Tushar Gandhi, Teesta Setalvad detained by Maharashtra govt to sabotage Quit India commemorations

Activists and freedom fighters, including GG Parikh, Tushar Gandhi and Teesta Setalvad, were detained to stop the events scheduled at August Kranti Maidan

Tushar Gandhi (left); Teesta Setalvad (photo: Getty Images)
Tushar Gandhi (left); Teesta Setalvad (photo: Getty Images)

Sujata Anandan

Usually governments, including those led by the Shiv Sena and the BJP, leave the August Kranti Maidan well alone on August 9 every year.

This day is the anniversary of the Quit India movement of 1942 and has been commemorated at this venue with great fanfare for decades, ever since Mahatma Gandhi's first call in 1942 from when it used to be called Gowalia Tank.

By its very nature, August Kranti is therefore also a popular venue for demonstrating citizens on other occasions, including the huge crowds that congregated very recently at the Maidan when civil rights activists from Mumbai protested the citizenship bills. Devendra Fadnavis was then chief minister and he had the good sense to allow the demonstrators to let off steam without stopping them and creating a law-and-order situation in the city.

So the Maharashtra government should have known better than to appropriate the August Kranti Maidan for the launch of their Maajhi Maati, Maajha Desh (my land, my nation) campaign from here. But considering all the tweets from Narendra Modi to Jyotiraditya Scindia and others, there seems to be a conspiracy afoot to snatch the Quit India brand from the Congress and the still-living freedom fighters who were making their way to the Maidan this morning.

All of them, including Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi, activist Teesta Setalvad and the oldest surviving freedom fighter, GG Parikh, a nonagenarian, were picked up and detained at their respective police stations for a couple of hours as they left their home this morning.

By afternoon they were allowed to go. The sole purpose of rounding them up seemed to have been to hold them back from the scheduled events and allow the government to overtake the optics, denying the activists and freedom fighters any mileage on this day.

For there are many other venues across the city where the same government programme could have been held surely? It was only a matter of having all government servants take a five-point oath to rid the nation of corruption and other evils; and then the Azad Maidan, which is huge and can accommodate larger crowds, would be better suited.

In comparison, the August Kranti Maidan is pocket-sized, with buildings at one end and a marketplace at the other. Apart from the Quit India commemorations, these days it sees only weddings and limited exhibitions.

The government, if it were looking tor a historical venue, could also have chosen Girgaum Chowpatty, associated with Lokmanya Tilak’s call for Swaraj. That venue too is four to five times the size of the August Kranti Maidan and freedom fighters were supposed to march from there in a peace rally to August Kranti Maidan.

After they were released, the activists did arrive at the venue and laid floral tributes to the freedom fighters who are no longer among us.

Tushar Gandhi tweeted, “For the first time in my life was I detained early in the morning as I made my way to the Maidan. Well, my great-grandparents were similarly detained by the British on the day at the same time and I am proud to join their ranks.”

The police said the trio were detained because they did not have permission for the march.

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