The city police were faced with a tense situation on Saturday night as a violent mob gathered outside the Trombay police station, pelted it with stones and threw fireballs at the officers.
The mob was angered by a social media post depicting a morphed image of a place of worship. The image was posted at 6 pm by a 20-year-old who said he deleted it within a few hours after several people objected to it. However, the mob demanded that strict action be taken against him.
The police arrested All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) corporator Shahnawaz Shaikh and 16 others for attempt to murder, rioting and damage to public property. They added that it was allegedly Shaikh who instigated the mob.
“The young man who uploaded the image apologised to Shaikh. The corporator should have calmed the mob down. Instead, he instigated the people,” said an officer from Trombay police station.
The accused were produced before a holiday court on Sunday. They have been remanded in police custody till Friday.
A fireball thrown by a member of the mob charred a police vehicle. Other vehicles were also damaged. A few police personnel sustained minor injuries. All the window panes of the police station, which is located in the sensitive Cheetah camp area, were damaged.
For the first time in the city’s history, the police used plastic bullets to disperse the mob. Two people sustained injuries after they were fired at.
The man who posted the objectionable picture was arrested under section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code and sections of the Information Technology Act. He has been remanded in police custody till Thursday.
“We had registered an FIR and arrested the young man. But, the mob were dissatisfied and demanded that he be handed over to them,” said Shahji Umap, deputy commissioner of police, zone 6. The police have acquired CCTV camera footage of the incident.
AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan alleged that Shaikh was falsely implicated.
“Shaikh was picked up from his residence. His political rivals falsely implicated him in the case. The mob burnt police vehicles. This is deplorable. The culprits must be arrested,” said Pathan.
He demanded a high level inquiry into the matter and added that he would talk about the police’s ‘high-handedness’ in the assembly. “Had the police acted swiftly, the incident could have been averted,” he added.