MUMBAI: At least two people were killed and another 46 injured on Saturday in south Mumbai when a rally to condemn deadly sectarian clashes in India's northeast suddenly turned violent, authorities said.
Three broadcast vans belonging to local television channels were set ablaze and windscreens of some police vehicles and buses broken after they were pelted with bricks and stones, a police official in India's financial capital said.
"Two deaths have been reported and 46 have been injured out of which 36 are policemen," Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters.
The police used tear gas and bamboo sticks to disperse hundreds of people after the demonstration suddenly turned violent at Azad Maidan -- a park near the landmark CST railway station -- where rallies are often held.
The demonstrators, wearing black bands, belonged to several Muslims groups, including Mumbai's Raza Academy, an organisation promoting Islamic culture that had made a call to denounce recent ethnic clashes in India's Assam state.
Last month, fighting erupted between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers over long-running land disputes and immigration issues in the state bordering Bangladesh.
At least 77 people have died in the clashes, Home Minister Shinde told parliament earlier in the week, and some 400,000 have fled their homes and are living in crowded camps in the northeast.
The Mumbai rally "was peaceful and it suddenly turned unruly. It is unclear what sparked the violence", the city police official, asking not to be unnamed, told AFP.
"The situation is now under control," said Mumbai police spokesman Nisar Tamboli, adding that the area had been cordoned off, with security beefed up across the city to prevent violence from spreading.
"An alert has been sounded across the city. Whether the violence was a premeditated act or not will be known after investigations," Mumbai's police chief Arup Patnaik, who visited the spot, told the Press Trust of India.
Meanwhile, Raza Academy has distanced itself from the violence which briefly disrupted local train services.
"While we were protesting, some people got aggressive and started behaving violently," Mohammed Saeed, general secretary of the academy, told PTI.
"We never encourage violence and strongly condemn such acts."
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said he had appealed for peace in the state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is the capital.