Anti-CAA protests: More than 25,000 show up in Dharavi; no violence or shots fired

Updated: 23 December, 2019 07:22 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

More than 25,000 join anti-CAA protests in Dharavi; no violence, no lathi charge, no bullets fired

These days, Mumbaikars love a protest, clearly, with more than 25,000 (locals claimed 50,000) people converging once more for the one at Dharavi on Sunday against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC). Despite the numbers, the protest went off without incident, with Mumbaikars gathering at 2pm and dispersing calmly at 5.45pm. The police had ensured this by speaking to the organisers days before.

According to reports, there were eight protests taken out on Sunday in different parts of the city; at Ghatkopar, Kurar, Charkop, Deonar, Malwani, and JJ Marg. Despite the numerous protests, there was no incident of violence reported anywhere in the city. The Dharavi protest was organised under the banner of "Dharavi Rehvasi Sangh," a group formulated just two days ago to spread awareness about CAA and NRC and also to address the queries of residents living in the area, about the specifics of the Act.

According to one of the Sangh's committee members, the group does not have any political leanings. "After the 1992 riots, there were Mohalla committees formed to bridge the gap between the people of the area and the police, this Sangh is something like that," he said. "Everyone came out of their homes and gathered on 90 feet road. We built a stage and some of us addressed queries about CAA. The biggest and most important role was that of Dharavi Police Station and its staff. We never thought so many thousand people could turn up, we were expecting around 2,000-3,000 people. But in spite of the large numbers, the authorities ensured that everything went off smoothly."

A lot of protesters had heard of the Dharavi protest via social media
A lot of protesters had heard of the Dharavi protest via social media

He pointed out that although there were politicians like Congress's Eknath Gaikwad, the protest itself was held under the banner of the Sangh and not by any political party. Fahad Ahmed, a second-year PhD student at the Tata Institue of Social Sciences (TISS), which has been standing in solidarity with the violence that went down at Delhi's Jamia University, was also present at the Dharavi protest.

"This protest was mainly a gathering of most of the local residents of the neighbourhood," he said. When asked whether this was an impromptu protest, he said, "We have a Twitter handle on which we keep putting out information of the various protests being organised in Mumbai, their locations and their timings. I am also co-ordinating 20+ Whatsapp groups so that people can turn up at whichever protest is nearest to them."

Speaking of the numerous anti-CAA protests scattered across the city on Sunday, he said, "There was one that took place in Jogeshwari as well, and another in Thane. But, the Dharavi one was the biggest—there were more than 50,000 present [the police have pegged the number at 25,000]." When asked whether there would be more protests in the coming week, he said, "Why not? There is a protest on Monday at Yari Road, and then a huge rally of students from Byculla to CSMT on December 27. The August Kranti protest march was just the beginning."

Joint CP (L&O) Vinoy Choubey said, "There was a sea of people at Dharavi but the protest was peaceful. Senior inspectors and the zonal DCP were in regular touch with the organisers even before the protest. We have been monitoring the crowd using drones and CCTV surveillance from the control room. The protesters, too, co-operated with the Mumbai police to make it a peaceful protest."

Additional Commissioner of Police (Central) region S Veeresh Prabhu said the crowd started gathering at the protest venue from 2pm on Sunday and stayed till 5pm. "The protest culminated at 5.45pm and the crowd took nearly 30 minutes to disperse. We had been conducting regular meetings with several groups of people before the protest. We had appealed to them to conduct the protest peacefully and they have co-operated with us. The local groups at Dharavi also helped us by ensuring the protest was peaceful," Prabhu told mid-day.

Approx no. of hours the protests were held for

Inputs from Diwakar Sharma

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First Published: 23 December, 2019 07:15 IST

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