A lone female protester who was detained by the Chennai police has alleged that she was put in a van with 12 men on Thursday evening.
The incident happened at around 5 pm near the Gandhi Mandapam statue in Adyar on Thursday, where a group of anti-CAA protesters had gathered for a memorial meet to observe 5 minutes of silence on Mahatma Gandhi's death anniversary, as a mark of registering their dissent against CAA and NRC.
Within a few minutes of the meet, police officers from the Kotturpuram police station who were deployed at the site took 8 men and the woman into custody and forcefully dispersed the others who had gathered at the site of the meet.
"Me and 8 others (men) had been standing further away from the protest site. The officers from the Kotturpuram police station suddenly started rounding us up and pushing us into a van. A female officer got me into the van. But after that she vanished. Inside the van, there were 8 male protestors and 4 male police officers and me. We were driven to a community hall in Kotturpuram with no female police officer in sight," the woman told TNM.
She added that two women police officers arrived at the community hall, 2 hours later, to collect her personal details.
Sudha Ramalingam, senior lawyer and human rights activist told TNM, "Although it is not expressly mentioned in the CrPC sections governing the arrest of women, female police officers should accompany women when being detained. In this incident, although the woman officer accompanied her till the police van near Gandhi Mandapam, the police officers have shown utter gender insensitivity by leaving her in the custody of all male officers, that too in Chennai, a city where there are atleast 30 all women’s police station."
The memorial meet was organised by 'Platform against Fascism' and the organisers say that prior permission had been taken from the Mylapore DCP to organise the protest. However, it was shifted to Gandhi Mandapam in Kotturpuram as per a request by the Mylapore police.
"We were initially planning the meet at Gandhi Statue in Marina. Then the Mylapore police called us to the station on Wednesday to discuss the event we were planning. They asked why the organisation was called Platform against 'Fascism' and why we were protesting against the CAA," Shreela, a lawyer who represented one of the organisers told TNM.
On Wednesday, a day before the meet, the Mylapore DCP issued show cause notice to one of the organisers - Sathish, and imposed a security bond of Rs 50,000 to ensure 'good conduct' from him.
"After a lot of back and forth, Sathish eventually signed the show cause notice after the DCP promised to arrange another venue for the memorial meet. He asked us to meet at Gandhi Mandapam and we shifted the venue. But before we could start the meet, the police clamped down on us," Shreeja added.
Shreela also alleged that the show cause notice was entirely arbitrary and offered only 24 hours to Sathish to respond to it.
TNM contacted the Mylapore Assistant Commission of Police who said that the show cause notice was a regular preventive measure taken by the police.
TNM also contacted the Kotturpuram ACP who refused to comment on the incident.
(With inputs from Anjana Shekhar)