A clash broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the Rabodi area of Thane following a minor accident on the night of Tuesday.
The police took about 30 minutes to bring the situation under control. The injured numbered 24 and included 18 policemen.
The police registered three riot-related offences and arrested nearly 40 people on Wednesday.
The accident involved a Maruti car and an autorickshaw.
A squabble ensued between the owner of the Maruti, a Hindu, and the autorickshaw driver, thought to be a Muslim.
“The accident took place around 10.45 pm and a fight broke out between the car owner, M.K. Deodhar, and the driver, who is yet to be traced,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone I) Vikram Deshmane. “A police team was sent to the spot. Deodhar was brought to the police station, but the auto driver managed to escape.”
The officer said all this was enough to provoke the Hindus and Muslims in the area.
“Within minutes, around 500 members of each community had gathered near Krantinagar and started pelting stones and indulging in arson,” said Deshmane. “The damage is estimated to be around Rs 5 lakh.”
The police said two shops were burnt and a house partially damaged in the fires, while 17 vehicles were damaged in the stone-pelting and arson.
There were swords being brandished and soda bottles being thrown around in the melee.
The police, along with the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), tried to quell the violence with a baton-charge and by exploding tear gas shells.
The police also had to fire 52 rounds to disperse the rioters.
The firing injured two residents of Rabodi, Mohsin Khan (42) and Jaffer Sayyed (40).
The injured were admitted to the Thane Civil Hospital and Kaushalya Hospital.