Aarey protesters say they were stripped and treated like criminals

Updated: Oct 11, 2019, 07:41 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Demanding an apology from the government, those arrested on October 4 level serious allegations against cops, including a DCP-level officer

Fourteen of the 29 protesters spoke about their ordeal they endured on the night of October 4. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Fourteen of the 29 protesters spoke about their ordeal they endured on the night of October 4. Pic/Suresh Karkera

The protesters arrested while trying to stop the felling of trees in Aarey Colony for the metro car shed on the night of October 4, have alleged that they were treated appallingly by the cops, who badly manhandled them and also made them stand half-naked inside the jail, like criminals.

They now want all charges against them dropped at once. "We are not the criminals, drop the charges," echoed the demand of 14 of the 29 accused on Thursday. The protestors recounted what exactly transpired that night. They have been accused of assaulting public servants and assembling in an unlawful manner. "We were engaged in a peaceful protest. Is that a crime? Why did they lathi-charge us? The government must apologise," said Kapil Agrawal, a student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Shruti Nair, businesswoman
Women were pushed and dragged by male police officers. We were willing to go home but at 2:45am, when all roads to Aarey are shut, without any public transport, how would we have travelled? A male DCP manhandled me, I have a bruise on my face. The trauma didn't let me sleep for two nights. We stood half-naked inside the jail and were treated like criminals.

The protestors interacted with the media at the Press Club on Thursday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
The protestors interacted with the media at the Press Club on Thursday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Manijkumar Subramanyam. businessman
When I reached home on Friday night, my 11-year-old daughter came crying to me and said trees are being cut. I assured her I will go and check. My only fault was that I went there to express my condolence

Swapna Kher, teacher
I have faith in our judicial system and was hopeful after the HC said we can approach the Supreme Court. But on Friday, it felt as if a loved one was dying. We asked to see an authorisation letter but were arrested. I teach students about the environment. How will I face the younger generation if I do nothing to stop this?

Pramila Bhoir, tribal resident of Aarey
When they came, we were sitting next to our trees and singing. Later we sat at Birsa Munda Chowk near the site and sang for our trees but were again told to disperse. What were we arrested for?

Shashikant Sonawane, environmentalist
It was ridiculous. Saving trees means going against the government. Wanting to save a forest is a very natural instinct. A peaceful protest by citizens has an important place in a democracy. People are more important in a democracy than the government.

Sandip Parab, stock trader
I am alive due to oxygen and oxygen is generated by trees. I went to Aarey to console the trees. I am not against the police because they were just following orders. How can the government act so speedily to cut trees but take its own sweet time in matters such as that of Mahul residents?

Manan Desai, engineer and blogger
We are emotionally connected to Aarey. I consider the incident as a murder of democracy at midnight. Many ask why there is no one like Greta Thunberg here? There is. But when Greta Thunberg stood outside the Swedish Parliament, she got international recognition and when our girls stood for Aarey, what treatment did they get?

Siddharth Anbhave, professional
As the trees got cut, nests fell, birds were injured, some died. They put us behind bars for what? Does the government consider us criminals like them? Our families and friends from Save Aarey helped to raise money for bail. But some political parties are taking credit for it.

Aaditya Pawar
When police detained us, we were told us we will be released in some time. We knew something was amiss but what could we do? Some cops even asked us if we were responsible for cutting the trees. They were surprised to know we were actually the ones trying to save them.

Kamlesh Shamlakura, IT professional
After I was released and went home, my niece asked me why did they cut the trees? I didn't have an answer. We don't allow our children to even pluck a leaf. This is like murdering someone in their sleep.

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