On 16 December, yellow barricades blocked the otherwise instantly recognisable steps of Bangalore’s Town Hall. A van equipped with water cannons was stationed behind the barricades, along with scores of police officers. A small group of people stood to the side; most of them looking at the scene in silence, some asking each other if they knew what was going on.
Like me, they had arrived to attend two protests at the Town Hall against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the National Register of Citizens, and the police brutality against students at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia and the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.
One protest, scheduled for 4 pm, was called “Students Against Fascism” and organised by Hum Bharat Ke Log, a coalition of citizen groups, NGOs and opposition parties. Another, at 4.30 pm, was organised by the All India Democratic Students Association, a student group affiliated to the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist), a left wing political party.
“I have never seen water cannons at a protest in Bangalore before,” Varun Shetty, a 26-year-old journalist, told me. An elderly woman at the protest showed Shetty pictures of the police speaking to three people who tried to set up camera tripods to capture police presence at the site. “She told me they had threatened to detain them if they set up cameras.” The woman also told Shetty that they had threatened her with detention, too, if she did not stop recording the incident.
As the protestors waited, more people arrived. Eventually a crowd of at least one hundred and twenty people had gathered. After waiting for around half an hour, the group was finally allowed to approach the barricades. The protest began with a collective reading of the preamble of the Constitution, followed by a sit-down protest where the protestors chanted slogans.