The Mumbai Crime Branch, which has taken over the investigation into the riot on 11 August that left two dead and over 60 injured, have arrested 23 suspects and slapped them with murder charges.
The charges come in the wake of a police statement that the violence appeared to be a 'pre-planned' act. The organisers of the event, Raza Academy and Madina Tul Ilm Foundation, could also face charges for inciting the violence.
The accused were produced in a local court which remanded them in police custody till 19 August.
Police officials initially told the media that they had been unprepared for the size of the gathering at Azad Maidan, but now the Indian Express reports that they may have recieved an intelligence report warning possible “law-and-order problems”, a “charged atmosphere” and a crowd strength of “10,000 with an upward bias”.
Raza Academy and Madina Tul Ilm Foundation had reportedly told police in their application seeking permission to hold the rally, that they were expecting a turnout of around 1,500 people. Senior police inspector of the Azad Maidan police station had reportedly asked organisers if the crowd strength would increase but was told that they were expecting a crowd of little more than 1,500 people.
Police suspect the violence to be a "pre-planned" act as participants at the Azad Maidan rally came "prepared" to wreak havoc, and had carried sticks and rods with them. Police are now probing from where the weapons were procured and where they were stored before the trouble started.
"We are also investigating the source of petrol cans. The mob set the vehicles on fire in a planned way," a police official said. Police added that they would examine CCTV footage showing how protesters poured petrol on vehicles before setting them alight.
Police added that a panchnama (spot inspection) will be carried out first to assess the damage to public property, and said that the Raza Academy may be asked to pay compensation as per the Bombay Police Act, while the CCTV footage and other available videos would be examined to recreate what exactly took place.
Meanwhile, government railway police (GRP) sources said they have obtained CCTV footage of the mob boarding local trains from Kurla railway station, alighting at CST and vandalising vehicles there.
With inputs from PTI