Officials said they were shifted to Azad Maidan as their protest, which is being called Occupy Gateway, was affecting tourists at the iconic monument as well as the movement of traffic in the area
Protesters stationed at Gateway of India against the mob attack in Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) since Sunday night were shifted to Azad Maidan by Mumbai Police early on Tuesday.
Around 50 people, taking part in the Occupy Gateway protest, were pushed into three police vans from outside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai and taken to Azad Maidan, which is the default protest area for Mumbai, two kilometres away.
"It is our since request that you move to Azad Maidan from Gateway of India because the crowd thronging at this location is causing unrest on the roads leading to traffic and issues to the common man," deputy commissioner of police (Zone VI), Sangramsing Pratapsinh Nishandar, said.
"We had already informed your organisers that as per high court guidelines there cannot be any agitation outside Azad Maidan. We are in no way against your peaceful protest. We just want to relocate the movement to Azad Maidan," Nishandar said.
When asked whether the protesters will be allowed to go back to Gateway of India, Nishandar did not respond.
The protesters were kept at Azad Maidan with a ring of police personnel around them.
Some of them said they were manhandled by the police.
"We had formed a core committee to streamline the protests at Gateway and the committee has been present at the spot since January 6 midnight. The police refused to discuss when we resisted to move to Azad Maidan, dragged some of us by our foot into the police van," Urvashi Chudawalla, a student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), said.
"I personally was hit on my leg and back by a lathi because the policewomen were not able to physically lift me," the 22-year-old said.
Another protester, Varsha Rohani, said she was lifted inappropriately by the policewomen.
"My clothes were lifted while being pushed into the van and no dignity was maintained. Protesters were peacefully listening to the police," the 24-year-old advertising professional said.
"We were just trying to convey to the force that Gateway of India has more power to mobilise the movement and get the right attention to trigger action as compared to Azad Maidan, which is a closed restricted premise," she said.
The protest at the iconic monument had kicked off hours after students and teachers were attacked in JNU on Sunday night by a masked mob.
Students, teachers, researchers, celebrities, activists and citizens took to the streets in Mumbai, condemning the attack on JNU. There were flash protests at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) and a candle-lit vigil was also announced at Gateway.
Hundreds gathered at Gateway, including a group of students from TISS and a few celebrities like actor-director Konkona Sen Sharma and former JNU student leader Umar Khalid.
The protesters' demands include an independent and immediate inquiry into the attacks in JNU, strict action against those found guilty and resignations of JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar and the Union home minister Amit Shah.