Mumbai traffic cop's poem on Azad Maidan riots sparks controversy

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Mumbai:  A poem written by a traffic cop in Mumbai over the riots at Azad Maidan in the city last year has sparked a major furore. Activists have alleged Inspector Sujata Patil's poem of inciting communal hatred, forcing the Mumbai Police to tender an apology.

Titled 'Azad Maidan', Ms Patil's poem - published in November last in Samwad, the in-house magazine of the Mumbai Police - says the hands of the rioters who desecrated the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial should have been "chopped off".  The poem goes on to add that the police should have opened fire at the rampaging mob.

The protests, held on August 11, 2012 to condemn alleged atrocities on the minority community in Assam and Myanmar, spiralled into riots at the Azad Maidan ground. The attackers went berserk, attacking police personnel, molesting policewomen and assaulting mediapersons who were covering the procession and damaging their vehicles.

The controversial contents of the poem triggered a complaint by activist Ameen Mustafa Idrisi. In the complaint filed with the Maharashtra Home Department, Police Commissioner's office and Azad Maidan police station, Mr Idrisi, who runs an NGO, has demanded that an FIR be lodged against Ms Patil for stoking communal passions in her poem.

"We want a case of spreading communal hatred registered; if they fail to do so, we will file a PIL," he said.

A visibly embarrassed Mumbai Police said that it will issue an unconditional apology in the next edition of its magazine, adding that the action on the part of the traffic cop was "inadvertent".

"Sujata Patil has already apologised in writing. She has said she did not intend to hurt anybody's religious sentiments or any religion. The written unconditional apology would be published in the next edition of Samwad," Hemant Nagarale, Joint Police Commissioner (Administration), said.

Interestingly, it is Mr Nagrale who is the editor of the in-house journal that carried Ms Patil's poem that activists allege is laced with communal overtones.

Despite the apology, the incident has clearly dented the image of the Mumbai Police which has, in the past, been questioned about its secular credentials.


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