A prudent idea if implemented with imprudence can easily result in heartburn and pandemonium. The outlandish outcome of the attempt of some volunteers from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Sunday to scrub a platform at Pune railway station bears this out. Cops lathicharged the youngsters and several of them were kept in overnight custody after being booked under Sections 145, 147 and 174 of the Railways Act.
“They collected Rs 4,000 from every person as fine and charged us with offences like stopping a train and abusing people, which we hadn’t done,” said Sagar Bodhe, a volunteer from AAP’s PCMC branch, and one of those detained. Elucidating further, he said, “Our volunteers had gone there for submitting a letter to the railway officials about the unsanitary conditions at the platform. This was our third such attempt. No measures were taken despite our previous pleas. So this time we had circulated emails and messages to our volunteers and had decided to go there together to hold talks on Saturday.
But though we waited for two-long hours, the officers did not cooperate with us and we could not meet the concerned authorities. Hence on Sunday, we planned a non-violent morcha, the Gandhian way. We went to the station and started singing ‘Raghupati Raghav’ without disturbing anyone. Instead of listening to our demands, the authorities informed the railway police. In the interim we noticed that four of our volunteers were missing as they had been taken away by cops without even informing us. When we demanded that they be brought back, police started beating us with laathis and hands. They kicked us too, and a senior volunteer Balwinder Singh got his cloths ripped off when he had attempted to clean the platform all by himself.”
On condition of anonymity, another volunteer of the Aam Aadmi Party said, “We have been frequently putting forth the demand for a clean railway platform. But even after these constant requests, the unhygienic conditions have remained. Hence, we decided to go there and clean the platforms ourselves. But railway officials got offended and called the cops. Police came and started beating us with the lathis and took many of us into custody, while three volunteers succeeded in escaping from the spot. This sudden turn of events took us by surprise, and we did not know who got arrested and who got away. Family members of one of the volunteers, Sangamesh Kote (who had left for a party meeting on Sunday morning), were very worried, as they could not reach him on his mobile phone for a whole day. We just do not understand this arresting and thrashing when we were trying to do a good thing.”
When contacted, Pune RPF spokesperson Y K Singh said, “We arrested 17 people as they were creating a nuisance on the railway platform for three hours. This group had come without informing railway officials, and it is obligatory to inform GRP at least two hours prior to conducting a morcha. This brouhaha went on from 11.15 in the morning till 2.30 in the afternoon. They even demanded that Duronto Express, which was standing on a certain platform, be moved to another one. Hence, they were arrested for trespass and interfering in government work. It had been decided that they be kept in police custody for 2 days, but looking at the fact that they are young students, they were released on bail Monday afternoon.
“This was not part of any official Aam Aadmi Party programme. All these volunteers had gone there collectively of their own accord, said Abha Mulay, secretary and convenor, AAP, Pune.