On Tuesday, MiD DAY used two pictures on its front page that showed rioters vandalising the Amar Jawan memorial near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in Mumbai.
They were shot by Atul Kamble, a senior photographer with this newspaper, who was assigned to cover the Azad Maidan protest on Saturday by members of the Raza Academy, an Islamic religious institution established in 1978 to promote conservative values among the Muslim community. The protest itself was to raise voice against the “bad treatment of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar.”
The Mumbai Police force is using these pictures to nab the vandals for desecrating the memory of two soldiers who fought the first war of Indian Independence in 1857. While the world’s attention has been grabbed by these two pictures and arresting the vandals is important, it is also imperative that the Mumbai Police does not lose sight of the larger picture — to find who incited the riot, and who executed what seemed like a well-planned operation.
Mumbai, unarguably India’s biggest business destination, is collapsing under its own weight. The last thing this crumbling urban edifice needs is an accelerated path to self-destruction — communal riots that strike at the core of this great city’s cosmopolitanism. Saturday’s situation, if it had not been quelled quickly, would have led to just that; something that even the police commissioner has acknowledged.
The police have video recordings of all those religious leaders who allegedly made hate speeches at Azad Maidan on Saturday afternoon. They also have material evidence such as kerosene cans and social media updates to prove that the riot was planned and not a spur-of-the-moment violence as it is being claimed in certain quarters.
Mumbai cannot, for its own sake, forget this incident as a one-off. It needs to acknowledge that something sinister took place last Saturday, and that it is important that the executioners of this riot are immediately brought to justice. If this does not happen, Saturday’s riot could only serve as a precedent for something worse.