At least two people were killed and another 46 injured on Saturday in south Mumbai when a rally to condemn deadly sectarian clashes in India’s northeast suddenly turned violent, authorities said.
Three broadcast vans belonging to local television channels were set ablaze and windscreens of some police vehicles broken after they were pelted with bricks and stones, a police official in India’s financial capital said.
“Two deaths have been reported and 46 have been injured out of which 36 are policemen,” Inidan Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said.
The police used tear gas and bamboo sticks to disperse hundreds of people after the demonstration suddenly turned violent at Azad Maidan — a park near the landmark CST railway station — where rallies are often held.
The demonstrators, wearing black bands, belonged to several Muslims groups, including Mumbai’s Raza Academy, an organization promoting Islamic culture that had made a call to denounce recent ethnic clashes in India’s Assam state.
Last month, fighting erupted between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers over long-running land disputes and immigration issues in the state bordering Bangladesh.
At least 77 people have died in the clashes, Shinde told parliament last week, and some 400,000 have fled their homes and are living in crowded camps in the northeast.
The Mumbai rally “was peaceful and it suddenly turned unruly. It is unclear what sparked the violence,” the city police official, said.
“The situation is now under control,” Mumbai police spokesman Nisar Tamboli said, adding that the area had been cordoned off, with security beefed up across the city to prevent violence from spreading.
Meanwhile, Raza Academy has distanced itself from the violence which briefly disrupted local train services.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said he had appealed for peace in the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital.