A senior IPS official who was a part of security arrangements for the rally organised by Muslim groups at Azad Maidan on August 11 admitted that a 10-minute delay in police response gave a free hand to the mob outside the venue to go on a rampage.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however claimed that the damage was undone after a lathi-charge was ordered, and the situation was brought under control in 25 minutes after that. “It is sad that while everyone is talking about our failure, no one mentions the manner that the situation, which could have spiraled into an all-out communal violence across the city, was brought under control within a short notice,” he said.
He claimed that a meeting of senior officials was convened on August 13 at the police auditorium — Prerna Hall near Azad Maidan police station — in which many issues related to the incident were reviewed and discussed, including the police response. The then-commissioner of police Arup Patnaik had categorically stated after the meeting that he did not order his men to fire as the situation would have become similar to the 1992 riots.
Quoting the proceedings at the deliberations, the official claimed that though the deployment was in large numbers, the unprovoked attack caught them unawares. While it has been found that three of the speakers made provocative speeches, the violence did not take place inside the venue. Rather, it took place outside, when most of the senior officials were controlling the crowd inside the venue, the official said.
“We assessed the scenario within 10 minutes and lathi charge was ordered; the mob outside was already burning vans, and attacking the police. It was our strong response which ensured the attackers dispersed,” the official claimed.
“If we had not acted firmly and proactively, how could a mob which was burning vans and assaulting the media and the police, go quiet?” the official said.
The sudden attack left two dead and 63 injured. Police arms were also stolen during the violence, which included two SLRs, a pistol and bullets.
So far, the police have arrested 60 people in connection with the case, of which five have been discharged, and another one has been found to be a juvenile.