Over 300 students staged a protest at Shivaji Park in Dadar on Friday opposing offline examinations of Class 12 Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and Class 10 Secondary School Certificate (SSC) board citing COVID-19 risks.
The protest was stopped by the Dadar police later where students claimed they were lathicharged while, the police denied using any force against students.
After planning a protest using social media platforms, over 300 students staged a protest from 12 pm on Friday at Shivaji Park, Dadar demanding that SSC and HSC board examinations should be conducted online as the COVID-19 cases are increasing every day in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The students said initially the police did not stop them from protesting but later around 1 pm the police officials started stopping students from protesting on account of violation of social distancing norms amidst COVID-19 risks.
Nikhil Jadhav, a student who participated in the protest, said, "We had read messages on social media about the protest to be staged on Friday afternoon at Shiv Sena Bhavan, Dadar. So we all gathered there but there was police bandobast hence we moved to Shivaji Park and started chanting slogans "We want justice" demanding online SSC and HSC board exams."
Jadhav added, "The police did not stop us initially but later, they told us to call off the protest and go home. The police officials called for two police vans and took around five students in the vans. That is when all of us started running out of fear and the police officials started chasing us. Later they released the students who they had taken in the vans. Some students were lathicharged and pushed by the police officials."
In addition, Nupur Sawant, a resident of Nehru Nagar, Kurla east and a student leader who helped in planning the protest, said, "The police officials picked me up from my home on Friday morning and took me to Nehru Nagar police station. They kept me in police custody till 7 pm on Friday. The police officials said they kept me in custody for my own safety. I was not ill-treated by any police official. No complaint was registered against me."
A senior police officer from Dadar police station said, "The students were protesting against practical exams and were demanding all the exams including practicals should be conducted online. When we said that any type of gathering has been prohibited amidst the pandemic, students started raising their voices stating how political parties were allowed to protest. We made them understand and let them go after counselling them, no offence has been registered against them." The police also denied using any force against the students.
Students have been protesting in different parts of Maharashtra since last week citing risk of spread of Covid-19 infection if they appear for upcoming SSC, HSC board exams via offline mode. (With inputs from Sachin Gaad)