THE MUMBAI Police on Wednesday came under severe criticism for its handling of the bandh called by Dalit groups. Throughout the day, the city’s traffic was thrown off gear by several ‘rasta-roko’ and ‘rail-roko’ demonstrations staged by protesters.
Many took to social media criticising the government and the police. While many vented their anger at the alleged “failure of policing and government machinery”, others rued alleged inaction against protesters who, they say, threw the city out of gear.
Outside Tilak Nagar police station, a man whose vehicle was damaged by the agitators said that it looked like the protesters had a free run. “Groups of agitators were accompanied by policemen in such a way that it seemed they were giving them protection rather than safeguarding us,” said the man, who did not wish to be named.
“The police were only seen ‘requesting’ and ‘negotiating’ with the protesters,” said another resident.When The Indian Express spoke to some officers on the ground, they said that since it was a political agitation, they were treading cautiously. “While people faced inconvenience, our priority was to ensure that the protesters did not turn violent. Hence, on most occasions, we accepted their demands and allowed them to protest on the main thoroughfares, and even at railway stations, which had a direct impact on the general public,” said a police officer.
Explaining the police’s stand, a senior official said that while there was specific intelligence that Mumbai may face a possible fallout of the riots that took place in Pune, the police couldn’t have made preventive arrests as that would have caused a serious breakdown of law and order.
“Many from Mumbai had participated in the bicentenary celebration of the battle of Bhima Koregaon. They had also witnessed the riots that ensued in Pune. These local residents were further pushed by a series of hate-mongering WhatsApp posts that called for their support. In such a scenario, if we had arrested the local leaders or gone on a rampage with their preventive arrests, it would have only aggravated the situation and caused a complete law and order breakdown,” said the official. “The choice we made was to allow them to protest in their way and let normalcy return to the city once the protest was called off,” the official added.
Another official said policemen were asked to react according to the situation. “Since this was a political protest, policemen were asked to ensure that they resort to the use of force in places where the situation goes completely out of control,” the official said.