The desecration of BR Ambedkar's statue in Kanpur and the dalit massacre at Khairlanji sparked violent protests in Dalit pockets of Mumbai on Thursday, prompting police to resort to lathi charge and lobbing teargas cells to quell the rampaging mob.
Police Commissioner AN Roy said that sporadic violent incidents were reported throughout the day in different parts of the city, though they were brought under control by the timely intervention of the police with the minimum use of force.
Detailing the incidents, Roy said that Bhandup and Mulund in the far eastern suburbs and Chembur and Ghatkopar in the Central suburbs bore the maximum brunt of the violence. Late in the morning, strong mobs of protestors tried to bloc the Eastern Express Highway and pelted stones at the passing vehicles when they were prevented to block the road. Police had to resort to lathi charge. However, when the situation worsened, police had to lob teargas cells. The protestors even tried to set affair to two BEST buses, but failed due to prompt police action.
The protestors even tried to disrupt local train services at Mulund and Bhandup but were shooed away by the police, Roy added. At many places the police and protestors fought pitched battles. Roy said that as many as 13 policemen, including additional commissioner of police (east region) K L Bishnoi sustained minor to serious injuries after being hit by missiles thrown by the protesters. Bishnoi has been admitted to the Wokhard hospital. The commissioner said that several protestors were also injured in the lathi charge, thlough their numbers were still to be compiled.
Roy said violent protests were also reported at Worli, Kherwadi, Kalanagar, Vakola and several other places in the western suburbs. Police resorted to lathi charge at all these places. At Kherwadi, the protestors tried to block the service road near the western express high way. They also perlted stones at passing vehicles on the High Way. Roy however, dismissed reports of teargan cells being lobbed at Kherwadi. He also claimed that no police firing was reported in any part of the city.
During Thursday's violence, over 100 BEST buses were damaged while the figure of damage to private vehicles stood at over 40. The commissioner said that the initial estimation losses suffered to public property stood between Rs. 30 to Rs. 40 lakh.
Till evening as many as 175 persons were arrested in different parts of the city though the figure was likely to increase as the police were searching for many more persons for their role in the rioting and arson.
The commissioner claimed that the Mumbai police had apprehended trouble following the Kanpur incident and taken position in the sensitive pockets soon afterwards. "That is the reason why we were never let the situation go out of control and disrupt normal life."
He said on Wednesday, as many as eight incidents of sporadic violence were reported in Chembur/ Ghatkopar area on Wednesday. The bandobast was stepped up to a maximum level in those areas following the incident as a result of which they remained by and large peaceful on Thursday.
He however, did not rule out the possibility of resumption of voiolence and appealed people to maintain calm. While stating that the police machinery was fully geared up to meet any exigency, Roy warned that the police would be forced to take some "drastic" steps if people resorted to hooliganisma and vandalism again.
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