Mumbai

‘Occupy Gateway’ ends as police move protesters to Azad Maidan

Taking count: Mumbai Police personnel note down the personal details of protesters as they leave Azad Maidan after calling off their protest on Tuesday.

Taking count: Mumbai Police personnel note down the personal details of protesters as they leave Azad Maidan after calling off their protest on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

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Organisers call off sit-in following dialogue with police; demonstrators allowed to leave after recording their details; police issue clarification to criticism on social media

The impromptu protest, which began on Sunday night outside the Gateway of India to condemn the violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), ended after 36 hours as the Mumbai Police relocated the protesters to Azad Maidan on Tuesday. The protesters were allowed to leave after the police recorded their details even as allegations of illegal detentions flooded social media.

‘Occupy Gateway’ began as a small gathering of protesters, but the numbers swelled by Monday and over 1,000 Mumbaikars were present at the heritage site by Monday evening. Protesters then stayed back to “reclaim Gateway” on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, senior police officers decided to relocate the protesters to Azad Maidan as they had occupied the landmark without permission for over 24 hours. Traffic management at the tourist spot had become challenging for the police, especially during peak hours, as restrictions had been placed on a few roads around the heritage site.

Repeated appeals

The police then used the public address system to request the protesters to move to Azad Maidan. Though half of the protesters left the venue, around 125 stayed put. When they refused to budge despite repeated appeals, the police started herding them into police vans to Azad Maidan. Several protesters had to be taken by force while they shouted slogans.

Videos of the police dragging adamant protesters to the vans started doing the rounds on social media as the city woke up. The police came under heavy criticism and people were quick to draw comparisons with the police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The Mumbai Police then issued clarifications on their Twitter handle.

Sangramsinh Nishandar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone I), said, “We appealed to the organisers several times, but they said many groups were protesting and not listening to them. We had to relocate them to Azad Maidan as it also had better toilet facilities and access to drinking water.”

After the protesters were moved to Azad Maidan, the police told them that attempts to protest outside the ground would be considered unlawful assembly and action would be taken. Social media users, in the meantime, put out posts likening Azad Maidan to a ‘detention camp’, adding fuel to the fire.

Soon activists such as Firoze Mithiborwala and Lara Jesani, who have been at the forefront of the protests, reached Azad Maidan and facilitated a dialogue between the police and the protesters. The organisers then called off the protest.

Kapil Agarwal, a student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said, “This protest was a way of showing solidarity with JNU. We took the call to occupy Gateway so that more people could come forward and raise their concerns regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens, and National Population Register, and the police brutality in other States. We have put our point across and are calling off the protest.”

(With inputs from Gautam S. Mengle)

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 11:56:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/occupy-gateway-ends-as-police-move-protesters-to-azad-maidan/article30507827.ece

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