On Sunday, masked men, armed with sticks, attacked students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi which triggered mayhem and widespread chaos in the city and around the country. Shocked by the violence inflicted upon students, Mumbai too took to the streets to voice their dissent and anger.
Since midnight of January 5, Mumbaikars have been protesting in front of Gateway of India and Carter Road with slogans, recitations and songs, quirky posters and so on. Even members of the film fraternity, including Anurag Kashyap, Taapsee Pannu, Vishal Bharadwaj, Shweta Tripathi, Swara Bhasker and many others joined the protests.
However, given that the venues chosen for the protests form the heart of the city, Mumbai Police claimed that roads were getting blocked and that common people and tourists were facing issues while commuting. The cops did urge people to shift voluntarily but they refused; consequently, the protestors were relocated to Azad Maidan near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.
Soon after the news broke, social media was flooded with posts which claimed that Mumbai Police had detained the protesters. Take these, for example:
Protestors in Mumbai are now being detained at Azad Maidan. What is going on? Also, any word from those celebrating freedom from police brutality in non-BJP States?— falter Benjamin (@omgghorpad) January 7, 2020
Peaceful protesters have been officially detained , women mishandled and some were beaten. Never expected this from Mumbai police. Now they are taking away our right to protest? #DontGagMumbai @OfficeofUT— Aamir Mirza (@Aamirmirzaone) January 7, 2020
Mumbai police forcefully shifted 500 protestors from Gateway to Azad Maidan. Even Mishandled women. They don't want us to protest at Gateway, it's a request to gather at Azad Maidan,They are not letting anybody inside, peacefull protesters have officially been detained.#RETWEEET— Sadiya shaikh (@Sadiyas81098818) January 7, 2020
However, Mumbai Police has offered a clarification stating no protesters had been detained, and that they had been shifted to a more convenient location in a peaceful and professional manner.
Dear Mumbaikars,— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) January 7, 2020
Azad Maidan is the designated place for all agitations in South Mumbai as per Hon. HC instructions. However, some agitators gathered at an important South Mumbai location for a long duration without any permission.
"Despite repeated sincere endeavors from local Police to convince them to relocate to Azad Maidan, they remained unreasonably adamant. Consequently, in the interest of general public, they were relocated to Azad Maidan, in a peaceful & professional manner," the official Twitter handle of Mumbai Police tweeted.
Despite repeated sincere endeavors from local Police to convince them to relocate to Azad Maidan, they remained unreasonably adamant.— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) January 7, 2020
Consequently, in the interest of general public, they were relocated to Azad Maidan, in a peaceful & professional manner.
Nevertheless, Mumbai Police has won social media for the way they handled agitation and protests, without violence and with a great deal of sensitivity. Twitterati pointed out the difference between the cops in Mumbai and their counterparts in Delhi, who reportedly stood as mute spectators as unarmed students were beaten up by masked intruders. Delhi Police has also drawn criticism in the past for the way they handled protesters when students of Jamia Millia Islamia organised peaceful marches against the Citizenship Amendment Act. As per reports and allegations, the police resorted to violence and "lathicharge" in order to break up the protests at Jamia only a month ago.
Following Mumbai Police's tweets, several protesters and celebrities came out in support:
Thank You @MumbaiPolice for making sure the protests carried on peacefully last eve.— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) January 7, 2020
Your support was a privilege many students didn’t have in other cities. Those being critical, they have merely relocated the protest to Azad Maidan.
Please cooperate. https://t.co/DqG4GlYTzI
Please stop spreading nonsense hysteria like "Azad Maidan is being turned into a detention centre". People are being kept inside because if they're outside, it'll disrupt traffic. Mumbai Police has been very supportive. Don't discredit the job they've done.— Azeem Banatwalla (@TheBanat) January 7, 2020
And thank you @MumbaiPolice for your most unobtrusive presence at Carter rd,Bandra this evening. I felt I was surrounded by extended family in more ways than one. There was a calm that was much needed in the times we live in. Feel flooded with light in these dark times. 🙏— Pooja Bhatt (@PoojaB1972) January 6, 2020