There was much anger against the media for what protesters said was “poor” coverage of the violence against Muslims in Assam and Myanmar. Mediapersons covering the rally were specifically targeted by mobs.
Nafees Ahmed, a protester told The Hindu: “Small children were butchered mercilessly in Assam and Myanmar. Why is the media not covering it? The media’s job is to report. We learnt about the incidents from videos posted on the Internet. A small child falls into a well and it is covered 24/7, a Gurdwara attack is well reported. But when lakhs are massacred, there is silence. We did not gather here for the sake of one community, but for humanity. However, the attack on the media was wrong. Resorting to violence was not correct.”
However, some protesters like Mohammad Shafiq Ahmed took the media to task. “When the media from Mumbai could travel to London to cover the Olympics, could they not go to Assam and Myanmar?” Asked if he endorsed the attack on Mumbai media, he said: “Mumbai is a part of India. When Sikhs are killed in the U.S. there is much alarm here. We just came here to tell the government, but you [media] provoked us.”
Taking a broader view, Ibrahim Sheikh, member of Haj Committee, told The Hindu, “Our only demand was that the Centre and Maharashtra government should take up the issue of the brutal killings in Assam and Myanmar with the governments. What happened today was wrong. We apologise to the media and the law and order machinery. A bunch of communal persons and anti-social elements created this ruckus. They wanted to ruin this agitation.”
The Raza Academy was the main organiser of the agitation. It was joined by the All India Sunni Jamiatul Ulama and the All India Jamat Raza e Mustafa and others.
Prashant Sawant, photographer with the daily Sakaal Times was on the fateful assignment.
“I, along with fellow photographers, started to shoot when the rally started. But we sensed something was wrong when a couple of persons remarked that the press was not supporting them,” Mr. Sawant told The Hindu.
“We left the rally and went to the terrace of the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh adjoining the Maidan. However, some saw us and started throwing stones. We then went to the Press Club and came out again when the arson started. It was then that the mob started to assault me. They showered me with blows. My camera was broken. They were shouting ‘Isko bhi jala dalo’ [Set him on fire too]. I sustained injuries on the head, neck and face. The doctors have told me to do an MRI scan,” he said.
“Provocative speeches against the media started from the stage itself,” said Ameya Kherade, another photographer. “The crowd was shouting ‘Media ko bhaga do’ [Chase away the media],” he added.
Protesters carried placards which said: ‘Stop killings of Muslims in Myanmar’ and ‘Why is the media silent?’
“Only when we do some tamasha [spectacle] do the media land up to cover,” said a protester who refused to give his name.
A large number of police personnel also became the target of mob ire.
Police constable Yuvraj Ghag said, “First a police van was burnt. Then, suddenly, the mob outside stated attacking the police. They threw stones and damaged the vehicles. They were attacking with the rods of their placards.”
Constable with the Riot Control Police Pankaj Sanap, who was injured, said the crowd poured on to the streets and got out of hand. “A scuffle started around 3.30 p.m. and after a while, the crowd started throwing stones. It happened all of a sudden. I had a rifle but we were not given instructions to fire,” he said.