Mumbai Bagh demonstration called off, only to have more women join in

High drama was witnessed at the sit-in demonstration being held by women against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on Morland Road in Nagpada, as a section of the organisers decided to call off the protest Saturday. Miffed with the decision, many women continued with their protest and were subsequently joined by over 800 others.

The women, on the lines of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, had been occupying a section of Morland Road since January 26. The sit-in has come to be popularly known as the ‘Mumbai Bagh’ protest.

Around 5 pm on Saturday, a group of volunteers got on the stage and announced that the protest, which was being held without police’s permission and was “inconveniencing local residents”, was being called off.

As the news spread and some women began to disperse, many others started arriving at the spot. Soon, around 800 women had joined the protest. Many dressed in Tricoloured dupattas, they sang songs like ‘Azadi, Tanashahi se Azadi’.

In the meantime, the police reached the spot after learning that the protest had been called off. The police team, however, took a step back as women continued to raise slogans against CAA, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register. The two police van that were rushed to get the women vacate the area, remained parked on roadside.

“We came here only after we learnt that they want to call off the protest. But as the women continued to protest, we did take any action,” an officer said.

Furkan Sayyed, a volunteer in the organising committee who announced on the stage that the protest was being called off, said: “There were security issues… some mischievous elements had joined the protest and was trying to make controversial statements and scribble inflammatory remarks such as ‘Azad Kasmir’. Taking these factors into consideration, we called the protest off… We also immediately blackened such remarks.”

Local residents and activists claimed that the protesters were not consulted. “We did not call off the protest… a few volunteers called it off without keeping us in the loop,” Naseem Siddiqui, former chairman of the state minority commission, who is the convener of the organising committee, said.

Dr Saba Shama, who had been participating in the protest since January 26, said: “We heard an announcement that the protest has been called off… we were shocked and thus, decided to stay back. Local residents do not have any problems with us.”

Siddiqui, meanwhile, said the protest will continue at the same spot on Friday. However, the organisers said they have now asked the Mumbai Police to grant them permission to relocate the sit-in to Jhula Maidan next week.

“The women were livid at being mislead… many more have now joined the protest. We will hold a meeting tomorrow to decide on why the false announcement was made,” Siddiqui said.