Battleground Aarey: Stand-off between police, activists; 29 arrested, hundreds detained
(PTI Photo)

Mumbai: Twenty-nine people were arrested by Mumbai Police on Saturday after clashes broke out between protesters and police when Metro authorities began chopping trees in Aarey Colony in the dead of the night on Friday.

Tree-felling began shortly after the Bombay High Court dismissed petitions opposing the move earlier in the day. The activists were sent to judicial custody by a magistrate court in Borivli, which remanded them in judicial custody jail till Monday.

The public prosecutor sought police custody for the two protesters who had allegedly assaulted police constables, but the court turned down their plea. Those arrested were later taken to Thane jail. The hearing of their bail application is scheduled for Monday. Mumbai Police spokesperson and deputy commissioner of police Pranaya Ashok confirmed that 23 men and six women were arrested early on Saturday morning. They were among the 60 people who had been detained on Friday night.

"The protest was held without prior permission and the protesters assaulted two constables, including a female constable," said DCP Ashok. They were booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code for assault to deter a public servant from discharging their duty (sections 353), voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty (section 332), unlawful assembly (section 143 and 149). "The allegations made by some persons of high-handedness by Mumbai Police during the bandobast are false. We had followed the due process of law while handling the situation. The situation currently is peaceful," said DCP Ashok. Apart from the hundreds of protesters detained by police were leaders of various political parties -- Nationalist Congress Party MLA Jitendra Awhad and Shiv Sena leaders Priyanka Chaturvedi, Sheetal Mhatre and Shubha Raul. While Awhad was detained by police on Saturday evening after he entered Aarey Colony, the Sena leaders who had been detained in the morning were let off by noon following MLA Sunil Prabhu's intervention.

The activists began gathering at Aarey Colony on Friday, after a video showing a tree being cut went viral on social media. Some protesters camped just outside Aarey through the night as police stopped them from entering the area, sources said.Police said, most of the protesters were students, political party workers and environmental activists. The court allowed two of the arrested students to appear for their exams on the condition that they would be escorted by police to the exam centre.

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