Mumbai police, what's your issue with social media posts and posters?

Updated: Jan 09, 2020, 08:32 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

City cops now want to probe the 'intention' of students and youngsters who protested at Gateway, and are also trawling Mehak Mirza Prabhu's social media posts.

A protester with a placard at the Gateway of India protest. Pic/Diwakar Sharma
A protester with a placard at the Gateway of India protest. Pic/Diwakar Sharma

After the controversy involving Mehak Mirza Prabhu who held a placard that said 'Free Kashmir' at the Gateway of India protest against the attack on JNU students, the police have decided to read between the lines of all agitators' posters. The special branch of Mumbai police has been asked to keep a close watch on agitators making placards and banners at different protesting venues in the city.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Vinoy Choubey said, "After relocating the protestors from the Gateway of India to Azad Maidan on Tuesday morning, our officers collected the various placards and other stuff from the spot. Our Special Branch is scrutinising all these banners."

Agitators at the Gateway of India protest
Agitators at the Gateway of India protest

"They (Special Branch officials) have been asked to keep a close watch on agitators making placards at the protesting venues, as a few of them have been found to be incriminating in nature. The meanings of the writing on the banners are being studied," Choubey added.

The Special Branch will submit a report about the same to the Mumbai police commissioner and further legal action will be decided after it.

Agitators at the Gateway of India protest

Sources at the Special Branch told mid-day that the large number of hidden cameras at the promenade at the Gateway of India will help them identify the agitators who made the controversial placards. "Also, our officers in plain clothes have video-graphed most of the moments during the unlawful protest at the Gateway of India. A few photos have also been clicked. The banners, placards, posters, and other material have been seized from the Gateway. If we find any controversial placard or banner, these photos/videos will help us trace the person responsible," said a Special Branch officer.

Besides the posters, placards and banners, the police have also recovered paint brushes, sketch pens, markers, colours, papers, etc.

As the controversial 'Free Kashmir' placard, another controversial banner saying 'Proud Urban Naxal' had also grabbed eyeballs at the Gateway. The man who made the placard is Abhishek Bhatt, an advocate, who supports the ideology of the Delhi CM-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). "I made the placard because Narendra Modi sahab calls us urban naxal, anti-national, etc. If we are painted as anti-nationals for supporting the constitution, then we are proud urban naxals. Behind the placard, it was written 'Urban Naxal is Total Desh Bhakt, Urban Nazi Only Bhakt,'" Bhatt said. At Gateway, the protestors also shouted slogans, "Kashmir mange aazadi" in the middle of the night. They justified it saying the government has banned the Internet facility in the Valley since over 150 days. But action was taken against Prabhu as she held the placard.

The action was condemned by many sections of society.

'Outburst of protest'
"It looks like censorship of free speech, Internet shutdowns and threats of terrorism are far more important to those in authority than actual citizens being injured or killed. Forcing a monolithic system of thought down the throats of artists will be counterproductive, which is why you are seeing an outburst of protest in the form of posters and social media posts," said one such critic, Mira Malhotra, an artist and member of the Kadak Collective.

The outburst in the form of posters also directly demanded the resignations of those in power. One of the placards for instance, said, 'Resign Amit Shah,' while other read, 'Ban Omit Shah.' The entire promenade of the Gateway saw an anti-Modi and Amit Shah atmosphere. A youth was seen carrying a placard that read, 'Modiji Sudhar Jao ya Gujar Jao'. Another youth held a placard that said, 'BJP ki Maa ka Bharosa - agar aap ne upar wali line galat padhi hai to aap sacche deshbhakt ho.'

The police may read and analyse every line they come across on placards and posters written by citizens, but the question remains, will the message get across to the authorities? If it doesn't, here's what a placard with few words that summed up the situation in the country and the mood of the people best, 'If you divide, we will multiply.'
Inputs by Dalreen Ramos

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No. of people injured in the attack at JNU on Sunday

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