Raza Academy, Muslim groups apologize for violence

Mumbai, Aug 12 (IANS) Mumbai's liberal Raza Academy Sunday offered unconditional apology to the the media and Mumbaikars for the widespread violence Saturday and sought forgiveness.

"The people who indulged in violence cannot be Muslims. No Muslim would dare to do anything like this during a Ramzan fast. Some mischief mongers have taken advantage of the situation," Raza Academy president Mohammed Saeed Noori told IANS.

He said Raza Academy and others - All India Sunni Jamaitul Ulema, All India Sunni Ayema-e-Masajid, Jamaat-E- Razae Mustafa and another 20 Sunni Muslim groups - felt "deeply ashamed" over Saturday's violence after a protest march against attacks on Muslims in Assam and Myanmar.

On behalf of everyone, he sought "forgiveness" of the police and the media which have always supported different causes in the past.

Founded in 1978 and generally regarded as a secular outfit, the Raza Academy's reputation suffered a serious setback after Saturday's violence left two people dead and another 100, including 45 policemen, injured.

Ahmed Raza, one of the organisers, took pains to explain that they had never anticipated such a large turnout for the procession. They had thought around 2,000 would participate.

"We have ordered only 1,500 chairs for the public meeting at Azad Maidan in the afternoon but the huge turnout from all over Mumbai shocked us," Raza told IANS.

Awami Vikas Party chief Shamsher Pathan, which had supported the procession, said the violence was "highly deplorable but nipped in the bud".

"I helped police to prevent the crowds from rushing towards CST and diverted them towards New Marine Lines, from the rear side of Azad Maidan," Pathan, a former assistant commissioner of Mumbai police, told IANS.

"I also appealed on the mike to the groups which were outside the Azad Maidan not to attack the media and police. Simultaneously, with police help, we diverted the 20,000 people inside the Azad Maidan precincts to leave the venue from the backside, towards New Marine Lines.

"If they had gone out of the front side, with angry police and media in confrontation with the rioters, it could have been another Jallianwala Bagh," Pathan told IANS.

Meanwhile, prominent peace activists including retired Admiral L. Ramdas and film-maker Mahesh Bhatt Sunday condemned Saturday's attack on the media as "mindless and shameless action by misguided individuals".

"Using violence in a protest against violence is an insult to the suffering victims in whose support the protest was purportedly called," a statement said.

They urged the government and police to take exemplary action against the guilty. The other signatories to the statement included Jatin Desai, Lalita Ramdas, Mazher Hussain, Ram Punyani and Kamla Bhasin.