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80 Muslims detained in Mumbra; activists complain of police high-handedness

The Thane Police are inquiring into a complaint by activists that 80 Muslim men were rounded up by cops from Mumbra, on Wednesday night and were “illegally” detained for three to four hours.
A lawyer and activist Shehzad Poonawala has registered a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Minorities alleging that cops, “ostensibly on the lookout for certain persons belonging to Baloch Iranian descent with a criminal background, illegally and unjustly rounded up Muslim men of Rashid Compound…at around midnight and herded them into police vans which took them to the local police station despite the fact that these men bore no resemblance whatsoever to the persons of interest.”
Mr. Poonawala alleged that among those detained were “working professionals, old people, some as old as 75 years, workers, students going to high schools, graduate students.”
He said at about midnight, a dozen police vans arrived and about 200 policemen broke doors to search houses and took the men to the Mumbra police station. “The action was conducted under ACP Amit Kale of Thane district,” Mr. Poonawala has alleged in his petition.
“The only rationale for their detention,” Mr. Poonawala alleged, “seems to be the fact that they were Muslims.”
A 44-year-old poet Obaid Azam Azmi told that he was returning home from a poetry session that night when cops detained him “because of the way I look.”
Activists have accused the cops of “highhandedness” with the people detained and have sought punishment for them. Mr. Poonawala said Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which deal with equality for all and protection of life and personal liberty, were violated by the policemen.
The 26-year-old activist has attached with his complaint to the human rights panel, several pictures of the alleged late night operation.
The Thane police have said that a combing operation was being carried out as they were looking for anti-social elements ahead of elections.
The police described it as a “routine check” and said that everyone was let off.
Top police officers have promised strict action if anyone is found guilty.

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