Two people were killed and 46 others injured when a public protest meet called by the Muslim community to condemn the Assam communal riots turned violent on Saturday. The protestors gathered at Azad Maidan here resorted to arson by torching vehicles and pelting stones. They damaged vehicles belonging to police, TV channels, public transport and private cars.
According to Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, of the 46 people who were injured, one person was injured during police firing. Patnaik said that even police officers and personnel were injured. He added that one police constable was missing.
The clueless police, who are regularly stationed outside Azad Maidan, were outnumbered by the protestors who went on a violent spree as the protest was about to conclude at 3.30 pm. The arson continued for about an hour. The police had to use tear gas shells to quell the violence.
The protest was called under the banner of Raza Azademy and a social worker from Kurla Rizwan Khan had taken the permission from the police for the same. Azad Maidan, which has a capacity of 20,000 persons, witnessed much bigger turnout of protestors.
“The meet was about to conclude with a prayer offered for the victims of Assam violence when certain elements in the crowd resorted to stone pelting and violence,” said Shamsherkhan Pathan of Awami Vikas Party, who was present there.
A Congress organisation office bearer said that the protest meet was very ill-timed. “It is Ramzan and knowing the fasting Muslim youth may go easily berserk hearing the provocative speeches there was no need to call this protest meet in Mumbai. This was vote bank politics that went horribly wrong,” said the Congress leader.
NCP MLA Nawab Malik squarely put the blame on the ‘nuisance creating person who had sought the permission from the police’. Malik said that the organisers failed to gauge the magnitude of the people’s response for the protests and the same was not communicated to the police.
However Police Commissioner Patnaik denied that they were caught unaware about the crowd’s turnout. “The police were adequately prepared. A major disaster was averted in the city and that too by a hair’s breadth,” said Patnaik.