Mumbai

Aarey: ‘They are nature lovers, not criminals’

Loss of greenery: A bird’s-eye view of the tree-cutting site in Aarey colony on Sunday.

Loss of greenery: A bird’s-eye view of the tree-cutting site in Aarey colony on Sunday.  

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Kin of 29 protesters arrested at Aarey colony allege police high-handedness, seek their immediate release

Relatives and friends of the 29 people, who were arrested at Aarey colony, on Sunday demanded their immediate release. Addressing a press conference, they said being nature lovers, they had simply gone to protest cutting of trees, but ended up being pushed, dragged, and eventually taken into police custody. After two nights in jail, all of them got conditional bail on Sunday.

The aggrieved kin described that fateful Friday night. Manisha Dhinde, a resident of Jivacha Pada in Aarey colony, said when they went to the site, the police told them that the cutting of trees had been stopped. “But when we demanded to see, they did not let us in. We then broke barricades and found hundreds of trees had been felled. I was pushed around while my friend Mayuri was dragged by police personnel. We were not told which police station we were being taken to. Those like me who had exams were let off. But the next day, when I was going for my exam, I was arrested. My principal had to convince the police that I was not lying.”

Suvarna Salve, another protester, said, “After being cornered, one policewoman pressed her lathi against my chest, while a policeman hit me on the head with his lathi. My shirt was being pulled in multiple directions. Are we criminals?”

Riddhi Anbhavane, whose brother Siddharth has been arrested, said, “My brother informed us about his arrest in the morning. Even when we went to Borivali court, we barely saw him for a few seconds. We don’t know how he was in prison for two nights.”

Helen Lopez, whose son Nelson is among the arrested, said, “In the morning, he just called and said he was still at the Aarey protest site. I knew something was wrong but did not know he had been arrested. Why is he being treated like a criminal? What message are we giving to the next generations? All he was doing was taking an initiative. This government wants to deter anyone from ever opposing anything.”

Vidya Poddar, whose son Divyang is among those in jail, said, “I have not had a second with him; I don’t know what state he is in. Why are people being punished for protesting cutting of trees, a constitutional right?”

Meanwhile, Mumbai Metro 3 tweeted, “Promises kept Commitments delivered. #MMRC has planted arnd 24,000 trees across Mumbai including #AareyMilkColony and degraded areas of #SGNP. Sturdy native species like Behada,Kadamb, Karanj etc 6-12 inch girth & 12-15 ft height planted. 2 years efforts and results show up.”

MMRCL MD Ashwini Bhide tweeted, “Sometimes to construct something new destruction becomes inevitable but it also paves the way for new life and new creation.”

The Hindu reported on October 4 that the Bombay High Court had refused to stay the cutting of over 2,000 trees inside Aarey colony to make way for a Metro car shed. On the same night, the MMRCL went ahead with felling of trees, which triggered protests. The police arrested 29 people, and on Saturday, they were remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 3:51:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/they-are-nature-lovers-not-criminals/article29613012.ece

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