‘Free Kashmir’ Poster Row: Police Record Mumbai Woman’s Statement
Mehak Prabhu, a Mumbai resident, was criticised on social media for holding a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard at a protest.
Mehak Prabhu, a Mumbai resident, was criticised on social media for holding a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard at a protest.(Photo: ANI/Altered by The Quint)

‘Free Kashmir’ Poster Row: Police Record Mumbai Woman’s Statement

The woman booked for displaying a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard during a protest against the JNU violence in Mumbai has told the police she had no ulterior motive and had picked up the controversial banner which was lying on the ground, an official told PTI on Wednesday, 8 January.

Police on Wednesday recorded the statement of the woman, Mehak Mirza Prabhu, who held aloft the 'Free Kashmir' placard during the anti-JNU violence protest at the Gateway of India on Monday.

On Tuesday, an FIR was filed against Prabhu at Mumbai’s Colaba police station for holding a ‘Free Kashmir’ poster at a protest rally organised in solidarity with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) following the mob attack.

Though she later apologised for her act, the Colaba Police on Tuesday booked her under IPC section 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration).

Prabhu, who is a poet and a script writer, was called to the Colaba Police Station, where her statement was recorded by a woman police officer in front of Sangramsinh Nishandar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone I), the official said.
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Prabhu, who was accompanied by her lawyer, was allowed to go after her statement was recorded in the evening, he said. The proceeding was partly video recorded, the official said, adding the placards, banners and posters used during the protest were also brought to the police station. Prabhu, however, did not speak to the waiting media.

‘Will Review FIR Against Prabhu’: Maha Home Minister Tells The Quint

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told The Quint on Wednesday, 8 January, that the government will review the FIR lodged against Mehak Prabhu, an artist who was seen holding a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard.

“We all know what the situation in Kashmir is today. There are no mobile phone services, no internet services, there’s no freedom, all the leaders are under house arrest. Does she want freedom from the situation and the environment that’s there? If she wants freedom from all these things then the government will have nothing to object. But we are yet to investigate if the intentions were something else,” Deshmukh told The Quint.

“She is from Mumbai and her past record will be checked, but the way she has given a statement later abut the Kashmir situation, I don’t feel she has any other intention. I this she made a statement against the situation in Kashmir,” he added.

The FIR has been filed under Section 153(B) of IPC (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration).

At the protest against the violence in JNU, held at Mumbai’s Gateway of India, writer Prabhu was photographed holding a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard. Shortly after the protest concluded, the photo of her holding the message went viral on social media with many expressing outrage.

(Catch all the updates on JNU here).

Also Read : JNU & ‘Safe Spaces’ Under Attack: Where Will Students Go?

‘Stood for Justice’: Prabhu

Prabhu then released a video on Facebook, giving an explanation for the choice of placard. Prabhu said her act was misconstrued and alleged that people had twisted the narrative.

“Like anybody who believes in democracy, I also joined the protest. We raised slogans, sang slogans and stood for justice for JNU,” said Prabhu.
“The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the placard was that we are here protesting for our basic constitutional rights and freedom. And because there’s an internet shutdown in Kashmir for the last five months, they don’t have that freedom.”
Mehak Prabhu, Artist

“If we call them our own, then we should treat them as our own. They should have the freedom to express themselves and this is why I picked up the placard,” Prabhu can be heard saying in the video.

She added that she stood at the protest site with a flower in her hand, to convey the message: “Let's make peace together.”

Reiterating that people have blown the incident out of proportion, she said she was even accused of being a gang-member and that she was being paid.

‘Separatist Elements’: Fadnavis Lashes Out

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis also shared Prabhu’s photograph from the protest and questioned how such “separatist elements in Mumbai” could be tolerated.

Targeting Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, he wrote, “Uddhavji are you going to tolerate this ‘Free Kashmir, Anti-India’ campaign right under your nose?”

Reacting to the photo, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut said, “I read in newspaper that those who held 'Free Kashmir' banner clarified that they want to be free from restrictions on internet services, mobile services and other issues. Also, if anyone talks of freedom of Kashmir from India then it will not be tolerated,” reported ANI.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya filed a complaint with the police. Sangramsingh Nishandar, DCP (Zone 1) said that they have taken cognisance of the incident and are investigating it.

Also Read : ‘We Take Responsibility for JNU Attack’: Hindu Raksha Dal Prez

How Leaders Reacted to the Poster

While BJP leader Tejasvi Surya slammed the protests saying that they were about “breaking India apart,” several others who took to Twitter said that the placard has been misinterpreted.

At the protest, some posters called for a 'Ban on ABVP,' while some others read — 'Stand with JNU.'

On Tuesday morning, students, actors, artistes and civil society members protesting against the violence at JNU were removed from Gateway of India and taken to Azad Maidan. However, the protest at Azad Maidan was called off.

In JNU on Sunday, 5 January, a group of masked men barged inside the campus in the presence of police personnel, beat up the students and professors and vandalised the hostels. The incident sparked nationwide protests, at a time when the country is already gripped by demonstrations against the amended citizenship law and the NRC.

Huge crowds protested against the violence in JNU, not just at Gateway of India, but also at the Carter road on Monday, including a lot of Bollywood actors.

Also Read : 2 FIRs Filed Against JNUSU Prez, 19 Others on Plaint of JNU Admin

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