Millennium Post

The Mumbai cauldron

Since 1993, when Mumbai was engulfed in riots after the Babri Masjid demolition, communal relations in India’s commercial capital are on the proverbial tightrope. Some rhetorical inflammation here, slight deviation there or little provocation either way can put the city to stand on notice of another communal stir. The city always seems to be bordering a cauldron. And on Saturday it was almost on the verge of being engulfed by it once again.

A crowd of predominantly Muslim protesters had gathered at Azad Maidan to protest communal violence in Assam at the call of three city-based organisations. There was no reports that it could be a huge crowd and it was always assumed to be a small gathering, as is de rigueur in Azad Maidan.  The police, reportedly, had been notified accordingly and was informed that the crowd could go up to 3000 at the most. Eventually 10,000 people turned up and when violence began, the security that was deployed proved to be inadequate. The ensuing violence claimed two lives. Of the 55 injured after an hour of arson, rampage, vandalism and rioting, 45 were policemen. Clearly, the security forces were outnumbered totally by the protesters. Had the administration not taken some immediate measures, it could have been far worse. The fact that it was in the heart of South Mumbai also helped the administration to make a quick move to contain violence. But the state government should not only be contended that it could contain violence on that day and did not let it spread further. More violence and some more deaths could have proved to be incendiary. That is a job well done. But that does not mean that the government should sit idle. It should get to the bottom of the events that day and examine what or who may have provoked the protesters on Saturday evening who may have, at least we could imagine, gathered for a peaceful protest. Or was it pre-planned? In that case, as some are suspecting, the police should find out if the mob was armed, or if it was infiltrated by a gangs who came to stir some communal violence. It is imperative that the government let the law of the land prevail and not allow vote-bank politics to stall investigation. Twenty-three people have already been arrested and more arrests are likely to take place. Perhaps the government knows better than most that if communal provocations and unrests are not nipped in the bud, it could only get worse. And Mumbai cannot afford another 1993. The government should do everything it can to neutralise rioting mobs and individuals alike. Nothing short will do.
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