MUMBAI – At least two people were killed and over 40 injured on Saturday, August 11, after police attacked a protest led by several Muslim organizations to condemn Assam violence, accusing Muslims of starting the riot near Mumbai's Azad Maidan square.
"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 told IANS news agency.
Protests started on Saturday when about 25,000 members and activists of several Muslim organizations staged a protest at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai against attacks on Muslims in Myanmar and the Assam riots.
Protesting recent violence in Assam, Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik said around 10 buses and six vans were damaged as an angry mob set them on fire.
"The situation got out of control as a group of protestors turned aggressive around 3.15 p.m. today (Saturday)," Patnaik told media.
“I personally spoke to a few of them who were on the dais and requested them to maintain calm,” he added.
Sectarian violence erupted two weeks ago after four youths were killed by unidentified men in the isolated Kokrajhar district.
In retaliation, armed men from Bodo tribes attacked Muslims for suspicion of being behind the killings.
Clashes spread to the neighboring Chirang and Dhubri districts over the weekend, leaving at least 22 people dead.
Thousands of people were also left homeless as their villages were set on fire in the violence.
Surrounded by China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, Assam is home to more than 200 ethnic and tribal groups and has been racked by separatist revolts since India's independence from Britain in 1947.
In recent years, Hindu and Christian tribes have vented strong sentiments against Muslims, calling them Bangladeshi immigrants.
Staging the protest, leaders of Muslim organizations urged the Indian central government to protect the Muslim minority.
“It is the responsibility of the Congress government to protect the Muslims, and for that matter each and every citizen,” Syed Moinuddin Ashraf, president of Jamia Qadriya Ashrafiya, who is also known as Moin Miyan, told IANS.
“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.
Led by Raza Academy, an organization working to promote Islamic culture, the protest was supported by other organizations like Sunni Jamaitul Ulma and Jamate Raza-e-Mustafa.
Sporting black badges, hundreds of members and activists of these organizations, converged at the Azad Maidan and expressed concern over the massacre of the Muslim community.
“A large number of Muslims have been rendered homeless and are now living in camps,” said Raza Academy chairman Saeed Noorie.
Muslims account for 160 million of India's 1.1 billion people, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
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