Mumbai Police allegedly manhandle, arrest pro-Palestine activists
The activists say that even in case of unnotified protest, the police have no right to manhandle them.
Mankhurd: The Revolutionary Workers Party (RWPI) has alleged that officials from Mumbai police manhandled their activists as they were holding an unnotified protest on October 13 supporting Palestine as the Israel-Palestine conflict has seen a recent flare-up. Two of the activists have been arrested. The activists say that even in case of unnotified protest, the police have no right to manhandle them, while the police defended the action alleging one of the activists 'held a constable's collar'.
The severe attack on Gaza by Israel which came after an attack by the militant group Hamas has evoked severe condemnation from around the world. Cities like London, Paris and New York have seen massive rallies condemning the 'ethnic cleansing' like actions undertaken by Israel. The Mumbai unit of the RWPI, a Marxist-Leninist political party, had planned to carry out a protest at the Azad Maidan in South Mumbai and Dadar Railway Station on 12 October. But the party was denied permission for the same by the Matunga Police.
"We were told that they have strict orders from 'above' to not let any demonstration with regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict take place in the city. The policy might also have been reluctant because the Prime Minister was supposed to visit the city in a couple of days. So we were denied permission for our protest," says Baban Thoke, one of the RWPI activists.
The group then moved to their home turf of Mankhurd, where they have a party office too.
"We then held a spontaneous but peaceful demonstration against Israel's actions on October 13 in the Lallubhai Compound of Mankhurd. The Mankhurd police reached there and started asking us to stop the demonstration. But we continued and they started detaining us. That is when some of the constables of the Mankhurd Police station beat our comrades up, while some of us were already detained by them, they put two of our comrades under arrest," Thoke says.
According to Thoke, his party comrades Supreet Ravish and Ruchir Lad were beaten up while Ashay Kapse, Shashank Sourav, Dhananjay Pawde and himself were detained. Of these, Supreet and Ruchir have been put under arrest and Sections 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 332 (voluntary harm or hurt to a public servant) have been slapped on them.
"We reached the place of protest when we got to know that a protest was being held without permission. This group had not taken prior permission for their demonstration and it is within our rights to detain them. Yet, we offered them to come with us to the Police station, complete the formalities and take permission for the protest, but they refused to cooperate. That is when we had to get strict with them," Mahadev Koli, Senior Police Inspector, Mankhurd Police Station, said.
A video posted by the RWPI on its social media handles, shows the police personnel dressed in civilian clothes, dragging the activists towards the police vehicle violently and then slapping and beating them as they resist. When Indie Journal probed him about the manhandling and violent methods, Koli said that it was an obvious reaction.
"Of course, we had to do that. They refused to cooperate with our requests and one of them even held the collar of one of our constables. If they behave like this, is it not obvious that they will face action?" Koli says.
"5 to 6 policemen were pulling and slapping them around. Supreet had only gone to help him. Ruchir was losing his balance in the scuffle and held to the shirt of the constable. They are construing that as holding the collar and taking action against them," Thoke responds to Koli's claims.
The two arrested activists were presented before a special Holiday court at Shindewadi. Thoke, who was detained and let go, says the court had initiated an enquiry against the Mankhurd Police.
"The honourable judge of the court asked Ruchir to come inside his chambers and inspected his injuries himself. He was beaten up in custody. The judge then ordered an enquiry of the incident and asked the Mankhurd Police to submit the medical reports of our comrades and the CCTV footage of the police station to the court. But by the next hearing, the bench had changed and the new bench was presented with a half-baked medical certificate and the court took back the inquiry too," Thoke claims.
"We cannot speak about judicial proceedings and what happened with the court. It's a judicial matter and we have no comment," Koli replies.
Thoke also claims that the police have acted out of an old prejudice against the group.
"We have been hounded by the police in earlier protests. We have faced their ire during the anti-CAA protests, Hathras killing protests etc, we have faced similar treatment from them. One of the policemen also went around in my residential area asking if I was involved in Naxal activities. Once a Transgender activist friend of mine was visiting me. They threatened to initiate actions against us saying she was here to carry out religious conversions. There is an inherent prejudice against us," Thoke claims.
Edited for minor corrections and context on 17 Oct, 23:46.