Our intern, Mohammed Aasif, recounts his sobering experience of spending a day at Delhi’s Mandir Marg police station. He was picked up by Delhi Police when he went to cover a peaceful protest outside the UP Bhawan against CAA-NRC and the UP Police brutalities against unarmed protesters
Mohd Aasif | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — IT WAS A COLD December afternoon in Delhi, one of the coldest on record. I was assigned to cover the anti-CAA protest at UP Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday. I got down at the Lok Kalyan Marg metro station and took an auto. I was almost half a km away from Assam Bhawan, when my auto was stopped by the paramilitary personnel. One of them asked me to enter a bus that stood by. I informed him I was a reporter. They would not care a bit. They pushed me into a DTC ‘special hire’ bus meant for transportation of detainees.
As I entered the bus, I heard slogan-shouting. Protesters were struggling with security personnel. One of women protesters was shouting at a policeman. “Do not touch. You are not supposed to touch women.” She continued screaming, “How dare you to touch a woman?” Later, she told me that the policemen were taking a fancy to “touch” women protesters. The officers simply looked the other way.
Surprisingly, several ‘on duty’ personnel did not have nametags on their uniforms. I inquisitively asked one of them, why so. A policewoman blamed the protesters. She said, “They have snatched our name tags. We lost them.” I was astonished to hear this. I noticed then that none of the security personnel around the scene had his or her nametag to the uniform. If someone snatched the tags away, who did it? None of them could say who precisely took their tags away.
A ‘special hire’ green DTC bus took me and some others inside the bus to the Mandir Marg police station. Protesters were raising slogans against the brutality of the Uttar Pradesh police. They demanded the resignation of chief minister Yogi Adityananth. “Delhi Police Murdabad, UP Police Murdabad, Ajay Bishtistifa do (Delhi police down down, UP Police down-down, Ajay Bisht must resign),” the protesters shouted in unison. Later, l learned that several other protesters too were detained. They were taken to different police stations; some of them to the Parliament Street police station.
By now, we were inside the police station. It resembled a badminton court with some chairs put here and there. Some of these were broken. In the meantime, I spoke to some of the detenues.
There was a boy, Vishal Joshi, carrying Mahatma Gandhi’s book ‘India of My Dreams’. He is a member of the Jamia open library started after the central library at Jamia was vandalised by policemen. He said, “I want the police to read this book. They must know what Gandhiji used to think of the police in his dream India.”
Vishal came to protest against state police’s brutality in different districts of Uttar Pradesh. “I was standing nearby the Jharkhand Bhawan and a policeman came to me. He did not utter a single word, and he pulled me, pushed me, and made me to sit in the police gypsy”, he said about his detention. “Later, I was escorted to Gyarahmoorti where they forced me to sit in a green DTC bus. Police spoke no word to me. They seemed unwilling to speak to us,” he said.
Delhi Police and other paramilitary forces made sure that ‘no one’ could reach UP Bhawan at any cost. Nabiha, a member of United Against Hate related her experience of the detention, “We were in an auto at Chanakyapuri turn and police stopped our vehicle. Cops started pulling us out.”
Nabiha says that she was taken on the basis of “suspicion”. She was wearing a “Hijab”. She asked policeman if they were identifying people by their clothes. “I asked them if they were following the PM’s words,” she said.
The vicinity resembled a ‘war-zone’. Documentary filmmaker, director Jaswinder Chauhan and DOP Rehan were also there to shoot the film about the movement against CAA & NRC. “Our auto was stopped and we were asked where we were heading to. We refused to answer,” they said.
A small hint would do. Stated Jaswinder Chauhan, “The moment the auto driver told the cops that we were coming from Shaheen Bagh, they detained us.”
“Delhi Police officers asked us to show our IDs. They confiscated my ID card and Aadhar Card. I was told that they will return my documents after checking my background. I believe I am safe because I am a Hindu. If my friend had instead shown his ID, he might have been arrested immediately,” Jaswinder said.
Umair, a civil engineer, was detained from UP Bhawan on suspicion he was part of the anti-CAA protesters. He was not planning to participate in the demonstration that was about to happen. He went to drop his friend. He said, “I parked my car and went to give some money to my friend so he could use it for his return home. On broad hint, they took me in too.”
Students from different universities were detained from the spot. Laaraib, final year Biochemistry student of the Venketeshwara College was among them. She was there to express her solidarity with the Jamia, the protesters of Uttar Pradesh, and Indian Constitution. “We urge PM to stop lying. If he really wants to stop the NRC, he must hold press a conference. Or, his office should release a written statement.”
CONFUSING STATEMENTS FROM PM, SHAH
She also talked about confusion amidst statements on CAA-NRP from home minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modi. “Either accept that you are not going to conduct NRC or deny it via official statements.” Citing the deaths of protesters in different districts of UP, she said, “Looks like, human life has the least value in India.”
Zainab (name changed), a Jamia resident, said, “We were three girls standing nearby Assam Bhawan. Why arrest us for this? It takes a gathering of four or more people to violate Section 144. Still, we were forced to enter the police bus, to be driven away.”
“They asked us why we were standing there. We refused to give an answer and they started pushing us. Three policewomen dragged us. My hand got nail scratches and started bleeding”, said Zainab. “It appeared to me that the police’s primary concern was to ensure not a single person stood around the area. There were many injured in police and other action, but not a single person was provided with medical attention.” Zainab showed the tissue paper she used to wipe the blood. There were bloodstains on the paper.
Rukaiya, a woman in Burqa said, “They snatched away my phone. I had to struggle to get it back.”
Vikramjit Singh, SHO, refused to make any comment over the incidents. Some of the protesters paid their namaz during their detention inside the police station’s badminton court.
Protest broke out against UP police and chief minister Yogi Adityanath after the news of police brutality came out. Protesters were detained the same way on 23 December too.
(Mohd Asif is an internee reporter with Caravan Daily)