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23 rioters arrested, 19 bullets recovered

The Mumbai Crime Branch has arrested 23 people who were allegedly involved in mob violence on Saturday at Azad Maidan. All the accused have been booked on the charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting and molestation. The rally was organised by the city-based Raza Academy and some other groups to protest against atrocities in Assam, and the alleged victimisation of Muslims in Myanmar. 

Azad Maidan accused
In the net: Police escort one of the accused allegedly involved in the riots on Saturday at Azad Maidan. The cops have asked for CCTV footage of cameras installed at CST chowk, BMC headquarters and a special police van. Pic/Suresh KK

Two persons were killed and at least 55 others, including 45 policemen, were injured in the violence that erupted during the protest.

The arrested were produced before a court last afternoon, which remanded them to police custody till August 19. Requesting for custody of the accused, Mumbai police said they wanted to investigate whether the violence was pre-planned. The weapons snatched from police personnel by rioters — two self-loading rifles and a pistol —– are yet to be recovered, they told the court.

Joint CP (Crime) Himanshu Roy said, “Two SLR rifles with 150 rounds and a revolver with 10 rounds are missing from the spot. We have recovered the SLR but the rounds are yet to be recovered.” Nineteen of these rounds were recovered later in the day.

Sources from the headquarters said that police officials are unhappy with their top boss. Cops have complained that even after the mob started attacking policemen and damaging property, they were not given any orders or permission to take any action from their senior. When the situation further aggravated, it was an additional commissioner of police who ordered them to lathi-charge, promising to take responsibility for the order.

According to the police, the Madina Tulma foundation and Raza Academy filed an application on August 6, requesting permission to carry out protests at Azad Maidan, saying that 1,000 people would attend it. On the basis of this brief, only a few hundred cops were deployed at the initial stages. As the crowds started pouring in large numbers, extra forces were called in.

Cops have asked for CCTV footage of cameras installed at CST chowk, BMC headquarters and a special police van. Footage recorded by several news channels has also been called for, to identify the rioters.

A team of 10 policemen has been formed under the ACP Yeshwant Watkar, to carry out investigations. Roy said, “There were 17 people on the dais, of which five had given speeches.

We will hear all to ascertain whether they were defamatory or provocative. Also, a message was spread on a social networking website inviting the crowd to the protest. We will investigate that as well.” Cops are still unclear about the group to which the rioters belonged.

Peace meet
In the wake of the violence, the Mumbai Police Commissioner issued orders to all police stations in Mumbai yesterday to conduct immediate meetings with leaders from several communities, to ensure that peace is maintained.

The police official then called on all the leaders of various communities and held a meeting in the evening. While senior inspectors conducted the meetings, ACPs and DCPs of the respective areas inspected them.

“Such a meeting was necessary to ensure peace. Now we are sure that nothing untoward will happen. However, we have increased security and tight vigil in the area,” a cop said. 

19 rounds recovered from 15-year-old boy
Mumbra police recovered 19 live rounds of an SLR from a 15-year-old boy. Cops suspect that these are part of the 150 bullets belonging to police personnel that had been stolen from the Azad Maidan police during the riots. Arun Sonde, senior PI of Mumbra police station, said, “The boy was walking towards the mosque at Amrut Nagar with a polythene bag in his hand. A constable found his movements suspicious and apprehended him. When he opened the bag, he found 19 live rounds of an SLR. But before he could question him about the source of the bullets, the boy was engulfed by a mob, that came, made excuses about it being time for namaz, and escorted him away.”

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