Main organiser of August 11 rally arrested

Azad maidan

Five months and 63 arrests later, the Mumbai Crime Branch, which is probing the Azad Maidan violence of August 11, on Monday arrested Maulana Ahmed Raza (25), the main organiser of the rally. Raza, a priest from Kurla, is the founder of a local education institute, Madina-tul-Ilm. Raza has been booked for all the charges listed in the FIR, including murder, conspiracy, rioting, causing damage to public and private properties and unlawful assembly.

Citing that permission was given for 1,000 silent protestors, the Crime Branch said certain conditions were violated. "We had questioned Raza a couple of times and found that he was not forthcoming about his role in organising the rally. On Monday, we again called him for questioning. He was still not cooperating, after which we arrested him. He will be produced in court on Tuesday," said Niket Kaushik, Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch. "There was also violation of the licence conditions," he added. Police will now probe if Raza violated any conditions imposed on him.

The Crime Branch, however, in its 3,500-page chargesheet was unable to draw a direct link between the speech made by the community leaders and the rioters. The investigators have so far named one Burmese national Yusuf Khan and Salim Lightwala as prime conspirators, with 39 of the 63 arrested released on bail and five discharged.

"The speakers were brought by Raza. Legally, he thought of the rally and applied for licence, hence he is the main organiser. We felt that he was withholding information crucial to the investigation," said a Crime Branch official. Few other organisers are still being questioned. The police have maintained till date that two the 17 community leaders who had delivered speech at the rally were "aggressive".

On August 11, what was supposed to be a peaceful rally to discuss reported atrocities on Muslims in Myanmar, turned violent after thousands of attendees went on a rampage outside the ground. Media vans and police vehicles were damaged and policemen were attacked. Several female policemen were molested and the rioters fled with many police issue firearms. Thirty women constables had also complained of molestation and having being attacked by a violent mob.

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