About a dozen video clips available with The Indian Express, each running into a few minutes, show the police breaking open a stall, pulling down a pandal meant for hawkers, smashing water drums and pounding two-wheelers parked along the street on January 6.
Reached for his comment, Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal said the police had received the same video footage and had initiated action. “Police constable Sumit Namdeo Thakur and police constable Pramod Shivaji Ishi, both posted at Dhule city police station, have been placed under suspension from January 18,” he said.
One two-minute clip shows a group of policemen breaking open a small stall in the Machhi Bazaar area. Accompanied by people in civilian clothes, some policemen are seen taking out goods from the stall. A policeman also stuffs his khaki trousers with some of the looted items.
The clip also shows policemen trying to pull down a pandal under which hawkers do business. They are, however, not successful in bringing it down.
In another clip, policemen are seen pounding motorcycles and bicycles parked outside houses in Machhi Bazaar. They are also seen overturning and destroying water drums that residents keep, given erratic water supply in the region.
“The police action was deliberate. They brazenly looted and tried to destroy shops. What is surprising is that a cameraman of a local channel was also part of the police mob which broke open the shop,” alleged a shop-owner whose shop was destroyed.
The Indian Express could not verify if the policemen were accompanied by civilians or their own men in plain clothes.
Dayal said action would also be taken against those who are in charge of the police teams for failure to control the men. “In the case of the new clip (the stall being ransacked), criminal action will be applied,” he said.
Ahmed Javed, additional DGP (law & order), has submitted a report to the government. The report includes the failings of the police and the remedial measures to be taken. The state has also ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.
“We have requested people with any video clips of the rioting or the police action that can throw any light on the incident to come forward and share it with us,” Javed said.
Violence broke out in Dhule on January 6 after a small tiff over a payment of a hotel bill. It turned into a major riot and six people, all of them Muslims, were killed when the police opened fire on the mob. The police claimed firing was necessary since their men were being selectively targeted.
But some local residents claim the police targeted and assaulted Muslim youth during the riot which lasted over five hours.
— With inputs from Sagnik Chowdhury