New Delhi: About 1,200 students, activists, and opposition leaders were detained on Thursday when they defied prohibitory orders and took to the streets to protest against the new citizenship law as large parts of the national capital reeled under restrictions on mobile internet services and traffic movement.
Opposition leaders including D. Raja, Sitaram Yechury, Nilotpal Basu, Brinda Karat, Ajay Maken, and Sandeep Dikshit and activists Yogendra Yadav and Umar Khalid were among those detained near the Red Fort and Mandi House — the sites of the two planned demonstrations.
The protesters were detained temporarily and kept at multiple locations including Bawana’s Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex and Surajmal Stadium in Mundka. They were released in the evening.
Hundreds of flag-waving students and activists converged near the historic Jantar Mantar in the afternoon to voice their anger against the contentious law after the police forcefully evicted protesters from areas around Red Fort and Mandi House.
Permission for holding any demonstration at the two sites was not granted.
As protesters started converging at the Jantar Mantar amid heavy deployment of security personnel, barricades were erected at the protest site to prevent them from moving further.
The police had also stationed water cannons and anti-riot teams to deal with any situation. The police claimed that not even a single incident of violence was reported.
In the locality around the Red Fort, many activists and students were dragged into buses in a bid to clear the area where Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed, which restricts gathering of more than four people. Holding placards and shouting slogans, the protesters allowed themselves to be escorted to the buses.
“Picked up by Delhi police from Red Fort. We had gathered to protest against the divisive CAB-NRC on Ashfaq & Bismil’s martyrdom day. I appeal to all peacefully keep protesting till unconstitutional CAB-NRC is rolled back. This is something we owe to Ashfaq & Bismil’s sacrifice,” former JNU Students’ Union leader Umar Khalid tweeted.
A large number of protesters converged near Sunehri Masjid in Old Delhi after being pushed back by the police from the historic Red Fort.
At Jantar Mantar, protesters were shouting slogans like “Keep dividing, we will keep multiplying,” “Asking questions is not anarchy, abusing power is,” “Bol ke lab azad hain tere,” (speak up for you have the freedom to) and “Janta mange rozi roti, milti unko lathi gali” (public wants employment and in return they get batons and abuses).
Mocking the use of water cannons by the police on protesters in the recent weeks, many shouted “pani mere nainan mein, jitna water canon mein” (as much water in my eyes as much in your water cannons).”
Soon after he was detained, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “How many people will your jails hold? As Gandhiji said, once people lose the fear of being detained, they are free. Then the oppressors have lost. That is what is happening with the CAA protests.”