Javed Iqbal- DNA

Dear chief minister, is this rioting?

Jameel Akhtar Sheikh was defending his Ambujwadi home from demolition for two days, before he had gone to Sion Koliwada to help the original inhabitants of Mumbai, the Kolis, to defend one home that had been previously demolished on the same day he and thousand of his neighbours chased away bulldozers at his home back in Malad.

After the reprieve at his home, two days later, at Sion Koliwada, on May 31, he lay down before the bulldozer in an act of passive resistance, and would eventually be dragged away and arrested, charged for rioting amongst other charges.

Just two days ago, in a rally in Ambujwadi he would speak without a microphone to thousands of other residents, exhorting, ‘Where do you think Shah Rukh Khan stays? Who do you think made Anil Ambani’s home? We did!’

Today, he is among 25 individuals arrested by the Sion police at Sion Koliwada, along with 24 other women, including Madhuri Shivkar, the young leader of the resistance against Sahana Developers. She was the first woman to be dragged off by lady constables as she sat on dharna, without sleep, for over 19 hours. She has further charges slapped on her, and the police have demanded further custody for her, due to ‘serious complaints already filed against her’, but all her nieghbours know that this is only because she is the de facto leader of the opposition to the builder at Sion Koliwada.

Now, 24 women and one man were arrested and charged under IPC Sections 143, 147, 149, 152, 332, 333, 353, 504.

According to the police, the protestors had not only resorted to rioting and injuring a lady constable Kalawati Ravindra Sinha, 54, who would be admitted to Hinduja Hospital, but they also illegally rebuilt a home that the residents claim was illegally demolished.

The police also demanded police custody of the protestors till June 7 fearing they would return to protest, and return to ‘provoke’ the residents. Their only eyewitness is another police constable, while residents had video footage of the so-called riot, where every person who was arrested was picked up from the ground when they were lying down before the bulldozer.

At the police station, no one was allowed to meet the accused and even after all the protestors were sent to the Nagpada police station, no one was allowed to send them any food. Journalists were also not allowed to interview senior police officials.

The protestors remained in police custody all night and would complain before the Kurla magistrate court that their medical tests were not done properly. Allegations of abuse have been widely circulated in the Sion village, and just two days earlier a young Frank Fernandes sat in a police van with torn shirts, showing tell-tale signs of police violence.

A few of the police’s justifications for demanding police custody make an interesting indication of naked police aggression. In the first information report, they claim that if the protestors are released they would hurt the ‘peaceful environment’ in the area.

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