Mumbai police picked up 13 individuals, 11 of whom are students belonging to the Muslim community for taking part in a prayer meeting in solidarity with children who were killed in Palestine. The prayer meeting was held on November 14, 2023, the Children’s Day, at the Juhu beach.
The detainees were charged under sections 37 (1), 37 (3), and 135 of the Maharashtra Police Act (MPA), according to a press note from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Maharashtra.
According to the PUCL handout, the youth detained had responded to a multi-city call emanating from an Instagram account ‘solidaritymovement’ and had gone to Juhu beach to attend a peaceful prayer gathering there.
However, after the prayer, some students went to collect the posters and ply cards that they had earlier voluntarily kept in the police cabin near the beach. The police there started questioning them and asked them to pose with the posters and placards and photographed them.
The police told them they would escort them to the Bus Stop to ensure they leave safely. As they proceeded, a police van arrived and they were forcibly pushed into the van and taken to the Juhu Police Station. Among the detainees 4 were under-age youth (2 boys and 2 girls), the PUCL press release said.
The youth were detained for almost 8 hours and when they were released were asked to return the next day and provide all their personal details along with their Aadhar Card xerox copy and 2 photographs.
PUCL Maharashtra expressed grave concern at the increasing trend of criminalizing public protest and deplored the manner in which police in Mumbai lodge cases against those participating in such democratic events.
The right to protest is a fundamental right of citizens guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. However, the increasing number of such instances shows that the right to protest of citizens is not only being infringed upon but being met with harsh and intimidatory police action and criminal sanctions. In many places in India, Civil society organizations are being denied and met with sanctions that are gatherings for anti-war public protests on the ongoing Israeli war on Palestine.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org