Around 100 student activists and civil society members gathered near Jantar Mantar on Tuesday to protest the alleged inflammatory sloganeering at a rally over the weekend but were stopped by the police from entering the site. Many protesters were detained by the police as they tried to proceed towards Jantar Mantar.
A video showing anti-Muslim slogans being raised during a protest at Jantar Mantar here was widely circulated on social media, following which the Delhi Police registered a case in connection with the matter on Monday and arrested six people, including former BJP spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay. A Delhi court sent the six accused in judicial custody for two days considering that their bail applications were pending.
The judge also directed that the applications moved by the accused –Ashwini Upadhyay, Preet Singh, Deepak Singh, Deepak Kumar, Vinod Sharma and Vinit Bajpai — be placed before the court concerned on Wednesday itself. N Sai Balaji, national president of All India Students’ Association (AISA), claimed that the police stopped those who were protesting peacefully.
“The police did not detain those people who made the communal speech. They have stopped us who came here to protest peacefully against the hate speech. They arrested the accused after wide criticism on social media,” he said. The protesters were heading towards Jantar Mantar from Parliament Street around 4 pm when they were stopped and asked to disperse.
A senior police officer said the protesters didn’t have permission to hold demonstrations. When they reached Parliament Street, they were asked to disperse. When police tried to detain them, the protesters started running leading to jostling and chaos. Those detained were detained taken to Mandir Marg police station in two buses, he said.
Prashant Tandon, one of the protesters, said, “That speech was very dangerous, not in tune with the Indian constitution and Indian tradition. Police must have immediately taken action on that. I heard that a few people were arrested today, three days after the video went viral.” The protesters were carrying placards saying “zero-tolerance towards hate mongers”. Anupradha Singh, an advocate, said,
“We have come to protest against the speech which was made against the Muslim community. We have come here to show that the country is secular and such hate-mongering should not be done.” The Left-backed All India Students’ Association, in a statement, said the Delhi Police has “undemocratically” detained students, civil society, journalists, AISA activists and people from other organisations for protesting against hate speech by BJP-RSS members in Delhi.
It demanded the release of those who were detained. Members of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), who had also participated in the protest, said the gathering was aimed at resisting the communal polarisation with a message of peace and secularism.
“The SFI strongly condemns the hypocritical character of the Delhi Police, wherein on the one hand gatherings by BJP and RSS organisations to fuel genocidal and communal sentiments are permitted, and on the other, citizen’s protest calling for peace and harmony are attacked,” it said in a statement.