Vehicular movement was crippled at several places in Chennai and its outskirts on Friday night after members of Islamic outfits staged sporadic protests condemning police for lathicharging a gathering of anti-CAA protesters in Lalagunda in Old Washermanpet. The escalating protests prompted Commissioner of Police A.K. Viswanathan to hold talks with members of the Islamic groups and eventually release nearly 150 protesters.
It all began in the afternoon with close to 1,000 women sitting on a peaceful protest in Lalagunda demanding the withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Some protesters claimed that the police asked them to disperse and soon after this 200 men from the locality joined the agitation. “We did not even come to the main road and were protesting on the streets and in front of homes,” a protester claimed.
The situation turned tense around 5.30 p.m. when police swamped the area in hundreds. “They spoke to the protesters and asked them to disperse. As we did not heed to their suggestion, the police used force to chase us away,” he alleged.
Residents claimed the protesters sustained injuries in the melee. “Close to 50 of us were pushed into a bus and detained in a marriage hall,” said a member of Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI).
Around 8 p.m., the protesters swelled in numbers and began to agitate demanding the release of those who were detained. As they began filling up the narrow streets of the area, refused to budge, the police began removing them forcibly.
The confrontation led to tension, chaos and scuffle. Some policemen were seen beating up and kicking the protesters as they were taken to the police vehicle. There was stone throwing, which was quickly brought under control, said the police.
B. Vijayakumari, Joint Commissioner of Police, West, sustained injuries in the melee. She was rushed to a hospital for treatment.
After a while, the police held back and the organisers conducted talks with senior police officers.
Later in the night, Islamic leaders told the protesters that the police had given assurance that all those arrested would be released and asked the crowd to disperse.
Mr. Viswanathan also conducted talks with representatives of Muslim political outfits to address the issue amicably. He later went to the spot to speak to the protesters.
Meanwhile, the organisers said an elderly man died in his house due to “shock”. Police, however, said the old man was under treatment for a few years and he had nothing to do with the protest.
As news about the man’s death, arrest of the anti-CAA protesters and videos of police assault spread on social media, sporadic protests started erupting in Chennai and elsewhere. Members of Muslim organisations gathered in places like Alandur, Anna Salai, Pudupet, Mannady and other parts of the city to condemn the police attack. Policemen were deployed in large numbers to control the situation.
Manidhaneya Makkal Katchi president M H Jawahirullah, in a statement, condemned “police brutality” during the anti-CAA protest. He said during an earlier protest, the city police had assured to provide them an alternative place to stage the anti-CAA demonstration, but the police did not keep their word. He demanded the release of those arrested during the protest.