Mumbai Police shifts ‘Occupy Gateway’ protestors to Azad Maidan

“As the agitation was creating problems for tourists and in traffic movement, we requested the protesters to move to Azad Maidan

Mumbai: Since Sunday night hundreds of protesters who gathered at Mumbai’s iconic Gateway of India in anger against the mob attack in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were forced out by the police this morning and moved to Azad Maidan, 2 km away, following which the protest was called off. A student of TISS, Kapil Agarwal said the protest was successful as “people have responded”. Agarwal said they will leave Azad Maidan, but the protest will continue.

Earlier this morning a policeman physically dragged away agitator from the popular tourist site that became the epicentre of the “Occupy Gateway” protest, which was called off after the agitators reached Azad Maidan. The cops said while some moved voluntarily, some had to be dragged away from the site after they refused to comply.

A police officer said there are no toilet or water facilities at the Gateway of India and it was becoming a challenge to control the crowd at the busiest sites in Mumbai.

“We have appealed to them several times on behalf of the Mumbai Police. We even appealed to them from time to time to be peaceful but because of them, the streets were being blocked. Mumbaikars are in troubled, aspects of the daily life of people are being affected,” the police officer said, requesting that the police action was above board and humane.

“As the agitation was creating problems for tourists and in traffic movement, we requested the protesters to move to Azad Maidan. But some groups did not listen despite, repeated request, so we shifted them to Azad Maidan,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Sangramsingh Nishandar said to media.

The crowd, mostly students, started gathering at the monument by the sea in south Mumbai on Sunday midnight, hours after a masked mob attacked students and teachers at Delhi’s JNU. JNU alumni Umar Khalid and Kunal Kamra also participated in the protest that began with a candlelight march. Later, many film personalities and other celebrities joined in to express their solidarity with JNU

The videos were shared on social media, in which protesters were seen raising slogans and singing protest songs as they waved the national flag. Many slogans have targeted the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the BJP-linked students’ union accused by JNU students of carrying out the mob attack at the university.

Monday night, Bollywood celebrities sang the national anthem, recited poems and even raised slogans.

The agitation was “spontaneous”, said the participants. As the crowd swelled Tuesday morning, the students asked people across Mumbai to join them in huge numbers.

“The students of TISS, IIT, University of Mumbai etc actively and successfully occupied the heart of the city at Gateway until we don’t know when! We need more representation across student groups/ collectives/ fronts. Please come and join in huge numbers with your banners. We will be needing food, warm clothes, newspapers and a lot of you here,” the students said.

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