Over 350 people were detained in Delhi on Friday for trying to stage a demonstration outside the Uttar Pradesh Bhavan against alleged police excesses in the state during the turmoil over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, even as protests outside Jama Masjid after weekly prayers passed without any untoward incident amid a heavy deployment of security personnel.
The day also saw demonstrations against the controversial legislation and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise at south Delhi’s Jor Bagh, Jamia Millia Islamia university and Kalindi Kunj in southeast Delhi and in northeast Delhi’s Seelampur. No detentions or clashes were reported at these protests, the police said.
Keeping in mind the clashes that erupted in Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh after prayers last Friday, December 20, a dense security cover was clamped on sensitive areas to deter potential troublemakers. A large number of people took part in separate demonstrations against and in favour of CAA in Mumbai as well.
The CAA has triggered a nationwide debate on whether the law violates the country’s secular nature by excluding a particular religious group from its ambit, as has the iron-fisted approach adopted by police in some areas, including Delhi, to quell protests. The law favours non-Muslim refugees from the Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
At south Delhi’s Chanakyapuri, police on Friday foiled attempts by Jamia students to “gherao” UP Bhavan by detaining 357 protesters. The demonstrators were not able to assemble at the spot after they were detained from areas around Chanakyapuri and the varsity.
The police had imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 around UP Bhavan, where protests were also carried out on Thursday. Section 144 bars public assemblies of four or more people.
Additional deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi) Deepak Yadav said, “The protest was being carried out in violation of Section 144, which was imposed in the area, and without prior permission by the police. The demonstrators were asked not to protest. However, when the protesters didn’t follow police directions, 357 protesters —282 male and 75 female — were detained.”
Many among the detainees were students from Jamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and Delhi University (DU) along with activists and residents. All detained protesters were released by evening.
“Almost all the buses which left from Jamia Nagar were detained by the police. Individual protesters who came through other means of transport were also detained separately,” the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) said in a statement.
At the iconic Jama Masjid, unlike last week, fewer people gathered after Friday prayers after a protest call was issued by former member of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and Congress leader Shoaib Iqbal. He was joined by Congress member Alka Lamba. The protesters dispersed from Jama Masjid around 2.45 pm.
Heavy security was deployed around the mosque, particularly in light of the violence that took place in nearby Daryaganj after a similar protest turned violent last Friday.
On December 20, a peaceful protest was held after noon prayers at Jama Masjid. Towards the evening, violence broke out at nearby Delhi Gate that left 46 injured. Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, who was present at the Jama Masjid protest, was later arrested after the police registered a case of rioting against him.
Amid the heavy security arrangement and drone surveillance, 100 protesters, including Bhim Army members, started from Dargah Shah-e-Mardan in Jor Bagh and were stopped by police at a barricade en route to the PM’s residence on Lok Kalyan Marg. They were demanding the release of the Bhim Army chief and those arrested in Uttar Pradesh. Drones kept hovering over the protesters as they kept pleading with the police to allow them to march ahead. Entry and exit gates at Lok Kalyan Marg Metro station were closed for an hour in view of the protest.
No untoward incident was reported at the march, police said.
Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel in Seelampur were seen with electric shock shields, a hi-tech anti-riot gear. The shield generates a 12-volt electric current and is used to temporarily immobilise violent protesters. Joint commissioner of police (eastern range) Alok Kumar said the new shields were not used against any protestors on Friday since no violence was reported.
In Uttar Pradesh, where at least 21 people died during violent protests on December 20 and in the following days, a dense security cover was clamped on sensitive areas to deter potential troublemakers. “Entire UP was peaceful. There is no report of any untoward incident from anywhere in the state,” UP director general of police (DGP) OP Singh said.
In Mumbai, students and social activists held a protest against the CAA and the NRC at the Azad Maidan, while a large number of people gathered for a pro-CAA rally at the historic August Kranti Maidan, where a massive anti-CAA demonstration was held last week.
At Azad Maidan, protesters shouted slogans against the government with one of the protesters alleging that the act was aimed “not against just one community but against the whole country.” At the August Kranti Maidan rally, organised by the BJP’s Sanvidan Sanman Manch, supporters of CAA were seen carrying national flags along with placards with pro-CAA and NRC messages.
More than two dozen people have died across the country, most in Uttar Pradesh, over the past two weeks in protests against the controversial law, which was passed by Parliament on December 11. The agitation against the law picked up pace after clashes broke out at a protest at Jamia earlier this month.
The new law paves the path to naturalisation for “persecuted minorities” from the three Muslim-majority neighbouring countries who came to India before December 31, 2014.
People in different parts of India are roiled over this law because it links citizenship with religion, which they argue is against the secular nature of the Indian Constitution; and because when connected with a proposed nationwide NRC, it paves the way for Hindus to remain as citizens while offering no such path to a Muslim who may be ruled as an illegal alien in the NRC process.