The Maharashtra unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned the lodging of a criminal case by the Mumbai police against 13 persons — all members of the minority community — in connection with a prayer gathering to commemorate children killed in Palestine on the occasion of Children’s Day.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the PUCL said a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged by the Juhu police under relevant Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Maharashtra Police Act (MPA) against 13 individuals, 11 of whom students, on November 14 for alleged violation of prohibitory orders.
As per the statement, all of them were picked up on November 14 after they responded to a call emanating from an Instagram account ‘solidaritymovement’ to observe Children’s Day in India with a quiet prayer recital of the names of children killed in the ongoing conflict in Palestine.
“It appears that several persons attended the peaceful prayer gathering on the Juhu beach. However, after the prayer gathering ended and the participants had dispersed, the Juhu police picked up 17 individuals around 10.30 a.m. [November 14]. They were taken to the police station and illegally detained there until 7 p.m. after which they were released,” said the statement, adding that four among those picked up by the police were minors who had been allowed to leave only at 4 p.m. after their parents were called.
The PUCL claimed the detained individuals had gone immediately after the prayer gathering ended to collect posters that they had earlier voluntarily kept in the police cabin near the Juhu beach as it had been decided that the gathering was meant to be ‘silent’, without any posters or banners.
‘Many were crying’
“The police present there, however, started questioning them and asked them to pose with the posters and placards and then photographed them. The police then told them they would escort them to the bus stop to ensure they leave safely. As they proceeded, they suddenly found that a police van had arrived. They were forcibly pushed into the van, detained and taken to the Juhu police station. The youngsters were frightened and many were crying,” said the PUCL statement, narrating the sequence of events.
As per the civil rights outfit, none of those detained were allowed to contact their parents or seek any legal help and call up a lawyer, condemning the police’s “gross violation of basic rights.”
“The 17th person to be picked up by the Juhu police was social activist Feroze Mithiborwala. He was picked up after the prayer gathering had ended and was made to remove posters from his bag, though he had never displayed any posters at the prayer gathering,” said the PUCL statement.
Condemning the police action as “excessive and arbitrary,” the statement said it was “a clear case of harassment.”
“Disturbingly, the attitude of the police was also intimidatory towards the young members of the minority community, especially the young girls, who had peacefully participated in a prayer gathering,” said the statement.
It censured the “arbitrary police action” which, in effect, had resulted in a complete restriction in Mumbai on public protests and peace gatherings “against the unprecedented violence and suffering faced by Palestinians, for which daily protests were taking place globally.”