In retaliation to the communal sloganeering by supposedly ‘unknown people’ at Jantar Mantar on 8th August 2021, a call for protest was issued by the All India Students Association (AISA). People were enraged at the lack of formal arrests and action by the Delhi Police against the gathering. The call was for a peaceful protest at Jantar Mantar at 4 PM on the 10th of August. A few of the protestors were detained for a peaceful protest. They raised slogans against hate speech, communal sloganeering and arbitrary detention of protestors by the Delhi Police over the course of the past year.
In contrast to no preparation or resistance from the police during the gathering on Sunday, on Tuesday, Jantar Mantar had policemen deployed in hundreds even before the protestors could gather there. “The Jantar Mantar had officials with lathis and DTC buses lined up, to detain protestors.”, said an eyewitness. “It was shocking to see the army there.”, says Tvisha Grover, one of the protestors. One of the leaders of the protest, Afreen Fatima and a few other protestors were detained from Jantar Mantar and taken to Mandir Marg Police Station. This happened around 4 PM, after which protestors showing up at Jantar Mantar were asked to go back. The protestors then decided to assemble outside the police station to protest against the detentions.
Around 70 – 100 people from various communities and backgrounds gathered outside the police station. The protestors were not just shouting slogans, they made active efforts to educate the people who had shown up. Tanmay, a young student from the crowd, says “People took turns talking to the crowd, informing them about everything, and raising their voice through speeches and orations.” A lot of people shared their experiences and talked about the issues they have faced. The protestors protested against the communal sloganeering on Monday, the detention of protestors by the police and the UAPA detentions. “We had to dissent, that was our right.” says Faraz Iqbal, one of the protestors.
One of the detainees, Saumya Sagrika told us about her experience, “They started detaining all the protesters telling us that “Yaha ka mahaul kharaab ho raha hai”, one policeman said “Madam chalo jaldi yaha kya karoge”. In the police station, we were asked about our details (phone number and everything), we were detained for around 3 hours. At 6 PM, when we (all the female activists) asked the police to release us because they can’t detain a woman after 6, the constable said “Jab tak hume parliament office se permission nahi milegi hum nahi chhodenge.”” The police released the detained protestors around 7.15pm after which the protestors dispersed.
There were different reactions from the protestors about how they felt. The events on Sunday had shocked everyone about the extent to which communal ideas could spread, especially in the capital of a nation that used to pride itself on diversity. “There are so many struggles that we are not aware of and so many people who go through things that we couldn’t fathom. For instance, we are very privileged to not wake up every morning thinking that there are people who want to annihilate our community.”, says Ishan Chourasia, a student who was at the protest.
While the protest helped people understand their privileges, many were disappointed as well. “I am quite annoyed, enraged and pissed because I expected more people to turn up. People who have been posting about this, people who stay in Delhi, people who have been vocal about this. The entire essence of the protest was swiped away because we had to gather at Jantar Mantar but we were not even allowed to enter the venue. Even though we are doing our best, it will not be enough. I don’t think we can change anything unless more of us, the country stands up together.” says Faraz.
So far, from the gathering of hundreds on Sunday, who raised an environment of fear, hate and raised genocidal slogans, only a few arrests have been made. Ashwini Upadhyay, one of the people who organized the Monday gathering, was detained but released on Wednesday. Evidence for calls that incited communal violence and tweets that called for the gathering, is floating across all social media, leading to more rage in people. The questions we pose, once again, are about how does such a huge gathering go unnoticed, uncurbed and unreported? How efficient is a law enforcing body that detains a justified peaceful protest but enables another side to go on with their propaganda fueled sloganeering? In this aura of communal sentiments accruing from our capital, how are Indian minorities expected to feel safe?
Read about the communal sloganeering on Sunday by clicking here