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Police deny nod for pride march at August Kranti Maidan on Feb 1

By Yesha Kotak, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 30, 2020 12:08 AM IST

The Mumbai Police on Wednesday denied permission for the Mumbai Pride March from the August Kranti Maidan at Grant Road on February 1, on the grounds that the participants would raise anti-government and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) slogans. The police have, however, asked the group to consider holding a gathering at Azad Maidan, instead of a march.

The event is organised by Humsafar Trust, an LGBTQ rights advocacy group, and Queer Azaadi Mumbai, a collective of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community. While the first pride parade was held in Kolkata in 1999, a series of pride parades, including the Mumbai march, started in 2008. The march in the city starts from August Kranti Maidan, goes through Nana Chowk-Lamington Road-Opera House-Kennedy Bridge and returns to August Kranti Maidan.

According to the letter seeking permission submitted by the organisers, 10,000-15,000 people were expected to attend the 11th edition of the march. Humsafar Trust said the march held last year, the first one after the decriminalisation of Section 377, saw 14,000 participants.

The notice from the senior police inspector of Gamdevi police station, shared by Humsafar Trust, read: “Humsafar Trust had submitted a letter seeking permission to organise a rally of gender minorities under our jurisdiction. But it has been brought to our notice that anti-CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC) slogans and banners against the Central government would be raised in the rally, which is why the permission is being denied to the trust.”

The notice further reads that if the organisers go ahead with the event, they will be charged for violating law and order.

Pranay Ashok, spokesperson of Mumbai Police, said, “We had concerns about the route of the rally, and as of now we aren’t giving permission for any rally. The march that was supposed to take place could have turned political in nature. We have provided an option to the organisers to hold the gathering at Azad Maidan and they have accepted that.”

The organisers, however, said they are yet to decide on the location. “We are trying to figure out what needs to be done, and will convey it to the participants soon. People from across the world participate in the event. Two days before the event, we are being told that the venue may have to be changed,” said Tinesh Chopade, advocacy manager at Humsafar Trust.

“We have been thinking of alternative locations such as Azad Maidan, but then it won’t be a march, and more of a protest, which we don’t want. We will think of an alternative and conduct the march,” said Chopade.

“Pride has always been a forum for people to freely express what they feel. Transgenders, queer Muslims and queer Assamese, too, have the right to speak about the problems,” said Harish Iyer, LGBTQIA+ activist, and organiser of the Mumbai march since its first edition.

In a protest organised earlier this month at Shivaji Park, members from the queer community and transgenders had expressed concerns over not being able to prove their lineage because most of them have settled elsewhere leaving their families behind.

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