Aarey Colony protest: 29 held; Mumbai cops accused of high-handedness

The drama over cutting of trees in part of Mumbais Aarey Colony for a proposed metro car shed shifted from the corridors of the Bombay High Court to the prominent green lung over Friday night, resulting into clashes between protesters and police who have arrested 29 persons on Saturday. Some protesters have accused police personnel of high-handed behaviour. However, Mumbai Police have denied these allegations. Those arrested, including six women, are among the 60 people who were detained by police earlier, a police official said, adding that some of them are students. The entire Aarey Colony was cordoned off by police on morning after hundreds of green activists tried to stop felling of trees in the area by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) for the Metro-3 line rake depot. The MMRCL action began hours after the high court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision of Tree Authority of the Mumbai civic body to allow felling of trees. Meanwhile, the police official said some protesters had beaten up the men in uniform on duty in Aarey Colony. We have arrested 29 protesters. Six of them are women. Some of them had manhandled and beaten the police personnel deployed in Aarey Colony and obstructed them from discharging their duty, the official said. On Friday night, around 200 people gathered and started protesting near Picnic Point in the colony, he said. While the protests were on, a group of people roughed up two police personnel, who sustained injuries, he said. A case has been registered under sections 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on complaint of a 28-year-old woman police constable who was injured in the alleged attack. They have also been booked for violating Section 144 of CrPc (banning unlawful assembly) imposed in Aarey Colony and surrounding areas. All the arrested protesters were taken to court for remand, he said. The official added the detained protesters were taken to Aarey, Vanrai and Dahisar police stations, where some of them are being released. Meanwhile, one of the detained women alleged she and her aides were detained by police while they were protesting peacefully in the early hours of Saturday. Some alleged that the women protesters were manhandled by male police officers who bundled them into police vans. However, Mumbai Police spokesperson has refuted the allegation of high-handedness by police as false. All due procedures and legally valid steps were taken while handling the situation, he said, adding that the situation is peaceful now. All roads leading to Aarey colony were cordoned off by the police and work of axing the trees is going on in heavy police security. Opposition parties have slammed the ruling Sena-BJP alliance, stating they have failed to save the trees. Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray criticised the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd for slyly and swiftly cutting down an ecosystem, which, he said, is shameful and disgusting. The activists claimed that almost 200 trees have been cut so far.