Mumbai Police files FIR against writer holding 'Free Kashmir' poster at Gateway of India; woman claims she sought to highlight communications ban

  • A controversy has snowballed regarding the poster, with Devendra Fadnavis and NCP leader Jayant Patil sparring over the government's action regarding the message

  • Prabhu, a resident of Mumbai, clarified the message she was intending to convey earlier on Tuesday

  • In a video message on Facebook, said she was just demanding the lifting of restrictions in the new Union Territory and claimed her act had been 'blown out of proportion'

Mumbai Police on Tuesday filed an FIR against Mahek Mirza Prabhu who was holding a placard with a 'Free Kashmir' slogan at Mumbai's Gateway of India during a protest against the violence against students and faculty of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on 5 January.

"We have taken serious cognisance of the 'Free Kashmir' poster seen in the protest last night at Gateway of India. Yes, we are definitely investigating it," Sangramsingh Nishandar, Deputy Commissioner of Police, was quoted as saying on Tuesday morning.

Reportedly, Prabhu has been charged under Section 153B, which deals with offences related to publishing any imputation that causes incitement, at the Colaba Police Station.

A controversy has snowballed regarding the poster, with former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and NCP leader and incumbent minister Jayant Patil sparring over the government's action regarding the message.

Prabhu, a resident of Mumbai, clarified the message she was intending to convey earlier on Tuesday. In a video message on Facebook, said she was just demanding the lifting of restrictions in the new Union Territory and claimed her act had been "blown out of proportion". She also issued an apology.

"If by being naive in understanding the impact it would have and in the process create this stir, I apologise. I am an artist who believes in basic human compassion. Let power of love overcome hate," she said.

Prabhu also explained that through the poster she was only seeking to highlight the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under a slew of communication curbs post revocation of its special status through the abrogation of Article 370 since 5 August. "In the last five months, the basic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been taken away. If we say they are 'ours', then we should treat them accordingly. They should get the basic rights that we are getting," she said.

"They should have the freedom of expression, and with that thought, I had raised the poster," she added.

Expressing her anguish over the way the message has been received in some quarters, Prabhu said she was just stressing on peace. "I was quietly standing. Actually, there were flowers in my hand. It was meant to be offering peace. Let's make peace together. That was my only intention in holding that placard," she said.

But it has been "blown out of proportion" completely, she said, adding, "And I do not understand why they are now calling me a member of some gang or some organisation and suggesting that I had been paid to stand there."

However, the Maharashtra government ordered a probe into her "antecedents". State home minister Anil Deshmukh said the antecedents of the woman are being probed. Talking to reporters, he said the woman's background is being verified. "If she is involved in any anti-national activity, action will be taken against her," Deshmukh said.

A large number of students, common citizens and activists had taken part in the protest rally at the Gateway of India in south Mumbai.

As soon as Prabhus's photo went viral on social media, Fadnavis objected to her "Free Kashmir" message. In a tweet on Monday night, Fadnavis asked, "How can we tolerate such separatist elements in Mumbai?" He also sought to know what exactly the protest was for and if Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will tolerate this "anti-India campaign right under his nose".

In response, Patil accused Fadnavis of trying to confuse people by "decoding words" in a hateful manner. "Devendraji, it's 'free kashmir' from all discrimination, bans on cellular networks and central control. I can't believe a responsible leader like you is trying to confuse people by decoding words in such a hateful way. Is it losing power or losing self control?" Patil tweeted.

The Shiv Sena, the BJP's former ally in the NDA, also explained that the poster meant to convey the Valley's demand for freedom from internet bans and other restrictions that are in place for more than five months. He also said that if the poster was meant to indicate that Kashmir wanted freedom from India, "it wouldn't be tolerated".

"I read in a newspaper that those who held 'Free Kashmir' banner clarified they want Kashmir to be free of restrictions on internet services, mobile services and other issues," Raut said.

Aaditya Thackeray, newly appointed minister in the Maharashtra government and who is seeking to portray himself as a voice of the youth, said that Prabhu's "intent" needed to be investigated.

"Apart from that incident (we need to) look at larger picture... we need to see her intent. Was it to remove internet blockade? If it was to free Kashmir from India, then it is wrong. Obviously everyone condemned it... not even other protesters supported it," Aaditya was quoted as saying by NDTV.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 07, 2020 22:16:50 IST