We committed no crime, only followed Babasaheb; say youth as combing operations intensify in Mumbai

Written by Daisy Katta | Published on: January 10, 2018
As combing operations intensifying throughout Maharashtra, Mumbai Police is not far behind. Already, hundreds of youngsters have been apprehended by police and constant surveillance of areas in and around Powai and Chembur is in process.

Mumbai bandh
Image: Hindustan Times

A young resident of Phule Nagar-Powai, Dilip* said, “There are at least 4-5 police vans outside Phule Nagar area. There are also plainclothes policemen right at the entrance of Phule Nagar surveilling the area 24/7”. Speaking about the protest, he added, “The police were constantly filming the protestors, also there are CCTVs everywhere, the police are questioning almost everyone seen in the videos”.

Many, like Hitesh* are in a state of fear as many of his friends are on a run fearing arrest. Speaking over the phone, Hitesh added, “It been three days I have not gone home, I have not even gone to college. The police are roaming around with my photograph in their hands. My parents are very scared, an arrest can be done anytime and any section can be imposed on us. I do not know when I can get back home”.

Although youngsters are fearful, they do not think that it is a set back for the youth participation in the Ambedkarite Movement. Speaking about the movement, Hitesh added, “Our Movement will not stop, we know the real history of the movement. The government wants us to come on streets and protest because once we are on the streets, the police can easily target us, and that is exactly what has happened. I merely joined in with the slogans, and now the police are searching for me. We don’t trust any politicians. They can impose any section on me, and my career would be ruined. I did not commit any crime we only followed Babasaheb… we protested that’s all. The freedom to protest is rightfully mentioned in our Indian Constitution”.

Youngsters like Hitesh are the first generation of people from predominantly Buddhist Colony of Phule Nagar to enter colleges and other higher education institutions. His father is an autorickshaw driver and mother works as a maid who came to Mumbai to make a living from the drought and famine affected area of Vidarbha. They have been residents of Phule Nagar since past 30 years.

Hitesh further added, “I have big dreams, tomorrow the police can brand me anything they want, then what can I do?”.

Another youngster, Rohit*, who was part of the protest at Powai, said,  “If nothing would have happened in Bhima Koregaon, nothing would have happened here. Our people left everything and joined the protests, even everyone from my family joined in the protest including my mother.
“I think the government has received the message that people will not keep quiet nor will they tolerate injustice anymore.”  There was a distribution of water and biscuits on the streets done by the youngster for the people who were stuck in traffic at Powai, which saw a protest gathering of about 5,000 people. Youngsters also narrated they asked the shopkeepers to cooperate with the Bandh.

Almost 300 youth have so far been arrested from areas like Vikhroli, Bhandup, and Ghatkopar and mainly implicated under Section 144, which was imposed in Mumbai. Another youngster, Nagesh* who has not been home since last week said, “The police should catch the real miscreants, why are they stalking innocent people like us?”.

The sense of resentment for Ambedkarite youth all over Maharashtra is largely due to the role of police in controlling the situation at Bhima Koregaon and the general state apathy towards marginalised which has become apparent through the government’s reaction towards cases of caste atrocities whether it be Khairlanji or Kharda.

Like thousands of youngsters across Maharashtra, even Nagesh’s friend was caught by the police. and it’s been a week and they have not let him off. Nor is anyone from the family aware that what sections have been imposed on him.
“People in my family are illiterate, I am the first generation who has attended college.  All my college life has stopped since these combing operations began. Even my friends are missing college. All my friends are at different places. It’s my last year of college and I have exams after two-three months”, Nagesh added.

It must be noted that similar combing operations had taken in Mumbai during the Panther Movement in the 1970s and also during the Ramabai Nagar Atrocity in 1997. “During those times, the police apprehended thousands of youth who participated in the protests and put sections on them, and these cases are still going on,” a senior Ambedkarite activist added.
*Names have been changed on request

Courtesy: Two Circles