23 booked for Mumbai violence

Police Sunday booked 23 people for murder, attempt to murder, molestation and damage to public property as they began probing violence during a Muslim protest which left two dead and 100 injured. 

The accused were presented before Magistrate P.S. Rathod who sent them to police custody till Aug 19, said lawyer Husen A.R. Shaikh, appearing for one of the accused.

Police said in their remand application that the violence appeared to be "pre-planned and pre-meditated" given the systematic manner in which it was carried out outside Azad Maidan, he said.

Muslim groups called Saturday's gathering to protest killing of Muslims in Myanmar and Assam.

Other charges slapped on the accused included physical attack on police and public, theft of government weapons and unlawful assembly, said Shaikh.

Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy told the media: "We have set up a special team to investigate the entire incident and find out the causes and the people behind it."

Roy said police were studying the speeches of organisers to determine if they were provocative.

Shaikh claimed his client Ghulam M. Musa Sheikh, a 22-year old final year engineering student from Bandra's Rizvi College, was innocent and he was picked up as he went to collect his vehicle parked near Azad Maidan.

The other accused are: Fahim Sheikh, Alamgir Pathan, Jamir Sheikh, Mohammed Wasim Sheikh, Javed Sheikh, Sakir Sheikh, Mohammed Bilal Sheikh, Mohammed Abdul Razzak, Aslam Sheikh, Ghulam M. Musa Sheikh, Mohammed Umer, Anwar Qureshi, Mohammed Momin Umer, Mohammed Ansari, Rihan Rashid Sheikh, Mohammed Ahmed, Imran Sheikh, Anis Danare, Afzal Sheikh, Umer Ansari, Amin Chaudhari and Abbas Ujjainwala.

Roy said CCTV records were being scanned to identify the rioters for the violence which paralysed Mumbai for several hours.

The trouble affected a two kilometre radius around Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, opposite the Azad Maidan, the venue of the Saturday procession.

Roy said the extent of damage to public and private property was being studied. He added that the organisers will be ordered to compensate for it as per the laws.

Some people were questioned to know their antecedents and role in the violence. A group of youths attacked journalists and police personnel and damaged public and private vehicles.

Taking police and the organisers by surprise, the attacks quickly spread, engulfing the media, police, even some participants in the procession, vehicles and media vans.

At the final count, 49 BEST buses were damaged, 12 police vans were hit, including three which were burnt, 50 private vehicles, including three vans of private TV channels, were torched.

After a tense Saturday, Mumbai bounced back to its usual self. "The situation is calm, road traffic is normal, all public buses and suburban train services are functioning as usual," a city control centre official said.

Police maintained a tight vigil all over the city and surroundings.
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