The rioting that took place in Navi Mumbai, a satellite town beyond the Thane creek, during the Holi celebrations, has yet again raised the issue of police efficiency in controlling mob violence and rioting. Look at the sequence of events and one will gather that the police intervention came only at the end when things got out of hand, and measures like firing at rioters ended up with three people dead. Two of the victims of firing are in critical condition.
Though there are two versions of the incident that triggered off the violence, according to the police, villagers from Ghansoli, about 40 kms away from Mumbai, which is also part of the industrial township with factories lining back-to-back, visited Ghansoli Garonda Colony to play Holi. Mostly, Mathadi workers stay in hamlets in the Ghansoli Garonda Colony. There is also a history of antipathy between the two groups, the Mathadi workers (who work at the nearby APMC market as head-loaders) hail from Satara district. The villagers living in Ghansoli are mainly from the Aagari community who were traditionally fishermen and original inhabitants of the region.
According to the Police Commissioner of Navi Mumbai, Vijay Kamble, a villager in the group which went to Ghansoli Garonda Colony misbehaved with a girl in the colony. This led to a brawl and the Mathadi workers having outnumbered the villagers chased them away. After that both the communities have been taking the battle to each other'sgrounds. There is also another version given by the people in the Garonda colony who are not eyewitnesses yet sure that events have been different. ?The villagers had forced a young boy to drink bang. This led to Mathadi workers attacking the villagers and they scurried out of the place only to return later and attack our leader??, a Garonda colony resident told Organiser.
The following night the villagers came to Garonda colony and torched parked vehicles and stoned the houses of the Mathadi workers. Then the Mathadi workers went to the village to retaliate. In the attack on the Mathadi leader Narendra Patil the villagers killed his bodyguard Dyandev Bargunde. The violence spiralled after that attack but the police seemed to be twiddling their thumbs. They posted about 50 policemen in the area and the crowds heavily outnumbered them.
?There were thousands of people on both sides and the police fired a round in the air to control the situation. When the situation was getting out of hand, we resorted to firing on the people??, Kamble explains.
There are several issues here-first, such incidents of misbehaviour especially by the youth during religious processions and celebrations like Ganpati festival is a routine affair. Boisterous drunken youth eve-teasing during festival processions is a common sight in Mumbai. Neither stern action, if any, nor any public warning of stringent action during festivals has come from the police. Second, the lack of quick police action during such situations always becomes an event for the press to report. Firing on the crowd should have been the last resort, that is, if all the other preventive measures had been taken on time-that is to reach the spot at the first sign of trouble, to calm agitated mob, to pre-empt mob reaction and to reach adequate force so as to deter people from being violent. Third, and most importantly, police force should be intensively trained in handling public and on how to be courteous. In Mumbai, you find most policemen barking four-letter words at people, hauling ordinary culprits by the collar and having never had the decency to use words like, ?please??, ?thank you?? or ?sorry??.