Cartoon protest turns violent in Hyderabad

via Samachara Bharathi - A.P published on February 18, 2006

Hyderabad : A protest rally of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) in the Charminar area against the publication of derogatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammed turned violent on Friday. The rally did not have police permission, and the police did not anticipate the sudden outbreak of violence. Six persons, including a police official, were injured as protesters stoned and damaged four buses and five cars and burnt two two-wheelers.


The protesters attacked two jewellery shops at Gulzar Houz near Charminar, and an ATM centre, none of which was looted. Two other shops were also damaged. The affected areas were Pathergatti, Gulzar Houz, Charkaman, Charminar and Moghalpura. The BJP organized a counter protest in front of the Charminar police station to demand action against the rioters. The injured, including special branch inspector M.N. Ghori, were treated as outpatients in Osmania General Hospital and private hospitals in the old city.


Later on Friday, MIM floor leader Akbaruddin Owaisi said in the Assembly that the protesters did not belong to his party and that the violence was “the handiwork of some miscreants.” In a separate protest at Mehdipatnam, about 1,000 protesters staged a dharna in front of the all-girls St. Ann’s School at closing time. The school management locked the gates and students huddled inside till the police dispersed the protesters. This section of protesters went past Masab Tank and Mallepally near Mehdipatnam before reaching the school. On the way, they attacked a florist’s shop in Mehdipatnam.


The trouble started around 1.30 pm when about 8,000 protesters took out a rally. The police said that MIM member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi was present when the protesters began their rally. After they went some distance, a section of protesters broke off and resorted to the violence. The police fired tear gas and used canes on the people in the mob several times. Normalcy was restored by evening and the police took into custody three persons, including MIM Charminar corporator Mohammed Ghouse, for instigating violence.


The Rapid Action Force was pressed into service to support the Quick Reaction Team commandos, city armed reserve and local police. South zone deputy commissioner of police Sandeep Shandilya said, “The MIM leaders had no permission to take out the rally. When they attempted to take out the rally, we physically prevented them going towards different areas. Some of them broke the cordon and rushed towards Gulzar Houz and resorted to violence.” Mr Shandilya said Charminar MIM corporator Ghouse and two others were taken into custody for instigating the violence.


Police commissioner A.K. Mohanty warned the rioters of action. “They have to face the consequences. We are trying to identify those who broke the cordon.” Mr Mohanty said  four companies of the RAF was pressed  into service. “They will stay for a day or two, depending on the situation. Ten platoons of reserve police forces have been posted to control the situation.”


“The police didn’t anticipate that the protest would turn violent. We thought they would burn Danish flags and raise slogans against the cartoons. But they resorted to violence,” a senior police official said on condition of anonymity. In the Assembly, home minister K. Jana Reddy said in a suo motu statement:


“We did not expect any trouble, but unfortunately some miscreants are trying to divide people.” He added, “The situation is now totally under control. We will identify the culprits and take action against them.”


Without naming any political party, Mr Jana Reddy said that the protesters wanted to take out a procession but the police turned them down. “The mob broke the police cordon and stoned shops and buses. Police maintained utmost restraint and when things went out of control, it used teargas to disperse the crowd.” Charminar assistant commissioner of police Shaik Sharfuddin said three cases were registered regarding damaging vehicles and damaging the State Bank of India ATM at Pathergatti.


Charminar inspector Kosala Ramu said, “The protesters damaged a jewellery store but no ornaments were stolen.” The Mirchowk police filed four cases against protesters for burning two motorcycles, stoning two houses.

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