Around midnight on 20 December, Sagar and Shahid Tantray, a staff writer and the assistant photo editor at The Caravan, respectively, met Chandrashekhar Azad at the steps of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, surrounded by a large crowd of protestors. Hundreds of residents and students had been sitting on the stairs since the morning, protesting against the recently enacted Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Azad sat on the topmost stair in the middle of the crowd. Every few minutes, he would pick up a loudspeaker and add his voice to the crowd, chanting slogans like “Jai Samvidhan”—Hail the Constitution.
Earlier in the day, Azad had called for a protest to begin from the mosque to Jantar Mantar, in central Delhi. The police did not grant permission for the protest. Yet, at around 1 pm, hundreds gathered at Jama Masjid. As they chanted slogans against the CAA, Azad emerged from the crowd, holding up a copy of the Constitution. The police moved immediately to detain him, but he was subsequently released. The protestors then moved to Delhi Gate, where the police used a water cannon and lathi charged them. A vehicle was burned during the demonstration. The Caravan is unable to identify the arsonists.
Later in the evening, after Friday prayers, Azad posted a tweet saying that he was at Jama Masjid, among the crowds. In the early hours of Saturday, Azad was taken into police custody. He was formally arrested later in the day, reportedly for “arson and rioting, damage to public property, unlawful assembly and causing grievous hurt.” The Tis Hazari court rejected his bail plea and remanded him to 14 days of judicial custody.
Sagar: Tell us about your detention and subsequent release in the day.
Chandrashekhar Azad: The Delhi police personnel, who were in civilian clothes, caught me and locked me up in a room around here. But our people gathered around them and demanded my release, after which they had to let me go. I had told them, “If you release me, I’ll go back and protest.” But the police had no choice before the demand of a huge crowd, who stood there in my support.
The police told me that they will hang me upside down if I speak for Muslims. The police would have attacked us also. They provoked us, but we did not retaliate because we were protesting peacefully. There were people from the Delhi police in our crowd, in civil clothes, who were instigating our people. But we told our people that we will not move and will continue to protest peacefully here. We know that the protests turn violent on purpose. All these demonstrations against the NRC [National Register of Citizens] were portrayed as violent to prove the protestors wrong. These are agents of the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party]. The Delhi police is working with the government’s support. We understand everything. You also understand, but you do not say it because it might lead to a raid.