A group of city activists on Monday protested against the lack of public open spaces for demonstrations in Mumbai.
Holding placards and distributing pamphlets, members of the Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen and other organisations, staged demonstrations outside Churchgate station.
The group protested against Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Court under which five or more people cannot gather together to hold any protest.
They claimed that this curbed their right to the freedom of speech and expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, which the constitution grants all citizens.
A spokesperson for the Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen said, "If we want to voice our opinion or protest about any issue, we have only a small part of Azad Maidan, within which the protestors are cut-off from those we want to reach out to. Not everyone has access to the media. Junctions and railway stations are frequented by the masses and peaceful protests at such places are useful in building awareness."
She added that south Mumbai is the heart of the financial district and also where important government offices are located. "If we are not allowed to demonstrate peacefully here, the seat of the government is insulated from the public." She said specifically pointing out to the area between VT, Churchgate and Mantralaya not being permitted for peaceful demonstrations.
Last Monday, a group of women were picked up by the police from outside Churchgate station for meeting to demonstrate against the Khairlanji decision. This was in spite of the police not having any proof of these women being involved in the protest at all. Usha Ambhore and Urmila Pawar, two Dalit activists also were called and visited repeatedly by the police, who warned them not to protest anywhere in the city.
The policemen negotiated with the gathering and asked them to keep away their placards. One of the policemen present said, "People are inconvenienced and such congregations are not allowed. Gathering in this manner makes it difficult for the public to pass."
However, Chayanika Shah, a member of the Forum against Oppression of Women, also present here said, "It was only after the police came in that it became difficult for the crowd to pass. We are not disturbing anybody. If Ganpati visarjans and wedding groups can create so much noise, why can't we protest peacefully?"