Mumbai: Make SoBo demonstration-free zone, suggests ACP Gautam

Mumbai: The Additional Commissioner of Police, east region, Lakhmi Gautam in his affidavit to the Bhima Koregaon inquiry commission, has made few ‘short term and long term suggestions/measures incidental to the issue and its consequences’.

In his affidavit, Gautam has suggested, “South Mumbai to be made demonstration-free zone.” According to his affidavit, he said that almost all morchas culminate at Azad Maidan or Mantralay, both in South Mumbai. “These demonstrations disrupt normal life and business in this area. Further, there would be major damage to life and property if any untoward incident happens during the agitations/morchas in South Mumbai,” Gautam has stated.

Incidentally, after the Bhima Koregaon riots which occurred on Januray 1, Bharip Bahujan Party president Prakash Ambedkar called for a bandh in 36 out of 94 police station areas. Only three areas – Kurla, Wadala and Worli – were impacted by sporadic stone pelting and agitation and they are not from South Mumbai.

Responding to this suggestion, Ambedkar has called it a ‘ridiculous’ one. “Firstly, it is a ridiculous suggestion. The government does not realise, in a heterogenous mass, there will always be discontended elements in the society. Agitation is a legitimate option to channelise this anger. All that the government needs to do is appoint a minister who will go and speak to them. It makes the agitators believe there is hope and believe the system will deliver,” said Ambedkar.

Ambedkar further criticised, “By clamping down on agitations, police are shirking their responsibility of maintaining the law and order and burdening the courts. The government is making our courts a parallel administrative unit instead of delivering justice.”

Gautam further explained that after January 1, sporadic agitations had started and continued till the day of the bandh on January 3. Nearly 75 criminal cases were registered, 39 police personnel, seven employees of BrihanMumbai Electric Supply and Transport and three civilians were injured.

Gautam, however, ruled out the January 3 bandh as politically motivated. “The agitators involved in the incidents in Mumbai were from different groups of the Dalit community. They were driven on by a highly emotive social issue and were not restricted to any particular political or social organisation,” stated Gautam.

Ambedkar said, he stands vindicated, since many political parties tried to interfere during the bandh and had blamed him instigating the violence during the bandh. “It is a fact, the bandh was spontaneous but then it was becoming violent and we were forced to call it off to avoid any untoward incidents. The reality was, every political party was trying to throw oil in this fire of the mass agitation. Just so nobody takes false claim, the disaster was averted,” said Ambedkar.

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