Backs to the Wall

Old Delhi resists the Citizenship (Amendment) Act

21 December 2019
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On 20 December, the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act reached the walled city of Delhi. The protest initially began as a gathering of thousands of peaceful demonstrators at the Jama Masjid, after Friday prayers. Chandrashekhar Azad, a leader of the Dalit community who is associated with the Bhim Army, was also present at the site. The Delhi police, which was already on the lookout for him, tried to chase him down and detained him briefly. He then resurfaced at the mosque a few hours later and walked inside for the late-afternoon prayers, even as the police staked out Jama Masjid, waiting for him. He issued a call for peace before moving inside the mosque. Around this time, the protestors had already started moving towards Jantar Mantar, but were stopped by the police at Delhi Gate. There are conflicting reports of what followed next. A constable’s car was set afire outside the Daryaganj police station, and unidentified members of the protesting crowd pelted stones at the surrounding police. The police retaliated with a disproportionate use of force, lathi charging the protestors and using water cannons. The police then proceeded to round up protestors. Dozens of protestors were detained, including several minors. Various media outlets have reported different numbers, ranging from 32 to 40, while activists say the number is higher. According to the Indian Express, 45 people were injured and taken to the nearby Lok Nayak hospital, though civil-society activists claim the number is far higher. Azad finally surrendered around 3.30 am and has been remanded to 14 days of judicial custody.

Saumya Khandelwal is an independent photographer based in Delhi. She is a Getty Images Instagram Grantee and won a National Foundation for India award in 2017 for her work “Child Brides of Shravasti.”

Keywords: Citizenship (Amendment) Act Jama Masjid Chandrasekhar Azad
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