Mumbai Bagh protests: Protesters stand their ground as BMC resumes work

Updated: Feb 14, 2020, 07:29 IST | Gaurav Sarkar, Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Braving police's intimidation tactics, women of Mumbai Bagh stand firm on their demand for a resolution in the assembly against CAA, even as they allow BMC to resume work

Women protest amid the JCBs used in the road repair work at Morland Road. Pic/ Bipin Kokate
Women protest amid the JCBs used in the road repair work at Morland Road. Pic/ Bipin Kokate

Women continued protesting at Mumbai Bagh for the 19th day on Thursday. Although the sound of their slogans is mixed with the noise of repair work nearby, women say getting out of the kitchen and home, and being on ground zero has only increased their determination and replaced the fear of authorities with defiance.

On Thursday, police personnel, though high in number, were seen lounging on chairs. The registration desk meant to keep a record of protesters lay unmanned. A lone police officer recorded the evening's proceedings on his mobile phone, while his colleagues stood on the footpath, keeping a close watch. The hardcore profiling that began a few days ago — with even a banana-seller not being spared — seemed to be down.

The police desk meant to note protesters' details lies unmanned on Thursday
The police desk meant to note protesters' details lies unmanned on Thursday

On Wednesday and Thursday, some women offered flowers to police personnel, promising to keep the protest peaceful. On Valentine's Day, they are planning to give 5,000 roses to Senior Police Inspector of Nagpada police, Shalini Sharma.

"The biggest change has happened within us," said Rupiaya Patel, 40. "Earlier, we used to be at home and take care of our kids and the household. We saw protests only on the news. But our perception and understanding of the situation changed when we came here. I was scared for the first few days of the protest, especially when police turned up on the very first night of January 26. My heart would race every time I saw them. But now, our attitude is different. Today, irrespective of the authorities' high-handedness, we stand our ground."

Rupaya Patel
Rupaya Patel

Umme Uzair, 30, feels that the attitude of police has changed for the worse. "Police are more intimidating and egoistic. They have been taking everyone's numbers and addresses and trying to scare us a lot. The crowd is lesser here during the daytime, till about 1.30 pm. This is when police tries to interfere. As the crowd increases, they too back down."

"They are sending notices under Section 149 to people via Whatsapp," claimed 52-year-old Sarita. "At Byculla and Mumbai Central railway stations, burqa-clad women are being profiled and identified by authorities. They ask women if they are going for protests."

A protester's hand is adorned with anti-CAA-NRC-NPR henna. Pic/Satej Shinde
A protester's hand is adorned with anti-CAA-NRC-NPR henna. Pic/Satej Shinde

Never invited politicians
When asked about the involvement of various politicians who claim to be representing the protesters, Patel said: "We never invited politicians to the protest. They came and tried to dominate us."

Uzair added: "Our first and only delegation so far went to meet MP Supriya Sule today state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. Those who met politicians on our behalf before had vested interests."

On Valentine's Day, women are going to offer Nagpada police Senior Police Inspector Shalini Sharma 5,000 roses. Pic/Bipin Kokate
On Valentine's Day, women are going to offer Nagpada police Senior Police Inspector Shalini Sharma 5,000 roses. Pic/Bipin Kokate

"We feel that local politicians like Naseem Siddiqui along with prominent leaders like MLAs Abu Azmi, Amin Patel, MLC Husna Bano Khalife, former MLAs Yusuf Abrahani, Waris Pathan and other local activists, who are self-proclaimed guardians of Mumbai Bagh's women are working with Mumbai police to discourage women. In addition, local builders too, are trying to convince us to discontinue the protest as their construction work is getting hampered," said one of the organisers, Tohaa Qureshi. "On Thursday, Mumbai police seemed to have mellowed down and were cordial with protesters thanks to the media reports."

Meanwhile, the retired ACP Shamsherkhan Pathan said that local politicians have been prohibited from entering the protest site.

With inputs from Diwakar Sharma

300
Approximate number of protesters who have been booked by the police

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