A protest against Assam violence and Myanmar riots in Mumbai turned ugly and tragic, leading to the death of two people and injury to over 50 in police firing in south Mumbai on Saturday.
Two news channel vans along with a dozen of parked vehicles, including BEST buses, were burnt in the afternoon.
Though till late in night, police control room refused to confirm the identity the dead as well as the cause of death, local neighbourhood television news channels, said that two were killed in police firing.
Normalcy was restored by late night. Apart from injuries to public, police control room stated that at 57 police personnel also sustained minor injuries in the skirmish which just spread like a livewire fire over a kilometre stretch from the historic Azad Maidan near CST Railway Station to Flora Fountain or Hutatma Chowk.
Though the cause of riots is still shrouded in mystery, initial reports suggest that the police resorting to lathi charge near Azad Maidan over a crowd becoming too large for the enclosed space of protest, triggered anger amongst the protesters.
However, records at Azad Maidan Police Station show that the protest was called by Raza Academy to denounce the atrocities being committed against Muslim community in Assam and Myanmar. Raza Academy, known for its rabid right wing view, had informed the police while seeking permission for protest that the crowd would not be more than 1,000. But the protesting mob swelled to over 40,000 which sparked off panic amongst the police personnel posted at the spot.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, who personally went rushing to the spot from his office, barely 400 metres away from the riot site, later told the media, “At some point the crowd became uncontrollable. The organisers were also taken aback at the support. Nobody knows who these people were and who descended on the site, but they broke loose and damage occurred.”
Patnaik admitted that police did open fire to quell the rioting mob, but clarified: “Our men fired only in air...and that was as a precautionary measure. We will have to investigate the deaths properly.”
All India Secular Forum Social activist Irfan Engineer, condemning the violence caused by the rioters, blamed the organisers for being parochial in nature.
Engineer said: “The riots have ruptured the lives of every person in Assam. It has nothing to do with Muslims, Hindus, Bodos or anybody.
“Raze Academy, while organising the rally, should have taken all measures to see that the crowd does not go out of control or infiltrators take advantage of it or that protest rally just does not become confined for one community and thereby score an advantage in the community itself.”