‘Occupy Gateway’ protest in Mumbai against JNU violence called off
Organisers on Tuesday called off the ‘Occupy Gateway’ protest in Mumbai against the mob attack in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) hours after they were shifted to Azad Maidan by the police but said their agitation will continue.
The Occupy Gateway protest at the iconic Gateway of India had kicked off hours after students and teachers were attacked in JNU on Sunday night by a masked mob, which went on a rampaging spree for more than two hours.
“Our two-day protests have sent the required message across the country on our resistance towards the current situation in the country. It is unprecedented that we were able to occupy Gateway for 40 hours and we were successful,” they said in a statement.
“We (protesters) do not intend to get back to Gateway and will adhere to police orders. We request other protesters not to go to Gateway. We will follow constitutional, democratic methods of peaceful protest until CAA, NRC, NPR are withdrawn,” they said.
However, they said they will continue the protests at other locations in the city.
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Around 50 people, taking part in the Occupy Gateway protest, were pushed into three police vans from outside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai earlier in the day and taken to Azad Maidan, which is the default protest area for Mumbai, two kilometres away.
“It is our request that you move to Azad Maidan from Gateway of India because the crowd thronging at this location is causing unrest on the roads leading to traffic and issues to the common man,” deputy commissioner of police (Zone VI), Sangramsing Pratapsinh Nishandar, said.
“We had already informed your organisers that as per high court guidelines there cannot be any agitation outside Azad Maidan. We are in no way against your peaceful protest. We just want to relocate the movement to Azad Maidan,” Nishandar said.
When asked whether the protesters will be allowed to go back to Gateway of India, Nishandar did not respond.
The protesters were kept at Azad Maidan with a ring of police personnel around them.
Some of them said they were manhandled by the police.
“We had formed a core committee to streamline the protests at Gateway and the committee has been present at the spot since January 6 midnight. The police refused to discuss when we resisted moving to Azad Maidan, dragged some of us by our foot into the police van,” Urvashi Chudawalla, a student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), said.
“I personally was hit on my leg and back by a lathi because the policewomen were not able to physically lift me,” the 22-year-old said.
Another protester, Varsha Rohani, said she was lifted inappropriately by the policewomen.
“My clothes were lifted while being pushed into the van and no dignity was maintained. Protesters were peacefully listening to the police,” the 24-year-old advertising professional said.
“We were just trying to convey to the force that Gateway of India has more power to mobilise the movement and get the right attention to trigger action as compared to Azad Maidan, which is a closed restricted premise,” she said.
Students, teachers, researchers, celebrities, activists and citizens took to the streets in Mumbai, condemning the attack on JNU. There were flash protests at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) and a candle-lit vigil was also announced at Gateway.
Hundreds gathered at Gateway, including a group of students from TISS and a few celebrities like actor-director Konkona Sen Sharma and former JNU student leader Umar Khalid.
The protesters’ demands include an independent and immediate inquiry into the attacks in JNU, strict action against those found guilty and resignations of JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar and the Union home minister Amit Shah.