A peaceful hunger strike in protest against the August 28 twin buildings collapse in the Madhavnagar society in Atladara turned violent on Friday after police intervened and stopped the people from carrying on with what the authorities called an authorised protest.
The Vadodara city police arrested 23 people who were part of a large group of activists protesting in two different locations Karelibaug and Gandhinagar gruh in the city and booked them for unlawful assembly. Of them,17,who were from Gandhinagar gruh,have been produced in court. They refused to accept bail and courted arrest at the Central Jail.
Earlier,the police had reportedly given permission for the protests to be held,but later went back on their own words. Activists called it an attempt by the government to scuttle the truth behind the building collapse.
Around 10am on Thursday,supporters of social activist Anna Hazare and volunteers of the Vadodara chapter of India Against Corruption began their hunger strike near the VUDA office,demanding the resignation and arrest of VUDA Chairman N V Patel,who has openly refused to take onus for the building collapse. But within two hours of their starting the protest,police rounded up the protesters and arrested them.
Around the same time,another team of police cracked down on activists from the Rescue Vadodara group,who were on a hunger strike at Gandhinagar gruh in the city. To their surprise,protesters in both the locations were told that their protest had not been granted police permission.
Atul Gamechi of IAC,who was picked up with his group of activists from VUDA office,said,The police action was totally unwarranted. We had sought permission from the Police Bhavan for this protest. We were just peacefully showing our displeasure towards the administrations inaction. We are not anti-social elements,but the way we were treated is just deplorable. We will not seek bail. We have done nothing wrong. If they want to put us behind bars,well remain there until Patel is arrested. Gamechi said.
He was accompanied by IAC activists Santosh Patil,Harshad Bhuta,Milind Pagedar,Sanjay Dongerdive and Prakash Dhakad,who were also taken in police custody from Karelibaug and produced in court.
Police sources say that both groups had sought police permissions for the agitation,but had not been granted the same.
We have received no communication from our department about any such permission being granted. We,therefore,initiated action against the protesters and took them into custody for unlawful assembly, an officer from Karelibaug said,adding that the probe in the VUDA case is on and that it is only a matter of time when the guilty are arrested. People have to maintain peace until that time.
The Vadodara Congress party,which has been holding its own agitations since the time of the building collapse,condemned the police action against protesters.
City president Narendra Ravat said,The police are playing a double role and are in the hands of the BJP. It is taking away the right of the people to protest. They have destroyed democracy and are threatening the people with muscle power. Police allowed Anna Hazares supporters to protest for 18 days when the BJP-backed NGOs were supporting them. Today,they are denying them permission to protest because it is against the ruling party.