Mumbai: Agitators used women as shield during well-planned protest in Chembur

Updated: Oct 24, 2019, 08:26 IST | Anurag Kamble | Mumbai

Police say Tuesday's protest was not spontaneous but was well-planned to cause maximum damage

Women could be seen at the forefront of the protest in Chembur on Tuesday over Pancharam Rithadiya’s suicide. Rithadiya had killed himself over police negligence in tracing his missing daughter
Women could be seen at the forefront of the protest in Chembur on Tuesday over Pancharam Rithadiya’s suicide. Rithadiya had killed himself over police negligence in tracing his missing daughter

Chembur police, who were caught napping by rampant protesters on Tuesday, have alleged that the violent agitation was a "well-planned conspiracy," with women pushed to the front as human shields.

The Regar community, Marwari speakers who are into tanning, dying and cobbling, had arranged a massive funeral procession for Pancharam Rithadia, who had committed suicide on October 13 after alleging police negligence in tracing his 17-year-old daughter, who had gone missing on March 30.

The community had on Monday boycotted polls. The police told mid-day that they were aware that Tuesday's protest may get out of hand, and claimed that they had deployed sufficient personnel along the route from Adarsh Nagar in Thakkar Bappa Colony to the municipal crematorium in Chembur.

Residents manhandling the cops
Residents manhandling the cops

Former Mumbai police commissioner MN Singh told mid-day that while the cops may have had a sense of how things would pan out, they should have followed due procedure to contain the incident.

"The police must have sensed the unrest or anger among people joining procession," Singh said. "If they launched the lathi-charge without following procedures — which is to first issue a warning, followed by tear gas and water canon, and finally lathi-charge — then the police must be held responsible for not handling the situation properly. But such situations are very volatile and can turn ugly in a few minutes."

The police claimed that they were caught on the wrong foot because the protesters had pushed women to the front. There were not enough women police personnel to tackle these women protesters.

Crowds had packed the streets in the area
Crowds had packed the streets in the area

"Since Pancharam's suicide, there have been two rasta roko protests carried out in Nehru Nagarm," said an officer. "So we had a hint that residents will try something during the procession. Adequate force was deployed, but women protestors came to the front, which made it difficult for cops to apply force against them. They had to wait for women personnel."

In the ensuing commotion, seven policemen got isolated and were attacked by the mob. The police on Wednesday claimed that the violence was planned and that the protesters had also planned to use women as shields. The police said the procession was over two kilometres long.

"People walking along with the procession suddenly sat at Umarashi Bappa Chowk and started protesting by chocking vehicular traffic," said an officer. "When the police started dispersing the crowd, hundreds of protesters started attacking the police and smashing vehicles. Additional force was demanded by Chembur cops to control the mob. But, before reinforcements could arrive, seven policemen were attacked and 30 vehicles were damaged."

The officer alleged that it was a well planned move and not spontaneous. "Our investigation has revealed that meetings were held before the procession," he said. Deputy Commissioner of Police Shashi Kumar Meena said 38 people have been arrested and a case has been registered against a further 150 unknown people.

Audio clip emerges
On Wednesday, an audio clip went viral on social media, where a Marwari-speaking man is heard instigating the community to attack policemen with chilli powder. The police said they have tracked this person to Ahmedabad.

Oct 13
Day Pancharam Rithadiya committed suicide

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