Mumbai: Bodies bruised and battered, bones broken, but spirits undaunted. At least 62 police personnel - three of them women - were injured in the violence at Azad Maidan on Saturday.
The protests, which were organised by several NGOs to draw attention to the plight of a minority community in Assam and Myanmar, turned ugly within minutes.
Police present at the spot got embroiled in the mayhem and were attacked with rocks, metal rods, and wooden maces with iron nails jutting out of them. Many of these injured cops were discharged after medical attention but 11 are still admitted in various hospitals. While reliving the horrors of the day, they said they still wear the uniform with pride and want to serve us till their last breath.
Hanumant Darekar, Inspector
Stationed: Near Azad Maidan
He was the first policeman to be assaulted by the unruly mob. Darekar was trying to pacify the crowd, when he was thrashed with a hockey stick. Though he was bleeding profusely, the hoodlums continued to flog him and also took away his service pistol with 10 cartridges.
Darekar was the first casualty to be brought to St George hospital from where he was transferred to Bombay hospital in a critical condition. He received seven stitches to his forehead and also suffered a fracture. "I am still in pain and cannot speak much," Darekar said, pointing to the wounds.
Balsaheb Jaqtab, Assistant Inspector
Stationed: Near BMC HQ signal opposite Azad Maidan
"I was standing with a few other cops from our police station. The crowd was behaving disruptively, and I was requesting the protestors not to take the law into their hands.
Suddenly, someone hit me on the left side of my forehead with an iron rod. I blacked out, but my colleagues told me later that the mob continued thrashing me. When I regained consciousness I was already at GT hospital and was later transferred to Bombay hospital. I still have pain all over and my face is swollen."
Tejashree Athawale, Constable, Local Arms 2
Stationed: Near Azad Maidan
"I was with three other female colleagues, when suddenly the mob turned violent and we could see protestors heading towards us. A senior official instructed us to get inside the Riot Control Police (RCP) vehicle nearby, and we locked ourselves in. The demonstrators started hitting the vehicle from all directions.
Before they could do any further damage, some cops succeeded in chasing them away. A superior told us to leave the van, fearing the mob could return to set it on fire. Had that happened, we would have been trapped. But luckily, we managed to escape unhurt. However, minutes later the rioters started pelting stones in our direction. I broke my left ankle, but continued to maintain my position till the pain became unbearable."
Prakash Patil, Constable, Local Arms 3
Stationed: Near Capitol Cinema
"The mob started throwing stones and one hit my hand. I did not feel the pain initially and continued chasing the unruly demonstrators with my lathi.
A little after midnight, I realised my wrist was swollen and I was taken to GT hospital. I was the last casualty brought here. Doctors said they are unsure if I have broken my wrist.
Harmant Mane, Constable, LT Marg police station
Stationed: At Dr DN road, outside CST station
"We were ordered to stand guard near one of the entrances of the railway station. Suddenly, the mob got violent and started burning media vans and attacking police vehicles.
A group of irate youth attacked us from within the railway station. One of them was carrying a wooden mace with nails protruding from it. He struck a blow on my face causing a deep cut on my cheek.
Arun Dattatray Sathe, Constable, SRPF
Stationed: Outside Azad Maidan
"I was right in the middle when the rioting began. We tried to control the situation, but all of a sudden someone struck me on the head with a metal rod.
I was left with a fractured limb and injuries to my torso. The blow to my head was very strong and I started bleeding profusely. I was later taken to the hospital. I do not remember anything apart from this and could not see who attacked me."
Zakir Hamid Sheikh, Constable, Mukhyalaya
Stationed: At Hutatma Smarak in a police van
"I saw the angry mob pelting stones and damaging public property. The rioters even threw rocks at our van and tried to set it on fire. They entered the vehicle and dragged us out on the road and started thrashing us.
They let go of me only when the police lathi-charged the protestors. Someone hit me on my head using a rod. My face was swollen because of the battering. It was a horrifying experience."