An anti-Ambedkar page on Facebook triggered protests in the western suburbs of Bandra and Khar in the early hours of Tuesday. The Khar police arrested five protesters and booked several others for rioting after they vandalised a few vehicles and threw stones.
“No local leader is involved, but we are finding out who gathered so many people for the protest. We called in additional force and restrained the protesters by 3.30 am,” said Amitabh Gupta, Additional Commissioner of Police (West).
Following nearly three hours of protests, the Mumbai Police assured the followers of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar that action would be taken against unidentified people who had formed an online community, ‘I Hate Ambedkar’, on the social networking site.
By Tuesday evening, the police acquired an order from a Bandra magistrate’s court directing that a defaced photograph of Ambedkar be deleted from the webpage and the community be blocked.
“We have also registered a case against an unknown person for hurting religious sentiments under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code. We will now take the help of cyber crime officers and Facebook to trace the unknown person and arrest him,” said an officer from Khar police station.
Police said around 400 people gathered outside the Khar police station at 12.30 am, demanding that the defaced photo of Ambedkar be deleted from Facebook. When the police sought time, the mob got agitated, said an officer.
A motorist said he was on his way to South Mumbai when he was approached by a protester who asked him to take a U-turn if he wanted to save his car. “After dropping a colleague in Juhu, I was going towards Bandra Linking Road when a man aged about 25 stopped me and asked me to take a different route or my car would be broken,” said Ronak Kotecha, senior producer for a television channel.
“When we moved ahead, we saw the entire road barricaded, people burning tyres and glass pieces scattered on the road,” said Kotecha who finally reached South Mumbai via the Western Expressway.
Former MP and Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale threatened to launch a statewide agitation to protest against the insult to Ambedkar. “People are expressing their anger at various places spontaneously. Our demand is that the people responsible for uploading the image on Facebook be punished,” he said.