Mumbai: As many as 28 civil society organisations and 40 activists working in the sphere of human rights and with marginalised communities have written to the city police chief Hemant Nagrale and police chiefs of Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mira Bhayandar raising concerns of police violence on vulnerable communities while enforcing the pandemic curbs.
Among the civil society groups are Bebaak Collective, Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association and Maharashtra Hawker Federation and among activists, Medha Patkar and Teesta Setalvad.
The letter says that they are concerned about reports of police violence against groups such as the homeless, migrant and informal workers, sex workers and domestic workers. With the new restrictions imposed recently, anxiety and fear among these groups has increased, they said. There have been heated altercations between slum dwellers and the police, the letter pointed out and said that the homeless are being forcefully removed from public places and asked to go back to their villages by the police and authorities.
The activists further said that the police engage in arbitrary violence against hawkers and shopkeepers charging Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000 from them to be able to use public spaces, despite the guidelines allowing them to be open. The letter expressed concern that the violence will only increase in the coming days.
They sought that higher authorities take action against police personnel using force without instigation and hold an impartial enquiry against them. The letter also urged that no force should be used on slum dwellers moving within their settlements or accessing the public toilets or water sources. They again reiterated as in a letter to the CM earlier that community leaders may be roped in to help the situation and that the civil society such as themselves are willing to collaborate. They also suggested that home guards and civil defence be deployed for crowd control, food and relief measures for vulnerable groups.