CHENNAI: Over 5,000 people, including women and children, gathered near the pencil factory in Old Washermentpet in Chennai and protested against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Population Register (NPR) on Friday.
The protesters blocked interior streets and entrance to the Mint Bridge leading to a traffic snarl, forcing the 1,000 personnel strong police force deployed at the spot to intervene and remove them. The protesters have been put in detention.
When some of them resisted, police resorted to lathi-charge. “They resorted to lathi-charge three times between 2 pm and 5 pm. Some injured protesters were taken to Stanley Government Hospital and one was shifted to Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital,” said Kasali, a protester. This led to tension in the area and sparked further protests in Alandur and Anna Salai in the city along with several other places across Tamil Nadu including Madurai and Coimbatore.
#AntiCAAprotests at 10:30 near Pencil Factory in Washermenpet. As cops have put signal jammers, communication has been blocked. Need to come at least 100 metres away from protest spot for using twitter. Protests are gaining momentum here. @xpresstn @NewIndianXpress pic.twitter.com/KDJgEPlXlM— Omjasvin M D (@omjasvinMD) February 14, 2020
The police temporarily blocked the Mint Bridge to prevent more protesters from gathering. But, the crowd at Washermanpet refused to budge.
“Expecting such protests, on Thursday we published promulgation of the order of Section 41 of the Tamil Nadu City Police Act between February 13 to February 22. In spite of the warning, people gathered and so we had to remove them. Seeing police evict the protesters some of them tried to run and in the melee a few were injured,” a senior police officer said.
#AntiCAAProtests near Pencil Factory in Old Washermenpet. Here’s a view of the crowd at 11:30 pm. The tail of the crowd goes upto the end narrow street behind. Protests expected to continue.@xpresstn @NewIndianXpress pic.twitter.com/LV5LYypuXQ— Omjasvin M D (@omjasvinMD) February 14, 2020
During the protest, police personnel who barricaded the area entered the street and dragged a man into the van, as seen in a video taken by a protester. As this led to an argument between the protestors and the police, the personnel started lathi-charging people. The video shows the personnel kicking and even hitting elderly men and dragging them away.
The cops claimed that they were forced to use force after one of the protesters attacked Joint Commissioner of Police (West) Vijaykumari. Denying the rumour of a septuagenarian dying during lathi-charge, a senior police officer said, “The elderly man had been admitted to Stanley Government Hospital for two weeks. He was discharged on Thursday and suffered a cardiac arrest at his house in Old Washermenpet on Friday night. The protestors are spreading rumours.”
#AntiCAAprotests near Pencil Factory in Old Washermenpet.— Omjasvin M D (@omjasvinMD) February 14, 2020
Here’s people sitting around Mint-Rounturna having happy conversation with friends. As more people come, The protest spot poses a look of a happy social gathering now. @xpresstn @NewIndianXpress pic.twitter.com/pCSFKU6nP3
Until 11pm, thousands of people stayed on the road demanding the release of 170 men who were arrested by the police. Following the protest at Old Washermenpet, hundreds of people gathered near the Alandur Metro demanding the release of those arrested during the protest.
Chennai City Police Commissioner A K Viswanathan visited Old Washermenpet and held talks with protesters. Even as the talks were on, people slowly started dispersing from the streets of Old Washermenpet. However, protesters at Alandur and Triplicane did not disperse and police strength was been increased in the areas.
Police said the detained protesters were released at 11.45 pm. A senior police officer said Viswanathan had promised a fair inquiry into the incident. Still, at midnight at least 1000 protesters remained at Old Washermanpet and said they planned to continue their protest through the night.
Earlier in the evening, five persons, including three women, who gathered for a peaceful procession at Mylapore were detained and booked for unlawful gathering and causing public nuisance.
"We did not raise slogans or hold banners. We just gathered around 4 pm to make peaceful announcements about love and harmony as it is Valentine's Day. But around 50 police personnel pushed us and manhandled women as we were taken to the station. We were released only after 9 pm," alleged a processionist.