No feasting at beach, cops tell Kamathipura devotees

Sep 08, 2011, 07:55 IST | Urvashi Seth

As the 2,000 residents were about to dine at Girgaum Chowpatty after Gauri visarjan, as is their annual tradition, they said they were told to go away as they posed a 'security problem'

As the 2,000 residents were about to dine at Girgaum Chowpatty after Gauri visarjan, as is their annual tradition, they said they were told to go away as they posed a 'security problem'

The Mumbai police has some explaining to do to Kamathipura residents, the latter claim.

The residents have decided to write to the police, seeking justification over the alleged discrimination they faced during the gauri visarjan on Tuesday.

What about right to worship? Residents said that every year, they are
allotted some space at Chowpatty for the ceremony, but this year, the
beach was full of parked vehicles, leaving them no space to sit

According to residents of the oldest red-light area in the city, they had carried goddess Gauri's idols to Girgaum Chowpatty for immersion.

As goes the tradition, after the visarjan ceremony is over, the thousands of women and men, feast together at the beach. However, on Tuesday, cops threw a cog in the age-old custom of community dining.

The residents found no space on the beach, which was packed with automobiles parked everywhere. "Every year we are given adequate space to sit and eat after the visarjan. This year, vehicles were parked left and right, blocking up the space," said Anil Michael, trustee of Akhil Telegu Padmashali Samaj (ATPS), who was part of the ceremony.  When the residents decided to make do with the little space that was free, the cops tried to chase them away, saying their presence in such a massive number posed a security problem for them.

"More than 2,000 people from our area were present at the Chowpatty. Following visarjan, we were looking for some space to dine together. But no sooner did we begin eating than cops asked us to go away from the beach," said Michael.

"It is a tradition that we have been following for years. But cops have no sentiments for our rituals. This is unfair. At least one day we should be given space to follow our tradition."

Eventually, and after a row, the devotees could eat. "Only after a long argument with the cops were we allowed to have dinner. Why can't they leave one parking area empty on such days?" Micheal asked.

Adding that the ATPS would write a letter to the Mumbai police, seeking justification over their action. "Cops cited security reasons for dispersing us. We are going to seek an answer to this. We don't want them to repeat this, it hurts our sentiments."

The residents took their complaint to Naresh Dahibawkar, secretary of the Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, who sympathised with them. "We have already spoken to the DCP of the area to consider their demands. As this is their ancient custom, they should be allotted space at least once in a year where they can perform the puja after visarjan," Dahibawkar said.

Police speak
Deputy Police Commissioner Anil Kumbhare (south region) said, "On Tuesday evening, Girgaum Chowpatty saw a huge crowd for Gauri visarjan. Security of the devotees is our duty and we cannot permit them to stay long on the beach. Also, a few years back, the situation was different, but now the number of vehicles have increased and we require space for parking as well."

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