Two dead in Mumbai as protest rally turns into a riot
Two people were killed and over 50, including 41 policemen, injured as a protest by several Muslim organisations to condemn the alleged attacks on Muslims in Myanmar and Assam turned into a full-fledged riot, officials said. An alert has been sounded in the city
"Two people are reported dead in St George Hospital (in south Mumbai) and the over 50 injured are being treated in hospitals here," an official from the disaster management cell told IANS.
Of the 52 injured, 41 are policemen, the official added.
Those killed have been identified as Mohammed Umar, 22, and Altaf Shaikh, 18.
A photographer from Sakal Times, Prashant Sawant, 50, was also seriously injured in the violence. At least three other photo journalists, including a photographer with MiDDAY were also injured as rioters went on a rampage.
Terming the situation "delicate", the city police chief said that a red alert has been issued.
"The holy month of Ramzan is on. Considering there were serial blasts in Pune recently, and that the Independence Day is also coming up, we have issued a red alert in the city until the situation is entirely under control," Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik told media persons here.
Over 25,000 members and activists of several Muslim organisations Saturday staged a protest at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai to protest alleged attacks on Muslims in Myanmar and the Assam riots.
Led by Raza Academy, an organisation working to promote Islamic culture, the protest to condemn the alleged attacks on Muslims in Myanmar was supported by other organisations like Sunni Jamaitul Ulma and Jamate Raza-e-Mustafa. They also condemned the riots and violence in Assam.
"The situation got out of control as a group of protesters turned aggressive at around 3.15 p.m. I personally spoke to a few of them who were on the dais and requested them to maintain calm," Patnaik added.
However, the rioting started as the group began pelting stones on city buses and started setting media and police vans on fire. Patnaik said that around 10 buses and six vans were damaged.
Policemen had made a baton charge to disperse the rioting mob. They also fired in air and immediately cordoned off the area.
Asked whether the lack of proper security led to the incident, Patnaik said that the security at Azad Maidan was proper.
"There were enough policemen at the ground and there was no lapse in security system. However, an angry mob has to be handled with tact and use of force often worsens the situation and hence the policemen did not use force," he said.
The violence, however, affected the local train services on the harbour and central lines. Traffic jams were also seen on roads leading to southern and south central parts of the city.
Opposition parties hit out at the government for the violence.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday said that the attack was a apt example of how the state government has no hold over the deteriorating law and order situation in the city.
"We condemn the attack on media persons and on duty policemen. However, police should have anticipated violence during an event that had a huge gathering," a BJP spokesperson said.
Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athawale also condemned the attack.
The Mumbai Press Club alleged that the violence broke out after a Muslim cleric verbally attacked the media for not covering the atrocities in Myanmar and Assam.
"According to eyewitnesses, a maulana in his speech verbally attacked the media, claiming that the atrocities in Assam and Burma were deliberately not being covered by the press. This incensed the crowd which turned against photographers and TV crews on and around the Maidan," the Press Club said in a statement.
It also demanded that the government immediately order an enquiry to determine how the riots erupted and punish those responsible for it.
(with inputs from a correspondent)
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