Four years since the 11 August riots broke out in South Mumbai and held the entire city to ransom, the administration is yet to recover the cost of damage from the organisers of the event which triggered the riots. Four years ago, 50,000 people had gathered at the city’s famous Azad Maidan, when some of them broke into rioting. The demonstrators, who had gathered there to protest the “atrocities” on Muslims in Myanmar and Assam, pelted stones at the police, vandalised police and media vehicles, damaged property, assaulted policemen, molested policewomen and desecrated the Amar Jawan Jyoti. Two protestors lost their lives and many were injured in the violence. The incident made waves at the national level. The district administration had pegged the losses at Rs 2.73 crore at the time. But two years after the assessment, the figure miraculously came down to Rs 36 lakh. But even that amount is yet to be recovered.
“It is unfortunate that the government has not yet been able to recover the losses caused by the riots. The earlier government tried to water down the event, reduce the intensity of the charges against the rioters, brought down the figure of recovery and failed to take strict action against rioters. We were hopeful that at least when the BJP and Shiv Sena would come to power, they would change things. But nothing changed. We will continue to fight for it,” advocate Virendra Ichalkaranjikar told The Sunday Guardian. He represents the petitioner who had moved the Bombay High Court three years ago seeking a recovery of losses from the organisers.
Last year, the administration had issued a notice to Raza Academy of Mumbai, asking it to pay for the losses. When contacted, Saeed Noorie of Raza Academy said that they had already responded to the notice. “A notice was sent to us last year. But our lawyer responded immediately saying that the programme was not ours. We had not organised it. So there was no question of recovering the losses from us. We haven’t heard from the administration since then,” he told The Sunday Guardian.
When asked about the role of the Raza Academy in the protest, he said that its members had gone there to join the programme only as protesters.
WHAT HAD HAPPENED?
On the afternoon of 11 August 2012, thousands of protestors gathered at South Mumbai’s Azad Maidan to protest against the “atrocities” on Muslims in Myanmar and Assam. At around 3.17 pm, rioting broke out in the area. Violent mobs attacked policemen, torched police vans and media vehicles, snatched rifles from the policemen on bandobast, pelted stones, damaged public property including public transport buses at the nearby central depot of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The rioters molested women constables on duty and civilian women, snatched away three police weapons, including two self-loading rifles (SLRs) and one service revolver, 160 rounds of live cartridges, including 150 rounds for SLRs and 10 for service revolvers. They also desecrated the Amar Jawan memorial at CST and tried to burn police vans in which policemen were sitting.
Then Mumbai Commissioner of Police, Arup Patnaik hit the field within minutes of the disturbance. He stopped his forces from firing any rounds. Some rounds were fired by the policemen for protecting themselves. A policeman was kidnapped by the rioters. He was picked up and taken by them. The police immediately launched a massive manhunt. They found him in a severely injured condition a few hundred metres away from the riot spot.
POLICE REPORT THEREAFTER
A preliminary inquiry conducted in the matter by a team of senior police officers found that days before the rally, fake, morphed photographs and videos of the alleged torture of Muslims, were circulated among the protestors. Private meetings were held in many places before the protest rally. The report stated that more than a thousand persons, who were not a part of the protest, had probably come from the suburban regions. The report stated that around 1,000 persons were armed with petrol cans and plastic bottles filled with inflammable liquids, hockey sticks, iron rods, bamboo sticks.
According to the report, at around 3 pm on Saturday, when Maulana Gulam Abdul Kadri was giving a provocative speech, a mob of around 3,000 protestors got agitated and came out of the Azad Maidan with banners, flags and bamboo sticks and started shouting slogans. They were joined by a group of 1,000 young men who came out of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station. They indulged in sloganeering, abusing, and soon turned violent despite police appeals for peace, the report stated.
The police also scanned the role of the 17 speakers present on the dais, to examine if any of them had given any provocative speeches. Only five speakers had delivered their speeches when the riots broke out. The fifth speaker, Maulana Kadri, was stopped by a policeman when he was giving a provocative speech, the report stated. The others whose speeches were scanned were Maulana Niyamat Noori, Guddu Bhaiyya, Maulana Akhtar Ali, Maulana Amanullah Barkati and Maulana Gulam Abdul Kadri.
ARRESTS AND CHARGES
In the aftermath of the riots, the police arrested 64 persons for rioting. A manhunt was launched to catch the two youths who were photographed desecrating the Amar Jawan memorial.
The police went through scores of CCTV footage to understand the movement of the rioters. Teams travelled to Uttar Pradesh to pick up a few of the accused, who had run away to avert arrest. They were booked under Sections 143, 144, 145, 147, 149, 151, 152, 153, 332, 333, 353, 435, 307, 324, 326, 354, 395, 440, 431, 109 and 117 of the Indian Penal Code, sections of the Bombay Police Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, Arms Act, Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.
Finally, the police were successful in arresting the two desecrators of the Amar Jawan memorial. But the two accused got away lightly after the police did not book them under the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act. Officials said that the memorial, which belonged to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, did not come under the purview of the Act.
WOMEN CONSTABLES’ WOES
As many as 11 women constables on duty were molested by the rioters. The police failed to register a separate case against the molesters regarding this. The National Commission for Women visited Mumbai to meet the women constables. The team recommended that the women be given bravery awards. After the arrest of over 60 rioters, the women constables identified five of the molesters from them. This incident put fear in the hearts of the policewomen.
PIL IN THE BOMBAY HIGH COURT
A year later, a Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Bombay High Court seeking the court’s intervention to get justice in the matter. The PIL stated, “The state government and other authorities have adopted an attitude of soft-pedaling (sic) and discrimination in favour of the persons and organizers who had orchestrated the whole riot. In an unprecedented situation of a riot and violence of such a magnitude which has completely shattered the faith and confidence of law abiding citizens and even of policemen, there is a necessity for intervention by this Hon’ble Court in public interest under the Extra-ordinary writ jurisdiction to issue directions to the authorities for taking steps to restore the people’s faith in the system. The State has followed a policy of dilly-dallying and discrimination and is trying to underplay the event for extraneous reasons and by harming public interest.”
Its hearing still continues in the Bombay High Court.