On a day when the Supreme Court observed that the anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi cannot block roads and cause inconvenience to others, several representatives from the Mumbai Bagh protest met Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi on Monday to assure him that they will cooperate with the road construction work on Morland Road, where an indefinite protest has been on since January 26.
Last week, police filed an FIR against 300 unknown people for allegedly obstructing road work, carried out by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), due to the protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).
Representatives from the protest said they will let civic workers continue with construction of sidewalk, while they continue their protest on the remaining stretch of the road. Some even volunteered to aid the BMC and do “shramdaan”.
“The municipal commissioner assured that he will talk to the Mumbai Police about dropping the charges,” said MLA Rais Shaikh, who was part of the delegation that met Pardeshi.
The Nagpada protest, popularly called Mumbai Bagh, entered its 16th day on Monday with hundreds of women spending day and night on the red carpet spread on the concretised road. In the last week, however, the Mumbai Police has made several attempts to discourage the protesters. On February 7, an FIR was registered after the BMC complained that it was unable to carry out road construction work ever since the protest started.
“The road construction was stopped weeks ago. Police are using the BMC as an excuse to stop the protest. They are serving notices under Section 149 to passersby too, who are not even part of the protest,” said Rabia Ansari, a protester.
On Monday, a minor scuffle broke out between protesters and police, when the latter denied permission to set up a thermocol replica of the Gateway of India at the protest site.
“The college students who made the structure kept it in our compound. Police entered our compound without permission and asked our children to show their Aadhaar cards,” said Umair Athaniya, adding that his niece Aisha (11) and nephew Umar (17) were playing when the police entered. “When police started giving them notices, they called us. The police gave us a notice under Section 149. We refused to accept it. At that point, we were not even part of the protest,” said Ruhi Athaniya, adding that the police later pasted the notice on their door.
Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code makes unlawful assembly a punishable offence.
Activist Guddi S L, who was also served a notice under Section 149, said, “Police have served this notice to minors, to passersby who are not even part of the protest. They are trying out every way possible to discourage us.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone III) Avinash Kumar, however, said police had entered the bungalow on Monday as “the residents were providing logistical support to protesters”.
“This is an illegal protest, they have no permission. They are obstructing movement on the road. Police have every right to ask them for identification proof,” Kumar said.
While until last week, police were asking protesters to write their name and sign on a register, on Monday it allowed protesters to assemble on Morland Road without asking for identification.
Every day, starting 4 pm, women start gathering on Morland Road and stay there late into the night, shouting slogans or singing songs. By night, some stay back to sleep at the protest site. “At any given time, there are always women sitting here,” said Mohd Arif, a local resident, who has decided to volunteer for the women.
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