Mob temporarily disrupts yoga day event in Maldives; 6 arrested

Male, Jun 21 (PTI) A mob on Tuesday stormed and temporarily disrupted an event related to the International Day of Yoga at the national football stadium here in the Maldivian capital which was attended by ambassadors, diplomats and members of the general public, attacking some of them and destroying property.

In a statement, police said that they were treating the incident as a serious issue, and it was under investigation by the Serious and Organised Crime Department. So far, six persons have been taken into custody.

Maldives Police Service has launched a high priority investigation into the violent disruption of the event held at the National Stadium.

“Perpetrators had sought to incite fear by forcefully entering, destroying property and attempting to assault participants of the event,” said the statement.

The event – organised by Indian High Commission in Maldives in collaboration with Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment of Maldives and UN in the Maldives – was attended by diplomats, state dignitaries and members of the public.

After the brief disruption, the event resumed and the session got completed successfully.

In a separate statement, the Government of Maldives strongly condemned the “violent acts perpetrated by a group of individuals” targeting the participants, including members of the diplomatic community who were attending the celebrations held to mark the 8th United Nations International Day of Yoga.

“Such malicious acts of violence aimed at disrupting public safety and undermining security of individuals and the diplomatic corps will not be tolerated. Authorities have launched a special investigation into today’s incident and the Government will ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice,” it said.

Police said that preliminary investigative findings showed some of the items used by rioters came from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) office.

“As of now, the evidence indicates that the demonstrators were using items taken from the office of the PPM,” police said.

Police said they would also look into what caused the incident, and conduct an internal review of the police response to the incident.

Those with evidence or information pertaining to the incident have been asked to submit it to the web portal set up for case tips.

Police provided assurance they will ensure the anonymity and safety of all individuals who submit information via the portal.

Meanwhile, PPM issued a statement condemning the incident, the Sun newspaper reported.

Some allege the flags used by the rioters were the same ones used in the Nabiyyaage Dhifaaugai rally recently held by PPM.

PPM’s Secretary-General Mohamed Tholal told Sun said the flags used by rioters were similar to the ones used by his party in its rally, but that it yet remained unclear whether it was the same flags.

“It’s possible those were our flags. I am unable to say for sure yet whether those were our flags, he said.

Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof alleged stopping the event by portraying yoga as an anti-Islamic pursuit was a political act. He said that the incident involved PPM and Jamiyyath Salaf, the paper reported.

Salaf has also issued a statement denying involvement in the incident.

The International Yoga Day is celebrated on June 21 every year around the world. This day has been celebrated in the Maldives, since 2015.