The Maratha Kranti Morcha has yet to get a formal nod from the Mumbai police for its protest slated for Wednesday, but the city police have already chalked out a detailed plan to tackle any eventuality. This includes use of drones, CCTV network, traffic diversions, technical surveillance and watchers to ensure the protest doesn’t lead to any law and order problem that may rock the proceedings of the ongoing Assembly session.
As for the permission for the rally, Mumbai police PRO Rashmi Karandikar said, “We received their application. It’s in process at the zonal level.” With around 1.50 lakh people expected, the police have apprised schools and colleges in South Mumbai of the protest. This was done for the education institutes to take a call on whether they want to declare Wednesday as a non-working day.
“We have intimated the organisations about the protest. It will be solely their call to declare Wednesday a holiday as we don’t want to be seen as issuing an advisory to institutes to shut down owing to a protest called by the Marathas,” said a senior Home department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “While the rally is expected to culminate at Bombay Gymkhana by 3 pm, South-bound traffic in the evening rush hours would be crippled. Keeping this in mind, we have informed the schools about the protest,” added the official.
While maximum participation is anticipated from Ahmednagar district, thinner numbers are expected from the Vidarbha region. “The input suggests that around 1.50 to 2 lakh people are expected to join the protest. Other than Ahmednagar, most of the protesters are expected from Mumbai’s satellite cities of Navi Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Nashik,” said another senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Security at railway stations and MSRTC nodal stops has been stepped up. “We have asked the Railway police to keep a vigil on trains from Ahmednagar, Nashik, Kolhapur, Raigad, Satara as the maximum crowds are expected from these areas. A similar instruction has been given to the state transport body,” added the official. Railways have been asked to carry out announcements directing the protesters on both the Central and the Harbour lines on where to alight. This is to ensure that the crowd doesn’t accumulate at Byculla station on the Central Railway Local Line and Reay Road on the Harbour Line.
“This has been done to manage the crowd. If over 30,000 people gather outside the two stations which is close to the starting point, it might lead to a law and order problem. We have therefore asked the Railway to carry out timely announcements on where the protesters could alight – Dadar, Currey Road stations on the Central line and Cotton Green, Sewree, Wadala stations on the Harbour line. From there they could either take a shuttle or walk to the starting point. This will ensure that the crowd is constantly on the move,” added the official.
Even though the protest is slated to culminate in South Mumbai, the police anticipate a spillover that might put the traffic in central suburbs off gear during the evening rush hour. “The starting point of the rally is Byculla and it is expected to culminate six kilometres away at Bombay Gymkhana. The spillover of the crowd is likely to be pushed back. It would cripple evening traffic in various central suburban pockets like Sion and Chembur,” explained the official.
The police have created certain diversions and will stop vehicular movement in certain areas. For instance, both the Byculla bridge and the JJ flyover will be closed to vehicular traffic. “While the protesters will be asked to walk from the South-bound road of JJ flyover, the north-bound part will be free and one lane might be opened to accommodate the protesters. However, the other lane will be kept free to move police vehicles or ambulances if there is any emergency situation or a law and order breakdown,” added the official.
Police are keeping a close tab on social media platforms including application-based messenger groups created by the protesters to ensure they don’t adopt any violent means. “The social media platforms of various groups and the local leaders are being closely monitored to ensure that they do not egg the protesters to be violent,” added the official. “Drones and footage beamed through CCTV network will be monitored to keep an eye on any unruly elements,” added the official.