In an incident reminiscent of the Kamlesh Tiwari controversy, a mob of Muslim protesters demanded that a person accused of committing blasphemy be given public punishment according to their whims and fancies. The incident happened in the Trombay area of Mumbai’s eastern suburbs on the midnight of Saturday.
The alleged act of blasphemy happened on Facebook, where a 21-year-old man is reported to have uploaded an image that was disrespectful to a Muslim place of worship. The young man apparently deleted the post after as it attracted online outrage and after some local people took their outrage offline to his doorstep.
Seeing tensions rise, police arrived and detained the young man, who also apologised to All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) corporator Shahnawaz Shaikh, who was among the protesting mob. However, police claims that instead of accepting the apology and calming the mob down, Shaikh went on to instigate them.
As a result, a mob of around 150-200 angry Muslims gathered around the Trombay police station and demanded that the young man be handed over to them to be “brought to justice”.
“The mob was instigated by the corporator and they had planned to attack the police station if we did not hand over the accused to them. When we refused their demand the first time, they went back. But we learnt later that another section of the mob was waiting at a spot near the police station, preparing to attack,” senior inspector Annasaheb Sonur of Trombay police station is quoted as saying by Mumbai Mirror.
Even after repeated demands when the police did not hand over the man – who could have been publicly killed for blasphemy – the mob started attacking the police station and police property. The mob was reportedly armed with petrol bombs, lathis, stones and kerosene. They could put two police vans on fire before the police restarted to tear gas and rubber bullets to control the violence.
This entire incident happened in a locality that has Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and armament depot of the Western Command of the Indian Navy in the vicinity. Police officers concede that they failed to anticipate such an attack by the locals over a Facebook post.
Police have now arrested 17 people including the AIMIM leader for rioting and attempt to murder. It has now come to light that the AIMIM corporator was earlier booked for rioting twice in 2014. The alleged blasphemer remains in police custody, arrested under the section 295(A) of the IPC for hurting religious sentiments and under various sections of the IT law.