Cops collect addresses and IDs at Mumbai Bagh
After booking hundreds of women protesting on Morland Rd for 'blocking road and civic work', police are now profiling all of them because 'it is difficult to identify women in burkha'
Police have set up a desk at Mumbai Bagh to record details of all women attending the protest so that they may be booked for unlawful assembly later. Police sources told mid-day that it has become tough to identify the women as all of them come dressed in burkhas.
The Mumbai Bagh protest at Nagpada's Morland Road entered the 18th day on Wednesday. Women Police Constables (WPC) along with male police officers have been stationed at the entrance of the barricaded stretch to take women protesters' details.
Zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police Abhinash Kumar said, "We have already registered a case against the protesting women. Whoever joins them to agitate will be held equally responsible for violating the law."
"Since the protesters are hijab-clad women, their identity cannot be established. It is why we are taking the contact number, name and address of all women entering the protest at Nagpada. It will help us trace the accused and add their details to the charge sheet," Kumar added.
"It was getting tough to establish their identity as all the protesters are women wearing burkhas. In case of any emergency, their contact details will be helpful in tracing them," said an officer attached to the Nagpada police station.
A woman protester, requesting anonymity, said, "I was asked to give my name before entering Mumbai Bagh on Saturday. Later, when I was among the crowd, a plainclothes police officer called me and made me sign a document. He said it is a notice under Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC. He did not let me contact a lawyer."
The woman later approached Senior Police Inspector of Nagpada police, Shalini. "Sharma asked me to contact Mumbai Bagh activists instead of asking her," the woman said.
The woman was approached by a plainclothes officer again during her next visit. "I smiled at him and said, 'Sir, mere paas yeh wala notice already hai'. He left without saying anything," the woman said.
Another female protester claimed that police is discouraging teenagers from joining the protest.
Mubashira Qureshi, a 22-year-old Sociology student at Somaiya College, said, "My contact details such as full address, mobile number, what I study and where, etc have been taken by Mumbai police as they told me that if I have to protest at Mumbai Bagh, I need to sign a document and give them contact details."
"Though I did not sign any document, others who did not give contact details at the entrance were not allowed to enter. They blocked the traffic demanding to be allowed inside," Qureshi said.
Another female protester, Shoonya Khare, told mid-day that she has been going to Mumbai Bagh since day one and was detained by Mumbai police at a Nagpada house on the very first day.
"On the first day, I and my friends were detained for six to eight hours by police who asked us about our ideology, why we have come to the protest, etc. Later, when the case against 300 people was registered, cops started taking contact details of female protesters," Khare said.
"They have also taken my contact number and PAN card details. On Monday, cops reached my house in Chembur but I was not available. So they harassed my parents and forced my father to sign a notice served under section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC. While going back, they also took contact details of my watchman," said Khare, who accused Mumbai police of misusing their power and showing high-handedness to intimidate protestors.
Though the police have not evicted protesters, on Friday last week, a case against 300 protesters was registered under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 313 (depositing thing in streets), 314 (removing unauthorised structures) of the BMC Act at Nagpada police station for obstructing civic work.
Activist Medha Patkar attended the Mumbai Bagh protest on Tuesday. Pic/ Atul Kamble
After the case was registered, women protesters were heard talking about forming a human chain in case action for eviction is taken.
A senior IPS officer said most of the protesters are local residents. "Even if we evict them, they will unlawfully assemble again to resume their protest. So we are only watching who all join them. Our officers in plain clothes are also video-recording the protest. The footage will help us identify people if they utter anything objectionable or chant anti-national slogans," the IPS officer said.
"Prominent leaders, including a few women from Mumbai Bagh, met me four days ago. I said that their protest is unlawful as they don't have permission. They promised to call it off. I had warned about the notices under Section 149, IPC," Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told mid-day. "Mumbai police are doing their job and if the protest is not called off peacefully, protesters will be forcefully evicted," he added.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old student-activist Urvashi Chudawala, booked by Azad Maidan police for sedition, was granted interim relief by Bombay High Court on Tuesday so that she can appear for exams on February 14.
Mumbai police have restricted protesters from using loudspeakers, megaphones and daflis at Mumbai Bagh. People from across India have been coming to join the sit-in.
"I wanted to recite my poems to the tune of my dafli, but a police officer disallowed me from playing it. 'Yeh toh hathiyaar hai', he told me," said Bappadittya Sarkar, whose Uber ride in the city last week created a furore after driver Rohit Singh Gaur took him to Santacruz police over a phone conversation.
"Since when did dafli become a 'hathiyaar'? I am surprised! Another police officer told me that the crowd is huge and uncontrollable and if the dafli is played at the protest site, it will be difficult for police to control them. What rubbish!" Sarkar added.
"A friend of mine has now written, 'This Weapon Kills Fascism' on my dafli," Sarkar said.
No. of protesters booked by Mumbai police last week
No. of days since Mumbai Bagh protest began
Day the police booked Mumbai Bagh protesters
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