Updated: January 30, 2020 1:43:11 am
The annual LGBT Pride Parade scheduled for February 1 at August Kranti Maidan was cancelled Tuesday after an anonymous message was circulated over the weekend linking it to a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
As every year, the Humsafar Trust had last week obtained permission from the Gamdevi police station and the Mumbai Traffic Police for a crowd of 10,000-15,000 people to march from the historic August Kranti Maidan to Nana Chowk, Kennedy Bridge, Opera House and through Girgaum before returning to the Maidan.
Mumbai has been hosting the Queer Azadi March every year since 2008.
However, Sunday the Trust noticed a message being circulated on WhatsApp, which had the following words written on a rainbow flag — “Join the LGBTQIA community in upholding the values of the Constitution of India. Show up in big numbers to join the queer contingent that is against the NRC, CAA. 1st Feb 3 pm August Kranti Maidan Queer Azaadi March.”
After the post came to the attention of the police, it summoned the Trust on Monday for an explanation. Tinesh Chopade, manager (advocacy) at Humsafar Trust, claimed, however, that the march is in no way linked to the nationwide protests against the central government’s citizenship legislation.
“We were called to the police station on Tuesday and told that the march cannot go ahead as we had not applied for permission to hold a protest,” he said.
A letter issued to the Trust by Rajendra Mohite, senior inspector, Gamdevi police station, states that permission for the march was denied after the police received information that slogans would be raised and banners displayed against the CAA and NRC.
“A law and order situation may develop if the march goes ahead in such a situation,” reads the letter.
Further, the police said, disobeying the order would result in offences being registered against the organisers for forming an assembly of five or more persons, which is prohibited between January 23 and February 6.
Damage to public property during such a march would also result in offences being registered against the organisers under the Maharashtra Police Act, states the letter.
Mohite also wrote in his letter that the Trust would be liable for legal action if any members of the march disobeyed the police’s order and committed any unlawful and illegal acts.
Following the police’s order, Queer Azaadi Mumbai, which organises the march, convened a meeting on Wednesday to finalise shifting the event to Azad Maidan. “The police has offered us Azad Maidan as a venue. But that would make this a protest rather than a march. The entire point is to lead a march to talk about human rights. People come from all over India and the world to participate in the March. It is disappointing for us and everyone who had planned to attend. They are bound to raise angry slogans during the protest. We have asked for 24 hours to come a decision on the venue,” said Chopade.
However, Mumbai Police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Pranaya Ashok said the police had denied permission for the march. “We conveyed our concerns to the organisers regarding the protest and they have themselves decided to call off the march and move to Azad Maidan instead,” he said.
Chopade added that the Trust is unaware of how and where the call for protest originated from and is attempting to find out who circulated the message.
“We do not know whether the CAA and NRC protest is part of their agenda or anyone else’s, but we have not given permission for any such protest to be held anywhere apart from Azad Maidan,” said Rajiv Jain, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone II.
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