A rally to protest the killing of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar went out of hand and held Mumbai to ransom on Saturday afternoon. In the 45-minute violence, two persons died, over 65 were injured — 56 of them policemen — and vehicles were torched.
The rally at Azad Maidan, held jointly by three Muslim organisations including the Raza Academy — a Sunni Muslim advocacy group — had attracted a crowd of nearly 20,000. “Around 2.30pm, some men pulled out provocative pictures of people being killed in Assam,” said Arup Patnaik, commissioner of police, Mumbai.
Soon after, a mob rushed out of the grounds and began pelting stones at vehicles in Mahapalika Marg. Despite a lathicharge by the police, 10 buses were vandalised, four police cars and three television outdoor broadcasting vans were burnt.
Around 3.15pm, Patnaik reached the ground and managed to restore calm. But immediately after, reports reached that a mob was creating trouble at the nearby CST railway station.
According to eyewitnesses, the crowd that was initially lathicharged outside Azad Maidan had gone to CST and began heckling women and indulging in hooliganism. To control the situation, the police fired in the air.
Following the violence, the Shiv Sena and BJP blamed the state home minister RR Patil and police. “Patil is responsible. Why did the police allow a group that could have caused violence to hold a rally?” said Sena’s Sanjay Raut.
The Congress and the NCP blamed the organisers. “The Raza Academy is a small group and they had no idea that the turnout will be so big,” said NCP leader Nawab Malik. “After getting police permission, they sent provocative messages through cellphones and social networking sites. Then they lost control over the situation.”
Saeed Noori, founder president of Raza Academy, said, "the violence seems a conspiracy meant to target Raza Academy and its peaceful protests."
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