on Wednesday evening, scores of citizens from different walks of life, gathered at India Gate to express solidarity with innocent school kids killed in Peshawar attack, one of the most barbaric attacks by the extremist forces in Pakistan.
The call for solidarity was given by Nagrik Ekta Manch, an organisation that initially worked during the anti-Sikh massacre of 1984; and has again revived itself in the wake of communal skirmishes in Delhi.
However, as soon as the citizens reached India gate and assembled together, they were stopped by the Delhi police personnel. After a minor altercation, the civil society members were allowed to light up candles. Among the prominent activists present at the gathering were – Professor Apporvanand, Swami Agnivesh and Navaid Hamid.
Speaking at the gathering, Swami Agnivesh said, “In this moment of crisis , citizens of India stand united with their counterparts in Pakistan. We have come here to express our solidarity with the people of Pakistan, keeping humanitarian principle as the baseline.”
Echoing the sentiments of Swami Agnivish, Professor Apporvanand from Delhi University added, “Incidents like these are a global shame and should not be viewed in the perspective of one nation. It’s a dark blot on humanity and should be condemned in the strongest possible words.”
From peaceful activism to detention
As soon as the members of the group started singing songs of peace, senior rank officials of the Delhi police with forces snatched away their banners and candles and asked them to vacate the spot. Despite repeated pleadings by the civil society members, who argued that this is not a protest and is merely an assembling of the citizens from across Delhi, police did not relent.
After heated arguments and exchange of words between the police officials and activists, the officials eventually detained the activists. They were later taken to the Parliament Street police station and held there for a couple of hours, until Member of Parliament, Md Ali Anwar Ansari, from Janta Dal United and Justice Rajinder Sacchar reached the spot to intervene in the matter.
On being released, Poornima Gupta, of People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism told iamin, “Police acted in desperation. They mishandled the female activists. We were verbally abused. It was only later that they called female constables to take us under custody.”
Om Prasad of the All India Students’ Association questioned the role of police and government, saying, “I don’t understand why did police react in this manner. We were here only to light up candles. Should peaceful gatherings trouble the authorities?”
Enraged with the police reaction, Navaid Hamid, former member of the National integration council, labelled the act of detention as an attack on democratic rights.“Security concerns are fine. But that does not mean that an individual’s freedom to express solidarity with terror victims be curbed,” added JD(U) MP Ansari.
The police refused to specifically issue a statement on this. But the SHO in the personal capacity told iamin, “It is preventive detention against the violation of Section 144 by these people. Security concern is high and we cannot risk it at any cost.”