“It was the protesters who indulged in violence and injured many cops and even damaged public property,” said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami at the Assembly on 17 February, justifying the police action against anti-CAA protesters in Chennai.
On 14 February, a number of people took to the streets in Chennai’s Washermanpet to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR). By night, a scuffle broke out between police and the protesters which resulted in a lathi-charge.
Angered by the police brutality, hundreds of women decided to begin an indefinite protest. Once the visuals of the police action went viral, multiple protests have erupted all over the state in the last three days, condemning police high-handedness against anti-CAA protesters.
CM’s Version VS People’s Version
Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami justified the police action. saying, “Washermanpet Muslims have been protesting in their area, headed by Lathifulla, Ajay Ali Samudin and others. Over 300 Muslims protested on 14 February and police explained that it is not the right way to protest.”
He blamed the protesters for indulging in road jam and sloganeering against the Centre and state government. “They broke windshield of government buses and so were detained till afternoon. Again by evening, without permission, in Washermanpet, Muslims protested and police warned them to withdraw the protest,” he added.
He claimed that ‘few instigators’ among the protesters had thrown bottles, slippers and stones on the police, injuring many. He alleged that a blockade kept by the cops was forcefully taken away by the people.
When The Quint spoke to the women who were present at the site, they said that the police had warned them to abandon the protest. When they refused to do so, the police began thrashing the men who were trying to protect the women.
“I had my one-year-old baby in my arms and another one on my side. We didn’t want to run but we had to for the safety of our kids. Since we all live in the neighbourhood, we managed to,” said Faheeda who was one among the many protesters.
A few women also said that the women protesters had to resort to hitting the cops with stones for a brief while in self defence.
This video acquired by The Quint shows police hitting the men with sticks.
People at Washermanpet, #Chennai alleged when they were gathered on 14 Feb for a protest,scuffle broke out resulting in a lathicharge— Smitha T K (@smitha_tk) February 17, 2020
Women alleged men were only protecting those with children along. It was only when men were dragged away that pelting occurred.#CAA_NRC_Protests pic.twitter.com/JnaKf6yzCl
The chief minister stressed upon the fact that the state government will always work to the best of the people’s interests.
"“The Amma government will not allow any activities against Muslims and our government will work for minorities.”" - Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami
Palaniswami also debunked rumours that a 70-year-old died at the protest. He clarified that the death was due to natural causes.
The city police Commissioner also held talks with Muslim leaders, including representatives from the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), India Thowheed Jamat (INTJ), Popular Front of India (PFI), National Thowheed Jamath and the Indian National League.
Appeal to Pass Resolution Against CAA
Meanwhile, DMK leader MK Stalin said that the Opposition were “not satisfied with his explanation”.
Thamimum Ansari, MLA belonging to the IUML party, appealed for a resolution to be passed against CAA.
“Unwanted acts should not happen in our state. All are living here as brothers and sisters. People are protesting all over India against CAA. In Chennai also protest is going on in a peaceful way. Until 7:40 pm on 14 February, it was peaceful and then police indulged in violence by taking blockades away. I ask, Is it right to initiate lathi charge against women?” he said.
The Speaker refused permission to discuss the anti-CAA resolution moved by the DMK chief MK Stalin.
"“We are not satisfied with explanation given by the chief minister and we have asked for a resolution against CAA but the Speaker is not letting it so we are walking out of this Assembly.”" - MK Stalin, DMK President
DMK, along with Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), staged a walkout. Speaking to reporters outside the Assembly, Stalin alleged, that the chief minister was misleading the people by stating that the protesters indulged in damaging government property.
“Washermanpet people are protesting continuously. Chief Minister indulged in talks with the police continuously but not with the protesters,” he added.
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