Bhima Koregaon incident: Magnitude of protests in Mumbai caught us off guard, admit cops
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Bhima Koregaon incident: Magnitude of protests in Mumbai caught us off guard, admit cops

Not having expected a huge turnout, only reserve forces were on the ready, not the kind of full deployment that one sees on NYE

mumbai Updated: Jan 03, 2018 09:56 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Caste violence,Mumbai,Dalit protest
Police personnel arrive to control the situation following RPI activists' violent protest in Aurangabad on Tuesday over the clashes that broke out during 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima in Koregaon, near Pune. (PTI Photo)

Why did things get so out of hand in the city on Tuesday, despite an alert sounded by the Director General of Police’s (DGP) office on Monday night about possible protests and disruption by Dalit groups?

A senior Mumbai police official admitted that though they had anticipated protests, they failed to anticipate their magnitude.

The numbers were bigger than they had thought; women and children were in the frontlines, making crowd dispersal that much more difficult.

“We had some idea about the events to happen, but we never expected the outpouring that followed in the city,” said Sachin Patil, deputy commissioner of police (operations), and the nodal officer for the deployment and mobilisation of police personnel.

Not having expected such a turnout, there were only reserve forces on the ready, and not the kind of full deployment that kept things in check on recent big days such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

A top Mumbai police official, who asked not to be identified, said the statewide alert sounded by the DGP’s office was “general” in nature; something that is routinely issued in the aftermath of any kind of violence in the state. Personnel had been kept in reserve, he added, but mobilisation became difficult as the situation deteriorated more rapidly than expected.

“We had made overnight deployments in some volatile pockets and stepped up night patrolling. We had kept a lot of our reserve forces ready. We thought we would move the forces gradually as and when the need arose. The plans failed as the footfall went beyond our expectations and roads were blocked more quickly than we had anticipated,” he said.

The official said clearing the roadblocks became even more difficult because of the large number women and children in the front lines.

“We could not afford to be tough,” he said. “The usual crowd dispersal tactics like lathi charges had to be ruled out.”

DCP Patil meanwhile claimed that heavier-than-usual morning traffic on the Eastern Express Highway — as people returned to Mumbai after the long weekend — coincided with the initial protests by small groups at Kamraj Nagar, Powai and Ramabai Nagar.

“As we cleared them from one road, they moved to another and blocked alternative routes,” he said. Given the city’s history of agitations and disruption in reaction to events elsewhere in the state, the police should have anticipated worse following the Koregaon incident and moved sufficient forces to the large Dalit pockets in the city, department veterans said.

By Tuesday night, the police had detained over 100 people in connection with the agitation and violence. “We have made adequate arrangements for deployments for Wednesday’s bandh call given by some political parties and outfits,” Mumbai police commissioner Dattatreya Padsalgikar said.

First Published: Jan 02, 2018 23:28 IST