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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dalit agitation: CCTVs helped Mumbai police keep an eye on crowds

In the five regions across the city, senior officers had been assigned with the task of checking footage from the cameras and alerting the personnel on the ground.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Updated: January 6, 2018 3:32:14 am
Dalit agitation: CCTVs helped police keep an eye on crowds Protesters blocked roads, vandalised vehicles and forced shops to shut on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Express photo)

THE MUMBAI Police got major help from the 5,000 CCTV cameras installed across the city a year ago while trying to manage protesters who went on a rampage Tuesday and Wednesday after the Bhima Koregaon incident in Pune. Although the police had resorted to its use during rallies, it was the first major incident when the CCTV network was used to tackle a law and order situation. In the five regions across the city, senior officers had been assigned with the task of checking footage from the cameras and alerting the personnel on the ground.

Areas like the eastern suburbs of the city that bore the brunt of the protests were regularly alerted about people gathering in Vikhroli and Chembur, senior officers said. The CCTV camera network went fully operational in October 2016 after it was inaugurated by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

A senior officer said: “Through the camera network, we could keep an eye on crowd movement. If the crowd dispersed from one spot and gathered at another, the staff members at the spot were alerted about it. In some cases, officers on the ground were given prior intimation of people headed to their direction.” The officer added: “The information included the strength and if they had been vandalising property. It played an important part in keeping our men on the ground informed.”

Citing an example, the officer said when a crowd started forming in Anand Nagar at Ghatla village in Chembur, a call went out to the officers standing nearby. They rushed to the spot where the crowd had started damaging parked vehicles.

“There were around 20 vehicles, including auto rickshaws, that were being damaged by the crowd. As a result, owners of these vehicles and the local people gathered at the spot and were angry with the demonstrators. Our officers, after being informed about it, reached the spot and managed to keep them away from each other. On both sides, there were a few hundred people and had the police team not reached on time, things would have spiraled out of hand,” the officer said.

A total of 24 arrests were made and 16 minors were detained from Ghatla village itself. An officer said that the eastern suburbs were most impacted with a total of 57 cases being registered from Kurla to Mulund in relation to demonstrations held on Tuesday and Wednesday. These include 22 cases of rioting registered against demonstrators.

Apart from the Chembur incident, the officer said, from Gulati petrol pump to Vikhroli station (west), there was vandalism. “Every 200 metres, there was a group of demonstrators on the road vandalising vehicles. Our officers were informed about it and they reached the spot and detained protesters. We registered six FIRs,” he added.

Mumbai Police spokesperson, DCP Sachin Patil, said the police have so far arrested over 100 people and the number was likely to go up in the next few days.

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