With all the brouhaha from various right-wing groups and activists for carrying a placard reading, “Free Kashmir” near the Gateway of India against the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) violence protest, a Mumbai woman claimed it was “intended for peace in Jammu and Kashmir,” and apologised for the misunderstanding it created.
DCP Nishandar said that the city police has taken “serious cognizance” of the ‘Free Kashmir’ poster while adding that an investigation has been initiated into the same.
The placard was seen in her hand on Monday evening during the protests in Mumbai, triggered a political controversy.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis demanded to know what the protest was exactly about and why slogans of ‘Free Kashmir’ were raised there.
“How can we tolerate such separatist elements in Mumbai?’Free Kashmir’ slogan by Azadi gang at 2 kms from the CMO? Uddhavji (Thackeray) are you going to tolerate this ‘Free Kashmir’ anti-India campaign right under your nose???” Fadnavis tweeted on Tuesday.
Responding to the BJP charges, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut made it clear that it would not tolerate if anyone talks of freedom of Kashmir from India.
“I read that those who held the ‘Free Kashmir’ poster clarified that they want to be free of restrictions on Internet services, mobile services and other issues. It doesn’t mean that they advocate freedom from India,” Raut told mediapersons.
Nationalist Congress Party Minister Jayant Patil retorted to Fadnavis that the ‘Free Kashmir’ poster was intended for freedom from all restrictions and discrimination.
Devendraji It’s ‘free Kashmir’ from all discriminations, bans on cellular networks and central control. I can’t believe that responsible leader like you trying to confuse people by decoding words in such a hatred way. Is it losing power or losing self control? #JNUViolence https://t.co/wr3KPnWr5n
— Jayant Patil (@Jayant_R_Patil) January 7, 2020
The woman with the ‘Free Kashmir’ placard was identified as Mehak Mirza Prabhu, a Mumbai-born young artist who works as a ‘story-teller’.
Prabhu said that though she had no agenda or motive, she was taken aback by the reactions on social media to the ‘Free Kashmir’ poster she carried on Monday night.
“The picture created by entire social media came as an absolute shock to me. The placard meant ‘freedom to express themselves, freedom from the Internet lockdown which many people have been voicing for’. I was voicing my solidarity for basic Constitutional right. No other agenda or motive whatsoever,” said Prabhu.
Reiterating that she was a Maharashtrian, born and brought up in Mumbai, Prabhu said, “I am (an) artist who believes in basic human compassion. If by being naive in understanding the impact it would have, and in the process create this stir, I apologise.”
Prabhu urged all to let the ‘power of love overcome hate’, even as a Mumbai BJP-activist lawyer Vivekanand Gupta demanded her arrest from the Commissioner of Police.
Meanwhile, scores of protesters agitating at the iconic Gateway of India since Monday night against the violence at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were on Tuesday morning evicted by the police and relocated to Azad Maidan.
DCP (Zone 1) Sangramsingh Nishandar said that the protesters were evicted as roads were getting blocked causing inconvenience to Mumbai residents and tourists.
The officer said that the demonstrators were relocated to Azad Maidan near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus after several appeals.
“As the demonstration was posing problems for tourists and in traffic movement, we requested the protesters to move to Azad Maidan. But some groups did not listen despite our repeated request, so we relocated them to the Azad Maidan,” the DCP said.
The cops had to physically drag away protesters, mostly students, from the popular tourist site that became the epicentre of the “Occupy Gateway” protest.