23 rioters arrested, police are investigating the role of the protest organisers
More than a thousand people who sparked the violence at Azad Maidan here on Saturday were not a part of the protest groups, but probably came from the suburbs to cause riots, stated the internal police report accessed by The Hindu on Sunday. It said the mob of around 1,000 people was armed with petrol cans, plastic bottles filled with inflammable liquids, hockey sticks, iron rods and bamboos. The police, who have the CCTV footage and footage shot by camerapersons from different television channels with them, are in the process of identifying the perpetrators of the violence and are investigating claims of the riots being a planned conspiracy.
According to the report, at around 3 p.m., when Maulana Gulam Abdul Kadri was giving a provocative speech, a mob of around 3,000 became agitated and came out of the Azad Maidan with banners, flags and bamboos in their hands and raised slogans. They were joined by a group of 1,000 young men who came out of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. They raised slogans, used abusive language, and soon turned violent despite the police’s appeals for peace, the report stated. It is believed that the mob too wanted to join the protest.
Senior police officials said they were in the process of ascertaining if any provocative speech was made from the dais that instigated the mob.
Official sources said 17 speakers were on the dais during the protest. Only five had finished their speeches. When the fifth speaker — Maulana Kadri — was giving a provocative speech, he was allegedly stopped by a policeman. The speeches made by Maulana Niyamat Noori, Guddu Bhaiyya, Maulana Akhtar Ali, Maulana Amanullah Barkati and Maulana Gulam Abdul Kadri are under the police scanner. The police said that if their speeches were found to be provocative, they would be arrested and booked under Section 153(a) of the Indian Penal Code.
According to the report, the rioters allegedly molested women constables on duty, snatched two Self-Loading Rifles and one service revolver, 160 live rounds of cartridges, including 150 rounds of SLR and 10 rounds of service revolver. They also desecrated the ‘Amar Jawan’ memorial at CST and tried to burn down police vans with policemen in them.
“It was sheer luck that we were able to rescue the policemen from the vans. The mob had locked them in and was not allowing them to come out,” a senior police officer told The Hindu .
On Sunday, the police recovered 19 of the 150 missing rounds of SLR cartridges abandoned in the neighbouring Thane district’s Mumbra area.
The rest of the cartridges are yet to be recovered.
No terror angle
Senior police officials, however, denied any terror angle to the incident. They also denied there was intelligence failure. But according to sources, the Mumbai Police Cyber Crime Cell had information, two days ago, about objectionable and provocative pictures being uploaded on Facebook about “atrocities” against Muslims in Myanmar. Senior officials denied the reports. “We did not have any such information,” an officer told The Hindu .
The police also claimed that adequate forces were present to control the mob. While the police had estimated that no more than 5,000 protesters would turn up, the organisers had given an estimate of 1,500 people.
Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy said police were in control of the situation by 3.50 p.m, half an hour after the violence broke out.
Meanwhile, the police on Sunday arrested 23 people on charges of arson, rioting, outraging the modesty of a woman, damaging public property and causing grievous injuries to people. They claimed that they were caught red-handed during the riots. None of the organisers have been arrested yet. The police will scrutinise the role of the organisers who belonged to the Madina Tulam Foundation, Raza Academy and some other Muslim organisations.
The accused were remanded to police custody till August 19.