Mumbai Citizens’ Human Chain stands firm despite Police Pressure

Over a thousand Mumbaikars, including members of 27 citizens groups, school children, college students, families and individuals, gathered at Marine Drive this weekend to form a human chain to highlight the environmental degradation in the city. Citizens refused to budge despite police pressure to disperse.

aarey Human Chain

“With elections just a few weeks away, we felt it was important for all citizens groups as well as environmentally conscious citizens to come together and ask our leaders to reflect on the impact of their developmental projects like the metro car shed in Aarey and the coastal road. We want them to think about the impact of development not just on the environment, but also on the traditional habitats and livelihoods of indigenous people,” says Amrita Bhattacharya, one of the organisers.

“The ministers all say, ‘Save the Environment, Plant more Trees’. But you can’t replace an entire forest with six inch saplings! We are blessed with green forest cover in Mumbai and Thane and we must strive to protect it,” explains Cassandra Nazareth who came to South Mumbai all the way for Borivali. “Don’t get me wrong, even I want development. The metro will make my life easy. But the environmental factor has to be taken into account so that development is sustainable,” she elaborates.

Aarey Human chain

The citizens held hands and stood side-by-side in a human chain. Some were even holding colourful placards. They began gathering by 4:30 on Saturday evening, but shortly after 5 pm policemen from the Marine Drive police station arrived and demanded that the crowd disperse. PI Rajesh Shinde said, “These people had asked for permission, but it was denied. So now they should leave peacefully.” But Amrita Bhattacharya said that no permission was sought in the first place as this was not a protest or a demonstration, but just a gathering of like-minded individuals. “We don’t need permission to gather and discuss our views peacefully,” she insisted.
When asked the grounds for asking people to disperse, Subhash Khanvilkar, ACP Colaba said, “The election code of conduct is in place and we cannot permit a gathering of more than five people.” But the citizens stood their ground. “In a democracy, people have a voice and the right to dissent. We have the right to voice our concerns and we are doing so in a peaceful and civil manner,” said Vineeta, a writer who refused to leave when the police asked her to do so.

The citizens continued to stand peacefully holding hands till about 6:30 in the evening and then dispersed as quietly as they arrived, ensuring that they leave no litter behind.



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