At around 9 pm, on the evening of 20 December, Shahid Ali, a 55-year-old man, waited outside the Daryaganj police station in central Delhi. He was there to inquire about his 19-year-old son, who had been detained by the police earlier that day. But Ali was not allowed to enter the police station. The station’s main gate was locked and he couldn’t find any police personnel to answer his questions. Two hours earlier, Ali’s son had called him over the phone and asked him to come to the police station with his identification documents as soon as possible. He told Ali that police had accused him of rioting and detained him. Since then, Ali had been unable to speak to his son.
Ali earns his livelihood by selling warm clothes on a footpath around the Red Fort. His son helped him in the business. Ali was among a dozen others who had gathered at the Daryaganj police station to inquire about their children. Their sons had informed them of their detentions before going incommunicado.
These detentions were part of a police crackdown on a protest march against the Citizenship Amendment Act on 20 December. The Delhi police’s conduct was symptomatic of a police state that has little accountability to its citizens and the law of the land. For over two hours, they refused to let lawyers and doctors gathered outside to meet detainees or provide first aid to the injured among them. It eventually took a battery of around thirty lawyers and an order from central Delhi’s chief metropolitan magistrate for the police to allow a lawyer and a doctor to meet the detainees. Tara Narula, the lawyer who was allowed inside, confirmed that 31 adults and eight minors had been detained. I visited the police station that night and met the families of several of the detainees, all of whom were residents of the Daryaganj area.