The first day of social activist Anna Hazare’s scheduled three-day fast at the MMRDA ground in Bandra passed off peacefully on Tuesday, even as the police scaled down deployment of forces.
While the police had earlier planned to deploy over 2,500 constables, 350 officers and a host of armed and combatant forces during the day, the actual number deployed was much less, in view of the less-than-expected turnout at the ground.
The police had anticipated that around 15,000-18,000 supporters would turn up on Day 1. However, as the crowd hovered around 4,000-4,500 in the afternoon, the police pulled back many of their men. By late afternoon, the total number of policemen deployed at the ground was not more than 900, with 60 officers directing them, it is learnt. However, the presence of combat vehicles, vans and wireless vehicles at the ground gave the impression that there was large-scale deployment.
Mumbai police spokesperson Nisar Tamboli, however, claimed that the police had stuck to its planned deployment at the venue. “The deployment was scattered in the large ground so it might have looked thin. Moreover, the men have been split in shifts,” Tamboli said.
Sources in the Mumbai police said that most of the policemen deployed at the ground were in plainclothes, so that they could mingle with the crowd. “There were strict instructions from the administration not to have any uniformed personnel inside the venue as it would create confusion. This is a peaceful protest by enlightened citizens. So the policemen have been told to behave politely with the visitors,” said a senior police officer who did not wish to be named. That is also why the uniformed policemen deployed at the access points were asked not to wield batons or weapons, he added.
Meanwhile, the Bandra-Kurla Police (BKC) police obtained 14 tents to provide refreshment and temporary shelter to policemen deployed on round-the-clock shifts.
“The temperature at the ground has been dropping considerably, as it is wide open from all sides. It will be impossible for policemen deployed during the day, to rest in the open. At least they can take a short break and have some refreshments before standing guard in the morning again,” said an officer from the BKC police station.