The violence that took place at Lalbaug on Sunday night could have escalated to something more had the Mumbai Police not intervened strongly and put paid to any escalation. It threatened to turn into a major communal clash, ironically on the day when the Muslim community was celebrating the birthday of Prophet Mohammed.
It was an excellent move on the part of Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria to land up at the troubled spot in less than an hour of the escalation. He, along with his colleagues, was able to manage and control the situation in quick time.
However, a lot needs to be done when it comes to controlling law and order in the city, and a good start can be made by not giving any communal flavour to the fundamental duty of the police.
Sunday night’s incident started when a traffic policeman objected to bikers carrying three or four people on their vehicles instead of the stipulated two. They were also not wearing any protective helmets.
When the traffic police objected, at least one biker became violent with the constable, according to eyewitnesses. Later, local people joined in to support the police. This threatened to turn into a communal clash.
This could have been easily prevented had the Mumbai Police been strict about bikers roaming the streets, abusing commuters and breaking all possible traffic laws. It is no secret that the Mumbai Police do not take action against such anti-social elements during major festivals, be they Islamic or Hindu. This gives the impression that breaking the law is their birthright.
If anything, while this commissioner deserves praise for his proactive handling of the sensitive Lalbaug situation, he must also introspect on his department’s handling of bikers who have been let off scot-free for years despite blatant law-breaking.
Only exemplary punishment of these bikers will prevent further escalations, and perhaps even a Lalbaug-like situation could be avoided.