Thane (Maharashtra) This is one police officer who came, saw — and with a simple gesture — “conquered” a massive crowd protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens in Bhiwandi town.
Seeing the massive gathering, estimated at over 100,000 spilling onto the main road of the town, Deputy Commissioner of Police Rajkumar Shinde hopped atop an autorickshaw and addressed them, winning not only hearts, but also saving the day for the police.
It was a cool, dry Friday afternoon in this Muslim-dominated town of over 700,000 citizens, with hordes of Muslim faithfuls trooping out after offering ‘namaaz’ to join the anti-CAA/NRC protests, following calls by various social organisations, Muslim groups and clerics.
Armed with the National Tricolour, banners and posters, they patiently waited for further instructions on the next plan of action, though some kept raising full-throated slogans to enliven the mood of the gathering.
But, there was nobody to lead or guide them as the crowds started getting fidgety, with some breaking into minor arguments among themselves on what to do, where to go and how to go about their protest effectively.
All the time, DCP Shinde, along with a large posse of his team kept a hawk’s eye on the situation and realized something was amiss as the crowd became more restive.
After having a quick word with his team, Shinde decided to take the matter in his own hands.
He promptly got off his police vehicle and walked to a section of the crowd, near a flyover on the main road of the town, below a flyover, where the protesters had parked a couple of autorickshaws, fitted with loudspeakers for the afternoon protests.
Shinde was warmly welcomed with smiles and ‘salaam’ by many of the young and old Muslims and with their help, rode the autorickshaw and grabbed the microphone which someone handed him.
Standing gingerly, even as a couple of youths held on to his feet to prevent him from losing his balance, Shinde addressed the massive crowd.
He requested them to maintain order, a delegation of four-five people could submit their memorandum to the police for necessary action, and then return to their respective ‘mohallas’ and homes, and their protest would be duly registered.
“Let the people of Bhiwandi set an example to the whole country on how to organize a peaceful protest… We are here to help you. Thank you,” said Shinde before hopping off the autorickshaw, amid a roar of approval.
Shinde’s brief speech, lasting barely a couple of minutes, seemed to have a magical effect and soothed the frayed nerves of the crowd. The protesters peacefully returned to their homes.
A day later DCP Shinde took all the accolades of his stand-alone action in stride and termed it as all in a day’s work.
“I sensed that their problem was they had no leader to guide them on what was to be done after they collected in such huge numbers. I merely tried to show them that their protest was noted. There was absolutely no threat of any kind of violence breaking out,” Shinde told IANS.
Hailing from Osmanabad, the officer was assigned to Bhiwandi five months ago — considered an ultra-sensitive posting — for its chequered history of communal violence in the 1970s-1980s.
However, he plunged into building “personal equations” with the people of Bhiwandi, took part in social-religious functions, is regularly seen in the field and is a “familiar, trustworthy face” among the citizens here.
Shinde’s brief video clip of the incident has gone viral on social media networks in India and elsewhere, earning him praise from different quarters.