Mumbai

Mumbai occupies Gateway against JNU attack

Not backing down: Citizens from all walks of life gather at the protest at Gateway of India on Monday.

Not backing down: Citizens from all walks of life gather at the protest at Gateway of India on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

With chants against government and protest songs, hundreds stay through the night and day at city landmark

What started as a silent vigil at the Gateway of India in Mumbai at midnight on Sunday against the assault on students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, turned into a chain protest on Monday.

Around 1,000 people joined the protest, held across the street from the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, which was still on at the time of going to press on Monday.

On Sunday evening, as pictures and reports of the attack on JNU students started coming in, public sentiment against the incident intensified. Around 10 p.m., the Joint Action Committee — which has been at the forefront of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Mumbai — announced a flash protest at Gateway at midnight.

Activist Umar Khalid addresses protesters near Gateway of India on Sunday night.

Activist Umar Khalid addresses protesters near Gateway of India on Sunday night.   | Photo Credit: Prashant Nakwe

Staying true to the city’s much-lauded spirit, Mumbaikars abandoned their plans and reached Gateway. The initially silent crowd started raising slogans against the government as more joined in. Songs like Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge, Hum Honge Kaamyab and Itni Shakti Humein De Na Daata soon filled the air.

Protesters continued to chant, “Shiksha virodhi yeh sarkar, nahi chalegi ab ki baar (This anti-education government will not be accepted this time),” and, “Zulmi jab jab zulm karega satta ke galiyaaron se, chappa chappa goonj uthega inquilab ke naaron se (Whenever the oppressor commits atrocities from the corridors of power, every nook and cranny will resonate with the cries of the revolution).”

“We are leaving no stone unturned in spreading love and maintaining brotherhood. And these people [behind the attack] are leaving no stone unturned in spreading hatred and lies,” N. Sai Balaji, former JNU student union president, said.

Students making posters during the protest at Gateway of India on Monday.

Students making posters during the protest at Gateway of India on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Archisman Dash

A large part of the 400-strong crowd that had gathered on Sunday, including youngsters and working professionals, stayed all through the night and most of Monday, despite it being the start of the working week. Hashtags like #OccupyGateway and #MumbaiWithJNU were trending through the day.

Several protesters said the JNU attack was orchestrated by the BJP to divert attention from issues like the CAA and the National Register of Citizens. “Now is the time to show up. What is happening in JNU is a smokescreen for the elections in February. It is just that the party is panicking,” said Pooja Sinha Roy, a cultural guide.

The city opened its hearts and pockets to the protesters, responding to social media posts and rushing to the scene with essentials like food, water, clothes and sanitary napkins. One post said the Taj Mahal Palace hotel was not allowing people to use its washrooms. A representative for the hotel refused to comment. Soon, Colaba Social put out a post welcoming any and all protesters to use its facilities.

By Monday evening, hundreds of Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai residents marched from Hutatma Chowk to Gateway, bringing the number of the protesters to 1,000. Also seen were several actors, including Sushant Singh and Kumud Mishra. Mr. Singh has been actively involved in the anti-CAA protests. “I am in touch with friends in Delhi, and everyone is in shock and fear. I’m receiving videos that show a BJP leader openly telling his followers to attack Muslims,” Mr. Singh said.

Protesters march to Gateway of India from Hutatma Chowk on Monday.

Protesters march to Gateway of India from Hutatma Chowk on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Mr Mishra said this was the first time he has come out to protest. He said, “I have always been an informed citizen … But this is the first time I am unable to understand where we as a country are headed. People I have known for 20 years are coming out as bigots of such intensity that I can’t be in the same room with them. My former teachers are sending me WhatsApp messages filled with hate. I am fighting with my own uncles.”

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 7:03:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/mumbai-occupies-gateway-against-jnu-attack/article30498426.ece

Next Story