My Friends Were Detained for 48 Hours for Protesting at Aarey

Most of the protestors were kept in the dark about where they were being taken by the police.

My Report
4 min read
 An activist holds a placard during a protest against cutting down of trees at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony.

It all started on the evening of Saturday, 5 October. I was browsing through my social media handles and noticed several posts and stories on how trees were being chopped in the Aarey Forest ‘illegally’ at night.

Earlier the same day, the Bombay High Court had dismissed all petitions against the felling of approximately 2,600 trees around Aarey Colony for a metro car shed.

Trees cut down at Aarey for a metro car shed project.
Trees cut down at Aarey for a metro car shed project.
(Photo: PTI)

Shocked and surprised at this development, we went to Aarey Colony to see what exactly was happening. Everyone reached somewhat unprepared, with limited phone batteries and so on. Upon reaching there, the first thing which was apparent was the sheer number of police personnel present. At first, I thought they were present to stop the cutting of trees. I realised later that they were, in fact, there to stop protestors at the site.

As I witnessed, all protestors were completely peaceful and were only making valid inquiries, like a show of paperwork allowing the felling of trees. The police personnel had blocked the entrances from all sides not allowing anyone to go into the area in question. Surprisingly, they were also not letting people leave. They had somewhat contained the protestors in a circle, surrounding them from all sides. It was strange to see so many policemen with lathis surrounding peaceful protestors who were just chanting slogans to save Aarey.

The policemen kept adding up in number and it seemed like a very hostile environment. By blocking all routes and not letting people go in or go out, it was made to look like something big is happening.

It was late in the night and people stuck there had no means to travel or call anyone for help. At this point, I saw one girl present there fainting and there was no help available for her as all the ways were blocked and no rickshaws could come in. Thankfully there was a car present and my friend and me drove off with the girl to a doctor.

A protestor hugs a tree at Aarey colony on Friday, 4 October.
A protestor hugs a tree at Aarey colony on Friday, 4 October.
(Photo: PTI)

Upon our return, I heard stories from some protestors of how they were manhandled and dragged by the police, including the women protestors, which was a complete shock. Some female protestors were also detained at about midnight.

Protestors Detained During Frenzy

At about 2.15 am, the police vans came in and the protestors were rushed into the vans. They frantically drove off without giving any information to those detained as to where they are being taken. We got to know at around 3 am that they have taken people to different police stations – Chhota Kashmir, Goregaon and Dahisar.

Somehow I managed to know that two of my friends were also detained at the Dahisar station. I reached the station but the policemen refused us to even see anyone. They said that they do not know anything about the charges and the matter was being handled by the Aarey Police Station and we should inquire there. Some police staff suggested that the boys and girls would most likely be released by 6 or 7 am. All their phones were confiscated.

Police detain citizens who were staging a protest against the tree-cutting at Aarey.
Police detain citizens who were staging a protest against the tree-cutting at Aarey.
(Photo: PTI)

In the morning after much pleading, the police released a few young protestors who had their college exams the same day. We also heard that some protestors from Goregaon were released and our friends detained at Dahisar would also be free soon.

We waited outside the police station for a long time and at around 9.30 am we heard that that the police was going to press serious arrest charges against the remaining people.

Even the advocate who was present there to assist the release was shocked at the police’s decision. All this, to speak up against the cutting of trees!

She was heard asking the police for an explanation because that was not what they had told her at night. She would have prepared appropriately had they informed her of pressing charges.

We were shocked at the charge of Section 353 particularly as all the protestors were so peaceful and were simple enquiring about the wrongdoing. Everyone was presented in court at around 3 pm (this includes students who are appearing for exams on Monday) and moved from police custody to judicial custody. The women were shifted to Byculla Women’s Prison and the men to Thane Jail. They were escorted in the vans in the most shameful way like criminals. A woman who was detained said all of the protestors were manhandled and were not even told where they were headed.

Twenty-nine detainees, my friends included, were released on the morning of Monday, 7 October. This is what this country is today. And we voted for this to be.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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