April 30, 2005

Two crowds in a city

On the afternoon of April 6, a crowd of residents of Bombay gathered outside Azad Maidan. Actually, they had marched there from August Kranti Maidan, about 7 km away, escorted all the way by policemen. When they reached Azad Maidan, they found that there were other demonstrators there. So they sat down on the footpath and the road in an impromptu rasta roko (blocking the road).

From accounts of several journalists and eyewitnesses, from some film footage shot at the time, it is clear that this was a peaceful gathering.

The police suddenly decided to attack them. They waded into the crowd wielding lathis. People panicked and stampeded, blows rained down, people fell and hurt themselves in the melee. A man filming the events had his camera smashed, his clothes torn. One child was hurt so badly, she died.

On the evening of April 22, another crowd of residents of Bombay gathered, this time on Marine Drive. They staged a rasta roko too. There were police in attendance here too. From all reports, this gathering was also peaceful.

But the police did not attack this crowd.

Why?

OK, here are two more details.

The first crowd was largely made up of people from Bombay's slums. They had gathered to protest the demolition of their homes by the Maharashtra Government. The second crowd was largely made up of people who live on Marine Drive and nearby; prominent among them was a local politician, Mangal Prabhat Lodha. They had gathered to protest the rape of a college girl by a policeman in a Marine Drive police chowky.

So: One crowd that's blocking traffic is beaten brutally. The other crowd that's blocking traffic is not.

Why?

19 comments:

wise donkey said...

Good question. unfortunately i didnt hear anyone else from the media highlighting. and just so tragic for the child who died.

if it had been a politician's child, would that have happened.

vishnu said...

You said
On the afternoon of April 6, a crowd of residents of Bombay gathered outside Azad Maidan

Don't you know that BOMBAY is officialy changed to MUMBAI in 1995?
You never bother to call CHENNAI as MADRAS or KOLKATA as CALCUTTA or for that matter BEIJING as PEIKING?
OR "The name Mumbai is derived from the temple of Mumbadevi,the famous HINDU goddess Mumba." is the reason why you are alergetic to it? Please clarify Mr. D'souza.


So: One crowd that's blocking traffic is beaten brutally. The other crowd that's blocking traffic is not.

It is really as SADISTIC as you can think. You actually want the other crowd to be beaten 'BRUTALY', just because Mr. Mangal Pratap Lodha was leading it! So sadistic!

Bombay/Calcutta said...

Vishnu (or shall I call you Appa "ji"),

The city is Bombay, named by the Portuguese in the early 1500s for its deep harbor. Since the Portuguese founded the city they named it.

By the way, the British founded and named Calcutta. It was not a city before the British arrived so it is even sillier to name it Kolkata.

You wrote: "It is really as SADISTIC as you can think."

Please learn how to form grammatically correct sentences in English before posting more.

Sriram said...

Here is what I think. I am going to try to make sure Dilip can understand me this time.

Anyone has a right to peacefully protest and such a protest should never be dealt with violently. The police should only use force reactively, not proactively.

Having said that, I don't have a right to squat in Dilip's living room and protest something (even peacefully). Why? Because his living room is not my property. The right to do whatever I want, peacefully, only exists when the owner of that property is OK with that.

Are you with me so far, Dilip?

Now, the protesters in both case were in public space that they did not own. If they block the roads and the footpath, they are already using force against the other members of the public who would like to use the roads (to commute, take kids to school, take grandma to hospital...)

In this case, the police, acting on the behest of the public, can use force to clear the protesters since the police force is now reactive.

Going by my previous example, If I stood in your doorway and prevented anyone from entering or exiting your house, I am being violent even if I am not punching anyone or shooting anyone.

Am I making sense so far?

Now, I was not there to witness the two protests. I don't know if Dilip was. The questions to ask (for both protests) would be:

1 . How much hinderance did the protesters cause the people who wanted to use the road? Did they completely block the road or was some flow of traffic still possible?

2 . Did the police ask them to clear the roads? If yes, how many times and did the protesters comply?

Without knowing clear answers to such questions and more, it is hard to decide.

On an aside, when people want to protest, why don't they rent some maidan and protest there? Why do they have to inconvenience everyone?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sriram,

when people want to protest, why don't they rent some maidan and protest there? Why do they have to inconvenience everyone?

Better yet: if some Bombay residents want to protest something, why not go to the little village called Songaon in Satara District and do it there? Last time I visited, there's not just a maidan but some other wasteland there as well. Forget inconvenience, nobody would even have to see them then. Songaon it is. I'm spreading the word.

Tanuj said...

vishnu, two comments for you:
1. a teacher of mine once gave me a useful tip that you might find handy - 'if you bold everything, nothing gets highlighted.'
2. please stop screaming over irrelevant issues (Mumbai v. Bombay), especially when your facts are incorrect.

sriram, two comments for you:
1. i don't mean to offend you, but to dilip's defence, i have to say that i have found most of your comments difficult to follow, some completely incomprehensible.
2. to answer your sign-off question - if slum dwellers had money, they would rent houses not maidans!

also, the main purpose of a demonstration is to get noticed; you would scarcely get noticed strolling around in a maidan in vikhroli (unless, of course, you pay a leading indain daily to cover the event)

dilip, the way you describe it, the police action sounds very unfair. i hadn't read about this before. let me see if i can dig out some news coverage on this...

Lisa said...

"Public property that they do not own..." The thing is, the police don't own it either. That's what public property is.

Here in the US we've seen major reductions in our right of free speech and assembly -- the right to protest and speak our mind in the "public property that we do not own."

Sometimes democracy and justice will inconvenience commuters. That's just too bad. Characterizing a protest by unarmed people as a "use of force" simply because they are in a public space -- yes, like a road -- is just silly.

zap said...

Hey Sriram : I think you missed out contemplating the 'Why?' which ends this post.

Sriram said...

Tanuj,

No offense taken. Guess that is why I am not a writer like Dilip!

Dilip, I am not sure if you are being sarcastic. I did notice that you pretty much ignored my entire post. Did you find it difficult to comprehend as well?

I thought I was being simple and logical. Oh well...

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sriram, the slum dwellers wanted to hold their demonstration in Azad Maidan, but they could not get in there. Therefore they sat down on the road and footpath. They had not planned a rasta-roko, but it turned into one. It happened in the afternoon and early evening.

The Marine Drive folks, as far as I know, had indeed planned their rasta-roko. It was arguably on a more heavily used artery, in the middle of rush-hour.

Frankly, I don't think these differences are germane: I mention them because you ask for more info. There were two broadly similar demonstrations. One got assaulted. One did not. I would like to know why.

Of course I was sarcastic. Tanuj has addressed your lament about renting maidans better than I can; Lisa has addressed your "use of force" claim also better than I can.

Vishnu said...

Dear Bombay/Calcutta,
You said Vishnu (or shall I call you Appa "ji")

I can do with either! I don’t know what inspired to shell out this Appaji….it’s nice though. By the way what if I called you Dilip?

The city is Bombay, named by the Portuguese in the early 1500s for its deep harbor. Since the Portuguese founded the city they named it.

Agreed! I haven’t got any doubt about your knowledge about history, But about your knowledge of law. Name change as Mumbai is now a law of the land. Don’t know why you are so skeptical about this name change?

Please learn how to form grammatically correct sentences in English before posting more.

At least MSWORD doesn’t show any mistake. But I have to accept that you are good at finding grammatical mistakes (though not connected with the topic). I guess you were a Montessori teacher and Tanuj was a brilliant chap in your class.

Dear Tanuj, LOL
Please stop screaming over irrelevant issues (Mumbai v. Bombay)

I don’t know what is your definition of irrelevant. But I know the Mumbai:Bombay issue is very much relevant to any proud Maharashtrian.

especially when your facts are incorrect.

Dear facts are just facts. There cannot be any like your fact and my fact


Dear Lisa, You said
"Public property that they do not own..." The thing is, the police don't own it either.

You don’t know either. It is the duty of a policeman to protect the public property and to maintain law and order without thinking whether the crowd is first crowd or second crowd. I cannot discriminate between the two either, like Dilip does.

Dear Dilip, You said
They had not planned a rasta-roko, but it turned into one.

So they can be allowed to do whatever? And police should not interrupt?....Just because it wasn’t planned? Poor logic.

Sriram said...

Lisa and Tanuj,

Since Dilip feels that you guys have replied to my post well, here is my response.

Tanuj, so you argument is that if someone cannot afford to own property, he can just do whatever he wants in other's property or private property? So, if I am homeless, I can build a tent in the middle of the road and live there?

Lisa, police doesn't own the roads either? Come on. Rasta roko is a crime committed by some members of the public against the rest of the public who would like to use the road. Police was only reacting (again, I am not justified the lathi charge. That depends on specifics mentioned in my post above).

If I walk into your home and point a gun at you and your kids, is the police justified in shooting me down? I would think so, since the force is reactive and it is the police's responsibility to protect the innocent from someone who is trying to harm them.

The roads belong to everyone - so the commuters have just as much rights on the road as the protesters. If the protesters harm the commuters by blocking their way, police has a responsibility to act on the behalf of the commuters.

What Dilip and Lisa are basically saying that if a mob decides to do something to a public property, they can and no one should question them. When a mob blocks the road, it is no longer peaceful, by definition.

Looks like you guys have some weird notions of "peace". I guess if we all went to Dilip's house and "peacefully" blocked the door, that should be OK. Right, Dilip/Lisa?

Neela said...

Ok dilip i promised not to do this, but alas, your post compels me:

so this can be seen as a 2 (against police: yes/no) x 2 table right (type of crowd: marine drive rich vs slum dweller poor) table.

so the question is "is there a main effect of rich? Is there a main effect of "against police"? and is there an interaction effect between "against police * type of crowd". (response variable: violent reaction).

..this reminds me of my research methods exam..

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sriram,

What Dilip and Lisa are basically saying that if a mob decides to do something to a public property, they can and no one should question them. ...
I guess if we all went to Dilip's house and "peacefully" blocked the door, that should be OK
.

Tell me, you and other guys who argue like this: do you have such poor faith in your arguments that you must pretend to yourself that anyone straying from your views is by definition promoting absurdity?

In any case, once more: two mobs staged rasta-rokos. The cops assaulted one. The cops did not assault the other. Can you explain why?

Can you try doing that without resorting to such emptiness as "noone can question them" and the like?

Anonymous said...

Better yet: if some Bombay residents want to protest something, why not go to the little village called Songaon in Satara District and do it there? Last time I visited, there's not just a maidan but some other wasteland there as well. Forget inconvenience, nobody would even have to see them then. Songaon it is. I'm spreading the word.

Cute... but next time I hope they hold a dharna and bandh smack in front of Dilip D'Souza's door step. How about spreading that word Dilipji? That gaane ka raswalla too could use some business and the little details like law and order too can be taken care off by the powerful friends of your daddyji - eh Dilip?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anonymous 353 am: Cute suggestion. Actually, it has actually happened. Complete with leaflets being handed out making insinuations about everyone in my family.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it has actually happened. Complete with leaflets being handed out making insinuations about everyone in my family

Really!! That's news, at least to me. A blog on the topic would be helpful to remove lingering doubts

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anonymous 851pm: A blog on the topic would be helpful to remove lingerie and doubts.

Why would I be interested in removing your lingerie or your doubts? My advice: hold on tight to both.

Anonymous said...

Oh.. I guess you are talking about the real issue would get your lingerie bit uptight. Please do continue your blogs on changing bras .... mucho interesting.