Dadar police stop Save Aarey protests at Shivaji Park

Updated: Sep 23, 2019, 07:45 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Aarey car shed protest punctured at Shivaji Park; no permissions, this is a silent zone say cops

Cops, onlookers and protesters at Shivaji Park
Cops, onlookers and protesters at Shivaji Park

Tempers matched the soaring after-rain humidity on Sunday morning at Shivaji Park. The local police stopped a Save Aarey protest planned by local activists as there were "no permissions". The organisers had said this was to be a unique "sleeping protest" to save Aarey. This meant protesters would sleep along the circumference of the iconic Dadar space, making a statement to save Aarey's trees.

A bunch of approximately 40 protestors had gathered near the Nana-Nani Park (aaji-aajoba udyan) at Shivaji Park. They came with banners and a few posters to shore up their sleep protest and to draw attention to the "unnecessary felling of more than 2,000 trees to make way for a Metro car shed inside Aarey". Their protest was scuttled even before it could take off. Police arrived at the scene, asking for "permissions" for the protest. None were available.

The protest at Shivaji Park, which never took off
The protest at Shivaji Park, which never took off

'It's the wrong place'
Police inspector Kasar told the protesters, "You may say your cause is right, but the place is wrong. This is a silent zone. You cannot congregate here. You go to Azad Maidan, or Aarey again, with permissions." When Kasar was told that at Azad Maidan it would be a low-visibility protest considering the site had been moved much inside, he was steadfast that they could not protest at Shivaji Park in any case. The protesters had now scattered thanks to the police presence and were also holding their banners upside down. A woman from the group claimed that a protest was held at Shivaji Park a few days ago, where, she said, "we held banners and stood in silence."

However, the cops did not allow them to stand in groups as it would invite hundreds of people into the space in no time. There was robust back and forth between the police and protesters, and though it was polite, a police van did roll up quite ominously as the protesters started to walk ahead. Inspector Kasar had dug in his heels and refused to relent. The protesters claimed they were, "doing this for the public." Kasar said, "I am not stopping you from exercising your freedom of expression. The police is here to serve the people."

At one point in time, the cops were irked and opened the doors of the van, asking people not to force them to put them inside. Kasar also told this reporter, "stop taking pictures, this is not a personal matter." As the group dispersed, with several late morning walkers and locals who were sitting on the promenade stopping to look at this Sunday morning drama, many activists were wary about being identified by the press. "We are then called to the police station for explanations and warnings," they claimed.

Some more protests

Sunday saw a spate of other Metro-related protests too. Children were seen participating in a protest near Juhu's Kaifi Azmi Park as part of which they conducted a 'Reverse Walk'. There was a protest at Aarey too, with a citizen who visited Aarey Rigved Angane tapping into large-scale sentiment by saying, "Everyone needs the Metro and nobody is protesting against development but it should not be at the cost of nature. Don't kill the only green patch our city has. This is our request to the government."

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