Delhi police detains 27 BAPSA activists protesting the Saharanpur violence

Police detained 27 students who had gathered outside the Central Secretariat to protest the Saharanpur violence

WrittenBy:Sahla Nechiyil
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Police rounding up violent or unruly protesters is a common sight in India. But yesterday, it was quite unusual to see the police detaining everyone on the street, including pedestrians and this reporter.

Despite being a journalist who was covering the demonstration, I was also picked up by the police. Nevertheless, what followed was the Delhi police possibly misusing their power and violating the fundamental right of students to assemble peacefully.

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA) claimed to have received police permission to assemble outside the Central Secretariat metro station on Friday. The students were protesting against the multiple incidents of violence in Saharanpur, which included death of a Dalit youth and several houses being burnt down.

The protest rally, which was scheduled to begin at 11 am, was disrupted by a pre-deployed massive police force including paramilitary troops, who had positioned themselves at the metro gate. As students reached the venue, the police began shoving them onto a DTC bus which quickly whisked them away to different police stations.

Many of the demonstrators were raged by the Delhi police’s violation of their fundamental rights. “This is absolutely horrifying. I have participated in a lot of protests. But, I have never seen police chasing and detaining students on their arrival itself. This is unusual,” Bhupali Vithal Marge, a BAPSA activist, told Newslaundry.”  

By the time I reached the venue, which was around 11 am, a section of students had already been taken away by the police and more students, who were arriving in auto rickshaws and buses, were being picked up.

When the police saw me recording the footage, three policewomen rushed towards me and grabbed my hands. I showing them my press card, but I was still escorted to a senior woman officer who had signalled them to bring me to her. Despite my efforts to affirm that I was a journalist with Newslaundry, she continued asking me why I was at the protest. I was asked what BAPSA was. Before I could reply, one of the other officers explained, “Dalit logon ka (a Dalit organisation).”

Meanwhile, the police had picked up six other students, who had just arrived. At this point, I was standing in between two angry police officers who were trying to decide their next course of action. While the first officer, who was standing at a distance, yelled to know why wasn’t I onboard the bus yet, the second one replied, “yeh media se hai (she is from the media).”

I was escorted on to the bus. With 100 police personnel deployed to manage less than 30 students, the sheer display of might was overwhelming. As far as I could tell, there weren’t any other reporters present, and add to this, my headscarf was perhaps too great an identifier, marking me more protester than journalist. This was irrespective of the fact that my only official identification—my press card—was in my hand, openly visible to the officers. 

During this police crackdown, a lot of pedestrians (who just happened to be there) were picked up too. Although, some of them questioned this and were subsequently released, many others were taken away along with the protesters.

Even with the police violating Article 19(1)(b), which guarantees the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, BAPSA activists weren’t deterred. While on the bus they shouted slogans of Jai Bhim and ‘Anti-Modi-Yogi government’, as the bus reached the Mandir Marg police station.

Curiously enough, only BAPSA students seemed to be at the protest, there were no banners or flags from
any other student bodies including All India Students Association (AISA) or Students Federation of India (SFI) who have otherwise been vocal about the violence in Saharanpur.

Unlike the others, I was released as soon as we reached Mandir Marg police station. My bus companions were only released hours later towards the evening, only after their names were jotted down.


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