MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has urged anti-CAA protesters at "Mumbai Bagh" to withdraw their eight-day-long agitation and assured them that it will not file any case against them if they move out. Nagpada police, in the past week, had issued notices under the preventive Section 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code to seven locals, warning them that if any untoward incidents took place, they would be booked.
A delegation of former and present MLAs and women representatives of the protesters met the minister on Monday after certain issues cropped up at the protest site from Saturday. Police had on Saturday tried to get the group to withdraw, without success.
Former MLA Waris Pathan said they had asked Deshmukh to take back the notices issued. “We will meet the core committee of the protestors and take a unanimous decision about the next step,” Pathan said. He said a decision if the protest has to be taken back or if it can be shifted to another location would be taken in a meeting scheduled at night at the protest site outside Arabia hotel in Mumbai Central.
The women who form the core committee of the protest were closeted in a meeting on Monday night to determine their next course of action. However, the men backing the agitation said they had no plans of winding up the stir or of moving it elsewhere, and demonstrators at the site staged their sit-in well into the night.
Samajwadi Party MLA from Bhiwandi Rais Shaikh, who was also part of the delegation, said they did not want anyone to take advantage of the protest and the situation at the site, so an appropriate decision would be taken.
On their part, police began preparing themselves for the worst by conducting flag marches in various parts of the city, which will be repeated on Tuesday. Police also revised and updated their standard operating procedure for communal riots. Former IPS officers said they do not remember such an occurrence since the Mumbai riots of 1992-93. Routine flag marches are carried out before elections or prominent events. But seldom do police anticipate communal riots to break out at such times.
Mondays flag marches came hot on the heels of violence in Jawaharlal Nehru University and firing near Jamia Millia Islamia University and at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. The protests going on at Govandi and Madanpura have prompted Mumbai police to take the preventive step, sources said.
Police remained tightlipped when asked if there was any high alert or anticipation of any untoward incident in the backdrop of the anti-CAA/NRC protests at Nagpada and Deonar. “Anything can happen. We are preparing for the worst,” said an officer. “The march was carried out at the level of local police stations across the city for peace. The idea is to show visible police presence and prevent any untoward incident, particularly in sensitive pockets,” Mumbai police spokesperson, DCP Pranay Ashok, said. Meanwhile, Nagpada police have deployed two CCTV vans at both ends of the “Mumbai Bagh” protest to capture images from all directions. The cameras are linked to the server at the police control room.
A flag march resembles patrolling by Armymen in full gear in an area where curfew has been imposed. The objective is to show presence of forces in the area in order to prevent a law-and-order situation.
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