Police probing if violence was a ‘big conspiracy’

The Mumbai Police Crime Branch suspects that the riot-like situation outside Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Saturday afternoon was part of a "big conspiracy". Crime Branch sources said the police are probing the alleged role of "outside agencies".

Two persons died and 54 were injured on Saturday when a protest organised by Raza Academy, a Mumbai-based Islamic organisation turned violent. A crowd estimated to be 15,000-strong had assembled to protest atrocities against Muslims in Myanmar and Assam.

Crime Branch sources said the police felt the incident need not have been spontaneous and may have been pre-planned. They said as the crowd gathered and vehicles with protesters reached the venue, there were many waiting to receive them with cheers.

Crime Branch officers said the police also felt that the violence may have been pre-planned as the protestors were equipped with gear to torch vehicles. "The fact that they managed to torch vehicles means that the incident may have been pre-meditated. We are looking into that possibility," said the officer.

"We feel the violence may have been deliberate. We suspect this is a big conspiracy and are probing along those lines," said an officer, requesting anonymity. "We are examining if the organizers had any link with outside agencies. An incident like this may have the backing of people who want a flare-up. We suspect that certain outside agencies had their hands in this incident and may have backed it," said the officer.

The riot case was handed over to the Crime Branch shortly after the incident. Police sources said that the severity of the incident had forced the top brass to hand the case to the Crime Branch.

The possibility of miscreants being hired to deliberately indulge in violence was also being probed, an officer said. "That is something we have to look at. We will also be going into details to see if the miscreants were in any way involved with agencies we suspect had a hand in the incident," said the officer.

The police have learnt that provocative pamphlets were distributed during the protest, and are probing the source of the pamphlets. "The content on the pamphlets was provocative. We will be trying to get to the source and question him," said the officer.

According to the police, protestors set fire to three media outdoor broadcasting (OB) vans and four police vans besides damaging several vehicles, including BEST buses. At least 30 vehicles were damaged in the incident. One of the police vans damaged belonged to the riot control police (RCP). The police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the crowd. Two of the OB vans belonged to ABP News and P7 news.

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