Noida Mobbed: 18 injured 65 cars damaged 65 arrested

Day 1 of the two-day nationwide strike, announced by trade unions weeks ago, took Noida police by surprise on Wednesday when the protesters turned violent, damaged vehicles, vandalised and looted properties, and hurled stones at security personnel.

Eighteen people, including six policemen, were injured in the violence. Clashes broke out in sectors 83 and 84 of Noida Phase-II, where a 1,000-strong mob set fire to 15 vehicles and damaged 50 others parked within the premises of private companies. The protesters also torched a fire tender that went to the spot to douse the flames.

"A similar protest was reported from Sector-58 around the same time. Here, a mob of a few hundred people hurled stones at windowpanes of factory buildings," a senior police officer said.

In Lucknow, Arun Kumar, ADG (Law and Order), admitted that "police force deployed was inadequate". "Police had not thought that workers of private organisations would join the strike. The strike call was meant for government sectors like transport, banks and railways. It took about two hours for additional police force to reach the spot."

Factory owners in sectors 83 and 84 said they heard of a mob "on the prowl" around 8 am, but the first report of protesters turning violent came around 9.30 am.

A resident of the area, Aneesh Sharma, said: "There were at least 500 in the group, some identified themselves as workers at the factories nearby and demanded better salaries. They hurled stones and smashed the windowpanes of several cars and set fire to at least six of them. Much of this took place on the premises of International Print-o-Pac. Then the mob moved to Motherson Sumi automotive factory and damaged vehicles in the compound. They looted computers and other items and then went on to attack other company offices along the stretch."

Eyewitnesses said they called police soon after violence began, but the force arrived more than an hour later. "When the first fire tender arrived, policemen accompanying it were overpowered and the vehicle was set on fire. Additional force arrived two hours later, though the Phase-II police station is barely a kilometre away," a witness said.

Police resorted to lathicharge and fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Sporadic incidents of violence continued till 2.30 pm.

ADG Kumar said a majority of protesters were members of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).

"The mob led by CITU and HMS office-bearers vandalised factories and torched vehicles. The rioters also looted garments from an outlet. Cases of arson, vandalism, loot and attack on police force have been registered. The factory owners have filed complaints, for which separate cases are being registered. Legal notices to the leaders of the two organisations will be served to realise money against loss of public property," Kumar said.

Senior Superintendent of Police Shalabh Mathur said a five-member committee has been appointed and a magisterial inquiry ordered. "We have arrested 65 people and detained several others. We are in the process of collecting CCTV footage and media video recordings to identify those involved," Mathur said.

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