Thousands of people demonstrating over ethnic riots in the northeastern state of Assam and in neighbouring Myanmar have clashed with police in Mumbai, killing at least two people and injuring 18 others, according to Indian media reports.
Arup Patnaik, Mumbai’s police commissioner, said on Saturday that police officers fired guns in the air to disperse thousands of Muslims who threw rocks and damaged about a dozen buses and police vans in India’s financial capital during a demonstration against the deaths of Muslims in rioting last month in the country’s northeast.
Thirteen police officers and five protesters were injured, police officials said.
The protesters also burned three TV broadcasting vans, complaining that media coverage of last month’s rioting in Assam state was biased against the Muslim victims, the commissioner said.
The AFP news agency reported that the demonstrators had gathered in south Mumbai following a call by a city-based Muslim organisation Raza Academy to denounce the clashes in India’s Assam state.
The protesters, wearing black badges converged at the Azad Maidan, a public square, to express solidarity over the oppression of the Muslim community in both Assam and Myanmar.
Hafiz Bashir Ahmed, a provincial lawmaker from Assam, asked the protesters to maintain calm and not aggravate the issue.
“The news we heard about the protest rally turning violent in Mumbai is deplorable. I have heard that the
protestors attacked the media, I don’t know the root cause but if it’s true then it’s not correct. People should not
get emotional,” said Ahmed.
According to the website of The Times of India, Raza Academy has distanced itself from the violence.
“While we were protesting, some people got aggressive and started behaving violently,” Mohammed Saeed, general secretary of the academy, was quoted saying.
“We never encourage violence and strongly condemn such acts.”
Assam violence was sparked off on July 20 when unidentified men killed four youths in Kokrajhar district, according to
police and district officials.
In retaliation, armed Bodos attacked Muslims, believed to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, suspecting them of
being behind the killings.
Surrounded by China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, India’s northeast is home to more than 200 ethnic and tribal groups and has been rocked by separatist revolts since India’s independence from Britain in 1947.