Activist Afroz Shah detained by cops for ferrying migrants to Ghatkopar bus standUpdated: May 20, 2020 21:06 IST
Lawyer and beach clean-up crusader Afroz Shah was on Tuesday night allegedly detained by Tilak Nagar police for two hours in suburban Chembur for allegedly ferrying stranded migrants.
Shah, the man behind the clean-up of Mumbai’s Versova beach, has been feeding and transporting migrant workers in the city and on highways during the lockdown. He has also been tending to stray dogs and cats on the streets.
“Detained for ferrying migrant workers to their destination in Mumbai. God bless this country,” Shah wrote in a tweet on Tuesday night, in which he tagged the Mumbai Police and police commissioner. “Harassed for 2 hours by Tilak Nagar police..Taken to the police station..Let off by saying please leave.. Suspending all my activities to help the poorest of the poor.. Sorry migrants - the system doesn’t allow me to work for you. Broken heart.. Broken soul..I cry and I am in pain,” he wrote in another tweet.
Shah said that he was helping migrants who were walking from Byculla to Ghatkopar, a distance of around 16 km, to catch a bus, when he was detained by police.
“I was on the highway between Thane and Nashik, ferrying and providing food for those on the roads for the second half of the day. When I returned to the city at night to help those looking for dinner, I saw a group of around eight to 10 people at Mulund check naka who wanted to reach Byculla. These people had come from Bhiwandi where they did not have any food, were hoping to find work in Mumbai. I dropped them and while taking a U-turn, I saw another group of people, around 30 to 40 of them, who were walking towards LBS Road in Ghatkopar, from where they were to board a bus for Uttar Pradesh. I took around seven to eight of them in the pick-up truck and told others that I would come back to ferry them. At LBS Road the police stopped me,” said Shah.
He recalled that the police were abusive and heckled him. “The two constables were getting aggressive and told me to come to the police station. I told them to register a first information report (FIR) as my crime is to help the poor. My volunteer Faizan and I were taken to the police station. They did not register an FIR but detained me. After two hours, they asked me to go with them to LBS Road to drop the migrants, and then I was asked to leave,” he added. Shah said that he has been on the roads for 16 hours a day while observing his fast during the holy month of Ramzan.
Shah has been helping the sick and poor on the roads during the lockdown, distributing food, water, juice, and biscuits. “There is a huge humanitarian crisis. If a government is not doing it, we citizens will step out. My mother says that I am putting myself in grave risk. But I cannot sit in my fancy flat and [drive around in my] car. I have to help my fellow citizens,” said Shah, adding that he has now been forced to suspend his efforts.
Sushil Kamble, senior inspector, Tilak Nagar police station, said Shah was stopped during routine nakabandi. “There were seven to eight persons in the vehicle which is not allowed. There was no permission for the same,” Kamble said. “The officer who stopped Shah told him that the labourers may face further problems on the road after he drops them. We asked him to take necessary permissions and send them through trains after filling requisite forms,” he added.
Sashikumar Meena, deputy commissioner of police, zone 6, said that he would look into the incident.