.
Shortly after the rioting broke out, several top city police officials, including Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, rushed to the spot to supervise the riot control operations.
State Home Minister R.R. Patil, who was away on a tour of western Maharashtra, rushed back to Mumbai. “The situation is very much now control. I appeal to people in the city to maintain calm and not to lend credence to rumours,” Patil said at around 5pm.
Earlier, president of Jamia Qadriya Ashrafiya Maulana Syed Moinuddin Ashraf called upon the federal government to intervene and protect the interests of Muslims in Assam.
“It is the responsibility of the Congress government to protect the Muslims, and for that matter each and every citizen,” said the Maulana, who is also known as Moin Miyan.