The Maharashtra unit of the BJP today raised the pitch, attacking Home Minister RR Patil for the government's inept handling of the August 11 riots in Mumbai. They claim that despite the Mumbai Police having sufficient intelligence inputs, the home department and the police commissioner failed to take appropriate action.
Madhav Bhandari, the Maharashtra state BJP spokesperson, produced a letter purportedly sent to the police and the home ministry, alerting them about how an externed criminal, Salim Lightwala, was planning to create some violence in the city. The letter also mentions how Lightwala was arranging for funds, petrol cans and even men to create the chaos. However, Mr Bhandari refused to reveal who sent that letter.
"We have concrete evidence that the police and the government were aware of what happened on August 11... Police has not taken any action regarding August 11... Mumbai Commissioner was given a letter on August 9 regarding the possibility of violence - even specifics of where, by whom, etc... The police should be held responsible," said Mr Bhandari.
But police sources have told NDTV that the intelligence input was looked into and was found to be baseless.
Mr Bhandari, meanwhile, also produced a picture of RR Patil with a man who he claimed has been booked by the police for violating the conditions of the rally. The picture shows Mr Patil with Maulana Meiya from the Raza Academy, which organised the rally at Azad Maidan. He claims the picture was taken a few days before the riots.
"RR Patil and the Raza Academy member, Maulana Meiya, they are together in that photo, and that photo has been clicked on the 5th or 6th. I agree that on that day that person was not the culprit or he was not the accused, he was a member of the society. But after few days if that person is involved in some anti-social thing, how can the police take any action against such a person who is with the Home Minister," said Mr Bhandari.
Reacting to the allegations, Mr Patil said, "I don't know what the BJP says. When you are a minister, you meet people. I can also show photograph that anti-social elements have clicked with BJP party members."
Two people were killed and 52, including 44 policemen, were injured when a rally at Azad Maidan, called to protest alleged atrocities on Muslims in Assam and Myanmar, turned violent. The protesters went on a rampage, attacking the police, including some women constables, torching media and police vehicles, smashing cameras of photo journalists and damaging buses.
The violence even saw Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik being transferred to the post of director-general of Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC) following criticism from various quarters over his 'inept' handling of the Azad Maidan violence. After Mr Patnaik was shunted out, the opposition's demand for Mr Patil's resignation picked up pace. Though NCP Chief Sharad Pawar is reportedly unhappy with Mr Patil, who is seen to be a weak and inefficient home minister, Mr Patil could survive, at least until the next reshuffle.
(With inputs from PTI