December 20 witnessed another set of protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act and NRC. Bhim Army Chief Chandrasekhar Azad gave a call for a march from Jama Masjid towards Jantar Mantar, but reports said that he was detained by the Delhi Police after he led the namaz at 12 noon. There were reports that he had escaped within minutes and disappeared. Following this, protesters started marching towards Jantar Mantar and were stopped at Delhi Gate, where they remained till evening when the police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) used water cannons and lathi charge to disperse them. Chandrasekhar also resurfaced later in the night and was arrested in the wee hours of December 21. Here is a timeline of the events which unfolded on Friday.
Bhim Army Chief Chandrasekhar led the namaz at Jama Masjid, following which he was supposed to lead a rally towards Jantar Mantar in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
Jama Masjid: 1:24 PM Chandrashekhar arrested
But before he could start marching, he was arrested by the Delhi Police. Within a few minutes of his arrest, reports came that he had escaped.
Despite Chandrasekhar’s arrest and quick escape, people in large numbers gathered around the Daryaganj area and started marching peacefully towards Jantar Mantar. But they were stopped by Police and RAF at Delhi Gate.
Poice had erected barricades at Asaf Ali road and the adjacent lane. Protesters had gathered on both the roads and they were chanting anti-CAA and anti-NRC slogans and asking the Police and RAF to let them pass. On Asaf Ali road, on the one hand of the protesters, there was a masjid and on the other, the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central District). The protest was peaceful.
Protesters continued to chant slogans. Meanwhile, there was an announcement for the namaz from the masjid. After continuous announcement for a few minutes, the namaz started. Some people had to offer their prayers from the road itself as there were too many people inside the masjid. Protesters stopped sloganeering while the namaz was underway and began immediately after the namaz ended.
Anti CAA protests: People gather at India Gate yet again, despite crackdownsPosted by NewsClick.in on Friday, December 20, 2019
Simultaneously, there was another protest at India Gate against the CAA and all-India NRC. A peaceful protest was held with a huge gathering.
The protest continued until the next namaz, which was at around 5:30 PM. Protesters had intensified their sloganeering and were not backing down. The police and RAF had geared up for lathi charge and water cannon was all set to be fired. Again during the namaz, protesters stopped chanting slogans. The water cannon’s engine was on all through the namaz, police and RAF were herded up against the barricade on one side of the Asaf Ali road where the protesters were also gathering to show their defiance. As soon as the namaz ended, once again the sloganeering started.
It seemed like a showdown between the forces and protesters. All through the day there were people among the protesters who appealed to the people to maintain calm as and when there were signs of escalation. There were repeated efforts by the protesters to calm the few protesters who were agitated by the police and RAF’s decision to not let them through and protest peacefully. While most of them seemed willing to back down and end the protest for the time being, some were adamant to stay put. In this scuffle, one of the barricades was pulled down by some protesters and was pulled up again instantly by others.
This went on for around 15 minutes; all the while, the security forces seemed ready to charge at any moment and water cannon was also geared up. From the point where almost all media personnel were standing, one could see a few stones coming from the protesters’ side, which were thrown back by the police. Security forces decided that the protesters will not back down and charged the water cannon, which pushed the protesters back and they started to disperse. Amid this chaos, suddenly, a car, which was parked since the afternoon outside the ACP’s office, caught fire. How it caught fire is not clear.
After the water cannon stopped, the security forces broke the barricades and started lathi charge to push the protesters back and disperse the crowd. Within minutes, the crowd had dispersed. The focus shifted to the car which had caught fire. While some personnel were trying to control it, most of them had gone after the protesters. Soon, one could see people being dragged by the police and the RAF towards the ACP Office. It seemed like they were picking up anyone who was out on the streets. The NewsClick reporters present at the spot witnessed two buses filled with people going towards the ACP Office.
The reporters also saw an RAF personnel beating up an old man who was just sitting on the roadside, and heard another female RAF personnel walking towards them and saying ‘Sir, aur maaro’ (Sir, keep beating him). Two of the NewsClick team members took the injured daily wage worker to a nearby hospital (Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital).
Reporters were not allowed inside the emergency room where the victims of the lathi charge were being treated. There was a separate section meant to treat only the lathi charge victims. The administration refused to give a number—of how many victims were taken to the hospital and the nature of injury. There was heavy police deployment outside the hospital and also inside the ER.
Following policy brutality at Delhi Gate earlier in the evening, protestors are gathering outside the old Delhi Police Headquarters at ITO.Posted by NewsClick.in on Friday, December 20, 2019
A message on social media was circulated calling for a protest gathering at Police Headquarters against the brutality unleashed by the police at Dilli Gate. Protesters from India Gate moved towards ITO to demonstrate peacefully and demanded that the detainees be released. They staged a peaceful sit-in and raised slogans.
Chandrasekhar resurfaced at Jama Masjid with a huge gathering. He was sitting at the steps of the Jama Masjid and was participating in the peaceful protest against the CAA and all-India NRC. There was heavy police deployment at Jama Masjid. Protesters were shouting slogans. Police was standing at the gate of the masjid. Mediapersons were allowed inside.
Police segregated the protesters. One group was sitting at Jama Masjid steps with Chandrasekhar and another, behind the barricade in the lane facing the masjid.
All protesters were repeatedly asked by the police to vacate the area and go home. Police, with the help of some residents, started negotiations with Chandrasekhar—asking him to surrender. Some residents were also sent inside the masjid to ask the protesters to go home. Nobody was allowed to enter the masjid, not even reporters.
Chandrasekhar tweeted that he is surrendering and that all the people detained after yesterday’s protest must be released. He also recorded a for his supporters explaining why he was surrendering.
At 3:20, he came out of the masjid and was immediately taken away in a police jeep.
At least 15 metro stations were closed owing to the protests in the national capital on Friday.