In an unprecedented “combing operation” launched by Thane police in the wee hours of March 13, more than 80 Muslim males, including several minors, were detained at the Mumbra police station for over four hours, apparently to nab chain-snatchers.
But those who were detained, all residents of Rashid Compound in the Kausa area of Mumbra, alleged it was done to instigate them and stoke communal feelings. Mumbra is 30 km from Mumbai and 80 per cent of its 9 lakh people are Muslim.
“Police kept abusing us and screamed aatankwadion ko bahar nikalo (terrorists, come out). We stood there dumbfounded, unable to comprehend anything,” said Shamshad Nasir Pawaskar, one of those detained.
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Angry residents have filed a complaint, based on which Thane Police Commissioner Vijay Kamble has ordered an inquiry. “The residents have complained of police excesses and highhandedness. But it is too premature to comment,” Kamble told The Indian Express.
Sameena Khan, who lives in Akbar Apartments from where 45 people were detained, said, “I was fast asleep. My husband, who is recuperating from typhoid, was discharged from hospital the same night. The police came screaming at our doors, dragged my husband out, shoved him inside the van and drove away. They did not even let him change his clothes.”
She claimed policemen were waving batons at those who resisted and used bolt-cutters to break into a few houses.
“If they were looking for just two men, why did they need seven vans,” asked Gulam Abbas Irani, 25, an IT consultant, who feels he was detained because of his last name.
“Many of us have lived here for over 20 years. But this incident was one of its kind,” said Farida Shaikh, who was alone with her three children when the police came.
“I kept telling them I am alone and that my husband is in Saudi Arabia. They did not budge. Two women constables stayed outside and men entered the house. I was in my night dress and it was humiliating to have men walk inside the house and search,” she said.
Police claimed they were looking for “two men from Balochistan” who apparently stayed in Mount View building within Rashid compound. “Most of them have criminal cases. They engage in theft and chain-snatching. Two men have been in hiding and are notorious,” said a police officer.