Mumbai: Several shops, vehicles and three vans belonging to television channels and some to the police were burnt during a rally at Mumbai's Azad Maidan to condemn the the Assam riots and attacks on Muslims in Myanmar, TV channels reported on Saturday. At least 40 people were injured and two people died in the mishap.
"Two people are reported dead in St George Hospital (in south Mumbai) and over 40 injured are being treated in hospitals here," an official from the disaster management cell said.
The otherwise peaceful rally turned violent in the afternoon and police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the unruly crowd that began wreaking havoc in the South Mumbai locality, well known for having hosted other popular rallies and protests in the past.
More than 1,000 people participated in the rally, TV channels reported. It is not known yet whether the mob that started the violence was part of the peaceful rally. The mob is also said to have attacked ten BEST buses with stones at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Police immediately cordoned off the area and the connecting streets and fired in air to disperse the crowd.
RAF personnel had been deployed at the site. Mumbai's Police Commissioner and other senior officers were also at the site, CNN IBN reported.
"Azad Maidan violence-Situation under control. I want to appeal to people to maintain peace and assist the police. Will probe the violence," Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi appealed for peace in Mumbai. "I will talk to the Maharashtra Chief Minister," said Gogoi.
Led by Raza Academy, an organisation working to promote Islamic culture, the protest was supported by other organisations like Sunni Jamaitul Ulma and Jamate Raza-e-Mustafa. They also condemned the riots and violence in Assam.
Sporting black badges, hundreds of members and activists of these organisations, converged at the Azad Maidan and expressed concern over the massacre of the Muslim community.
Maulana Syed Moinuddin Ashraf, president of Jamia Qadriya Ashrafiya, has urged the the central and state governments to intervene.
"It is the responsibility of the Congress government to protect the Muslims, and for that matter each and every citizen," said the Maulana, who is also known as Moin Miyan.
"With regards to the massacre in Myanmar, we understand it is an external problem and that certainly should be taken care of, but what is happening in Assam reflects on the state of affairs of the country," he added.
"A large number of Muslims have been rendered homeless and are now living in camps," said Raza Academy chairman Saeed Noorie.
Noorie said they have already written to the government of Myanmar, the United Nations, the International Human Rights Organisation, Organisation of Islamic Countries, President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to highlight the massacre of Muslims in Myanmar.
(With inputs from IANS)