Pune attacks against North-East students too provoked by ‘Assam video’, say police

MMS clips and text messages on the Bodo-Muslim riots in Assam may have provoked the recent spate of attacks on students from the North-East in Pune, police suspect.

These video clips, shared among groups of Muslim youths in the city, were similar to the videos circulated before the deadly violence in Mumbai on Saturday, when a mass protest against alleged atrocities on Muslims in Myanmar and Assam spun out of control, leaving two people dead and dozens injured.

Police investigations have established that all the youths arrested for allegedly assaulting the students in a series of attacks in Kondhwa and the Poona College area since August 8 had seen the "doctored" videos on the rioting in Assam, Assistant Commissioner of Police V T Pawar said.

Police are now investigating who provoked the suspects to attack the students from the North-East in an apparent revenge strike, and how the videos were circulated, Pawar said. Police have registered an offence against unknown persons for circulating the videos at the Cantonment police station.

Pawar said no connection had yet been found between the suspects and radical Islamist groups.

"As of now, they (the arrested youths) have not been found to have connections with radical Islamic outfits. All have seen the doctored video clip on Assam riots. Investigation is on to know who provoked them," Pawar said.

Police have surrendered the custody of the nine suspects the Kondhwa police arrested on Sunday. The youths — Nadeem Rashid Ansari (18), Imamuddin Shafiq Shaikh (20), Vasim Faruq Shaikh (22), Muzaffar Azim Jamadar (19), Muzammil Ubedulla Shaikh (18), Tipu Javed Shaikh (19), Ejaz Sherahmed Shaikh (21), Rafiq Mehmood Shaikh (21) and Mateen Mohammed Pathan (19) — were released on bail today.

"We surrendered their custody as the inquiry was over and we recovered wooden sticks and iron rods used in the attacks from the suspects," Senior Police Inspector Prasad Hasabnis said.

Pawar said all the suspects belong to lower middle class families in Kondhwa, and that some of them had acted together under the banner of Aalif Young Circle, Jaanasheen group, in Shivneri Nagar, Kondhwa. Pathan, the chief of the group, is a welder, and Rafiq Shaikh a painter. Ejaz Shaikh reportedly works for a private firm.

Pathan's family denied the accusations. "My son was never into any radical activities. He has a basic Nokia phone in which MMSes can't be saved or seen. We fail to understand why the police arrested him," his father Mohammed Pathan said.

Two more attacks on people from the N-E were reported on Sunday. On Monday, police arrested two other men, Mohsin Aslam Shaikh and Nilesh Tanaji Sathe, in connection with the attack on a student from Manipur, Rokuozetuo Ltu (25), in Kondhwa on August 11.

Police said Nilesh was with his friend Mohsin when the latter attacked Rokuozetuo, and he had, therefore, been booked for unlawful assembly.

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