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Detentions galore in Ahmedabad, Vadodora on Kakori martyrs' day: An 'insider' story

Protesters in Ahmedabad being taken away in police van 
By Bhavik Raja*
It was the morning of December 19, 2019 – a historic day for our country. It is the martyrdom day, a day to remember Kakori martyrs Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan and Roshan Singh. We remember the martyrs with great respect, and it reminds us afresh that our freedom movement was conducted by lakhs of people from all communities, religions, castes, races and regions.
These martyrs gave away their life on December 19, 1927 fighting for India’s freedom shoulder-to-shoulder with Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. In that period, the British imperialists were trying to pursue a policy of divide and rule. But the urge for freedom united all as Indians.
Alarmingly, we are in the midst of a similar situation just now. The present ruler appear to be trying to pursue the same policy. But contrary to their intention, people have begun coming united, reaching the streets against what they perceive as anti-people, anti-secular and anti-democratic policies. And the most heartening fact is, the lead for this movement is being taken by students.
The rulers of our country are bent upon curbing the students’ movement at any cost. The incident of police brutality on the students of the Jamia Millia Islamia, who were agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), stunned the entire country. Virtually the whole of India burst forth into agitation in almost all the states, from north to south, from east to west.
The Left parties had given a call to protest day on December 19. We were also one of the participants. We had applied for police permission in advance, and were given the permission for demonstration and dharna at Sardar Bagh, Lal Darwaja, Ahmedabad. But suddenly, on the night of December 18, fresh orders were issued to cancel the permission.
In Gujarat they gave the excuse of a bandh call given by some organisations. But this wasn’t true. First of all, the administration in Karnataka had also cancelled all the public programme permissions, though no one had given a bandh call there. And secondly, the a pro-CAA-NRC group organised a demonstration at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Ahmedabad. But their permission was not cancelled.
The protesting group at Sardar Bagh before the detention
People were furious because of the behaviour of the police administration at Jamia. So, to show the resentment, all the organisations decided to continue with their public programme, irrespective of the attitude of the police and the administration. At the scheduled time, at one in the afternoon, we reached the spot and in a very peaceful, disciplined and democratic manner, and began our demonstration.
But, suddenly, cops led by the police inspector of the Karanj Police station reached there and started grabbing us from the venue, saying that we were doing an illegal activity as we did not have the required permission. When we resisted, they forcefully detained us in a police van. Our banners were taken taken away, and we were not allowed to talk to the media.
But the most extraordinary incident took place when the police were about to you start the van to take us to the police station. About 200 to 300 persons, who appeared to be belonging to different communities, all of them unknown to us, stood in front of the van, and blocked the way, demanding that we be released.
We have never witnessed such a thing in the past. Here, unknown people take the risk for our sake. They appeared to be aware of the fact that they might be punished for this. And yet, without worrying about the consequences, they just thought of relieving us from the police van. The police took us from a different route after resorting to lathicharge on these people.
But before the van began, we could see: They had started checking nearby vehicles, even as lathicharging those who came in their way. They picked up many randomly, even those who were in the Sardar Baug Garden, bringing them all to the Shahibag Police Stadium, where we were detained.
During the detention our names, addresses and phone numbers were taken. We were not given any food or tea. We were allowed to manage tea and some snacks. We were kept there till late evening. Along with the people whom they had detained for blocking the road, they had also detained Arun Mehta, a central committee member of CPI-M. He, as also some others, were separated from us and were taken to the Ranip Police Station.
There, we learned later, the police behaved very roughly with them, taking away their mobiles, putting them into custody, charging them for rioting (Section 146). They were produced the next day afternoon in the metropolitan court after medical check-up, where initially the magistrate denied them bail. But following strong arguments by advocates, the magistrate allowed them bail.
A veteran passerby injured during the protest
They were called the next day again to the police station. They were now charged with Section 151 (joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse) in addition the section on rioting – and they had to undergo the process of bail yet again. Those of us who had been released earlier on the evening of December 19 were also called by the police to give our statement.
This was also an extraordinary experience, because in the past also we have been detained in various agitations by the police, but after getting relieved, we wouldn’t be called again for any kind of statement. For the first time the protesters were treated by the police and the administration as if we were criminals.
Like in Ahmedabad, in Vadodara too they had cancelled the permission given for joint protest by Left parties. They decided to call off their protest programme and dispersed. But when on the next day a delegation of four went to submit a memorandum to the district collector, they were detained by the Raopura police, saying that they had not taken the permission to submit the memorandum!
This was very vague. Section 144 is imposed for unlawful assembly of four or more persons at public place. Hence, we were compelled to take the permission for the public programme. But does this apply to even for the submission of a memorandum, which is not a public programme?
And yet, the delegation, which consisted ofTapan Dasgupta and Inderjeet Singh Grover of the SUCI (Communist), Dhanjibhai Parmar of CPI-M, and a very senior citizen, Manzoorbhai Saleri of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUC), were kept in detention till late evening.
Never ever have we seen such atrocious and undemocratic behaviour of the police and the administration. I felt that this is nothing less than fascism. Common people always behave in a democratic manner. But the administration with its adamant behaviour compels them to break the law. And, taking advantage of the situation, their activities are declared illegal, and they are labelled anti-social, criminal, etc.
Alas! On the martyrdom day of Kakori martyrs, I strongly felt that there is an urgent need for another freedom movement in our country from these tyrannical rulers.
---
*With Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist), Gujarat

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