As Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for a bunch of infrastructure projects in Mumbai just months before the civic polls, Opposition leaders alleged the BJP-led government in the state was stifling them by detaining several of their leaders or keeping them under house arrest.
Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam was placed under house arrest on Saturday, after the police learnt of his plans to protest against demonetisation during the PM’s rally at the MMRDA grounds in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). Later in the day, Nirupam violated the arrest and stepped out of his house, leading the Versova police to detain him.
The police had detained Damodar Tandel, a leader from the fishing community, on Friday night as he attempted to stage protests against the Shivaji memorial project.
Confirming the preventive detention, Dattatray Bhargude, assistant commissioner of police said, “Nirupam was brought to the Versova police station after he stepped out to protest.” Police sources said Nirupam was taken to the Versova police station around 3.30pm with other party workers, under Section 68 of Maharashtra Police Act. He was let go two hours later.
Nirupam, however, turned the police station into a small stage when he started addressing his supporters in a fiery speech targeting the Prime Minister. “The money earned by us is in our bank. Will we be able to take it out at will when the deadline ends? Give us that explanation before leaving Mumbai,” the Congress leader said, as his supporters applauded. Nirupam added, “Ambedkar gave us democracy. But Modi’s acts are dictatorial. We should be allowed to ask questions to our PM.”
Nirupam also alleged that women constables roughed up the women supporters. He said he has taken this issue to the ACP and the police station in-charge.
Sources in the Congress said the police took Praveen Chheda, leader of opposition in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and several other party supporters into custody.
“Stifling the voice of the opposition by putting leaders under house arrest and taking them into custody blackens democracy. I strongly condemn this. This once again shows the fascist attitude of the Central and state government,” said Congress leader Ashok Chavan.
Tandel, the president of the Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samiti, was detained with 150 of his supporters, as fishermen were protesting against the Rs3,600-crore mid-sea Shivaji memorial, saying it will kill their source of livelihood. “The police rounded us up in four vans around 8.30pm last night, when we were about to start our bike rally to protest against the memorial. Some of us were taken to Versova, some to Ghatkopar and some to Cuffe Parade police station. Our community still managed to show black flags to Modi at Cuffe Parade. We will ensure the BJP is defeated in the Mumbai civic polls, come what may,” Tandel said.