Agitated students protest against Chinese aggression at the Consulate

Updated: Jun 20, 2020, 07:47 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Police break up protest against Chinese aggression at the Chinese Consulate; the youth say fitting riposte will take different forms

Activists arguing with the police at the protest on Thursday
Activists arguing with the police at the protest on Thursday

In an era of social distancing, protests take on a new form and dimension. "We knew we had to keep distance and adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines but knew we must protest to bring the sentiments of the student community to the fore," said a group of Mumbai students who held a protest outside the city's Chinese Consulate at Nariman Point on Thursday evening.

Said Varada Marathe of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), "The numbers were small but that was because of the times. We could not gather hundreds of students as commuting lifelines are not up and running at an optimum level. Yet, this ABVP initiative was strong on sentiment and symbolism."

The national social media convenor of the student body said, "Our soldiers were killed at the border on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the skirmish against China. We wanted to show Mumbai that physically we may be many miles away, but metaphorically, it was very close to us, and we as students felt the pain of that loss."

Police action

The situation on the ground was extremely peaceful, protesters said, adding, "The placards were doing the talking." Amogh Arlekar, 27, who was at the protest site, said, "We had meticulously planned this protest against Chinese aggression. We maintained social distancing, were wearing masks and carrying placards and the Indian flag. We did not shout as it was pre-decided and in our silence lay our strength. When we reached the venue at around 5.30 pm on Thursday, there was heavy police bandobast." Barricades were put up and there were at least two police vans on site. "We were taken away in police vans and let off from the Marine Lines police station very late evening," he said.

About the venue, he said, had to be apt and symbolic and that is why a place just outside the Consulate was chosen. "There is a lot of frustration at the death of our soldiers. Young people want to give a 'befitting reply' to the Chinese though they do not know exactly how to formulate that. Even introvert students are posting strong anti-China messages on social media, which is the lingo through which youth communicates," said Arlekar.

Bullets, wallets

Vitthal Parab, 22, part of the action outside the Consulate, said "Police action was unwarranted. We were a medium through which people, especially the youth, expressed their feelings towards the action and the martyrdom of our soldiers. We did not give speeches criticising China, nor tried to rabble rouse or create other problems. But we were pushed in vans and taken to the police station."

Parab said that the youth is now "uninstalling Chinese apps and not using China products." He said, "We want student entrepreneurs to have great startups so that we build a culture of self-reliance."

Students from the ABVP also said that this protest will not be a one-off as the country stands with the army, ready to look the dragon straight in the eye. "We cannot fight with bullets but we will with wallets, by boycotting Chinese import."

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