File photo of police commissioner Rakesh Maria. (mid-day)
Tackling rumour-mongers played a crucial role in controlling the tension at Bharatmata junction in Lalbaug area on Sunday, said Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria.
On Sunday evening, tension erupted at Bharatmata junction after Traffic police stopped some youths for rash driving. Following arguments and an alleged assault on a cop, local youths joined in and the matter soon escalated.
Within minutes, news spread like wildfire on WhatsApp, with photographs being circulated of injured and dead people who had nothing to do with the incident. This lent a different colour to the clash.
"One picture of a dead boy which was vastly circulated on WhatsApp has nothing to do with this incident. There were several other such irrelevant photographs and messages," said Maria, adding, "We launched a counter-attack to tackle this menace.
I typed six different messages on my phone and began sending them to all my colleagues, the media, and other people on WhatsApp." Police also joined hands with service providers like Idea, Vodafone, Airtel, MTNL, BSNL, and Aircel, and asked them to send messages requesting people to not believe in rumours and assuring them that the city was safe. Maria was returning from a family function in Mulund, and rushed to the spot, staying there till 4 am.
In fact, he forgot he had left his wife in the car at the scene of violence. Police said it was important to listen to the mob and disperse them to control the situation.
Secondly, they also stopped traffic from both ends to avoid addition to the numbers.
Four FIRs registered
Four FIRs against unknown persons have been registered in Bhoiwada, Kalachowkie, Byculla and Worli police stations. A police officer said, "At Kalachowkie, Byculla and Worli, cases against unknown miscreants have been registered for damaging property and rioting.
At Bhoiwada, the FIR is registered against unknown accused under Section 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the IPC, apart from damaging property and rioting." The Crime Branch will also help local police in investigations.