Mumbai: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted the Bhoomi Pooja ceremony on the site of the proposed Shiv Smarak on Saturday, the situation a few miles away in the coastal settlement of Machimarnagar near Cuffe Parade was tense.

Hundreds from the fisherfolk community had gathered with black flags on a ground in the fishing colony, a day after the police detained men and women planning to protest against the site chosen for the proposed memorial. Those detained included Damodar Tandel, the chairman of Akhil Maharashtra Machimaar Kriti Samiti.

“We have said again and again that we do not have any problem with the monument being built. We respect Shivaji Maharaj more than anyone else, but we have a problem with the site chosen for the project,” said Sunita Patil (47), a fish-seller and resident of the colony. She said the rocky outcrop is a site for fish breeding that would be completely destroyed by the construction work, affecting the fisherfolk.

The community, led by Mr. Tandel, had planned a silent protest at Girgaum chowpatty coinciding with the Prime Minister’s visit. But on Friday evening, the fisherfolk alleged that four police vans detained more than 50 of them and took them to different police stations.

DCP Manoj Sharma held a meeting with the fisherfolk on Saturday, where he assured them that those detained would be released in the evening safely. He also persuaded them to remain calm and co-operate with the police.

The detained people were reportedly released later in the evening.

But the fisherfolk were far from satisfied. “This is dictatorial behaviour on part of the government, but we will not stop protesting,” said Kailas Tandel, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences student and a colony resident. The protest is not limited to the colony; it has the support of fisherfolk from across the State.

Damodar Tandel, upon being released from the detention, said to The Hindu, “It is indeed surprising that the government was so afraid of our protest that it had to resort to these dictatorial tactics. But this is a fight for our existence and we will continue it to death.”