Mumbai: Sixteen boys who were arrested by the Govandi police during the protests that took place last Wednesday during the Maharashtra bandh have been released on bail. Last week, Dalit groups had called for a shutdown in Mumbai following anti-Dalit violence during the commemoration at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district the previous day.
Every year, 1 January is celebrated as the day that the 500-odd Mahar contingent of the East India company defeated the better prepared and larger Peshwa army in 1818.
The boys, between the ages of 14 and 17 years, were arrested on various charges relating to assault and causing harm and were remanded to the observation home in Dongri. On Saturday evening, all sixteen were granted bail on furnishing a bond of Rs 15,000 and the condition that they attend monthly counselling at the home with the non-profit Prayas.
Several were also released on the condition that they wouldn’t return to Govandi – the area where they had allegedly committed the violence – until the chargesheet was filed.
Sunita Ghadge, the lawyer who defended all 16, had argued before the Juvenile Justice Board that the boys were innocent and had been bystanders to whatever was happening when the police swooped in to make the arrests. "They got arrested in the confusion," she said.
She claimed they did not have any role in the clashes, but that even so, counselling would be a good measure to raise issues related to identity and discrimination.
"We don't know anything about the law or what to do in such situations," said the mother of one of the boys, who works as a domestic helper. "He had gone out to meet friends when this happened. He has never been to a protest or been involved with anything like this in the past."
The woman along with her taxi driver husband had to give up a few days of earnings to sort out the situation, arrange for a bail bond and other formalities. The father seemed particularly distressed, and helpless. "We are ordinary people," he said. "What will happen now?"
Parents of another boy claimed that he had simply been picked up because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Earlier in the week, some family members including their son had gone to Bhima Koregaon for the annual commemoration of the 1818 battle, but the parents said he had not himself committed any offence during the bandh in Mumbai.
"My son simply stepped out of the house," said the mother. "We only found out much later that they had arrested many people, including my son."
They claimed he had been injured during the incident, possibly during the police lathi charge and was taken to the hospital and treated following his arrest, after which he was brought to the Dongri observation home.
The woman, a daily wage labourer, said the neighbours had cast aspersions on his upbringing. "People in the neighbourhood have been talking since the incident," she said. Fourteen boys were let off on Saturday itself, with the remaining two let off on Monday following some pending formalities.
Last Wednesday, protests took place in Chembur, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli and other areas, with traffic brought to a halt and train services delayed. More than 100 people were arrested across Mumbai in total, according to reports.
During the protests, hundreds of youths reportedly swooped onto the roads in eastern suburbs asking shops, restaurants and commercial establishments to close down. They staged roadblocks at several locations by squatting on the road for hours. Children were also seen blocking bikes and cars trying to get past the blockade and participating in stone-pelting incidents. At places like Panjrapol, teenage girls joined women as they took the roads and stopped vehicles from passing.
A 16-year-old boy, who was part of the mob blocking a road during the Maharashtra bandh in Nanded city, was crushed to death while escaping police. The incident occurred in Hadgaon area of Nanded in Marathwada region on Wednesday afternoon when protesters were blocking a road.
Security outside the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi was also scaled up as protests spread to Delhi as well. Students belonging to All India Students Association (AISA) demanded judicial probe against those responsible for the violence.
Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 09:53 AM