On 20 December 2019, thousands of people gathered at Jama Masjid in Delhi, to march to Jantar Mantar in protest of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. The Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad had given the call for the protest. After the Friday prayers at the Jama Masjid, Azad emerged from the crowd at the steps of the mosque. The police detained Azad for a few hours and then let him go.
That day, according to eye witnesses, the police also led a brutal crackdown on anti-CAA protestors in Daryaganj, an area near Jama Masjid. The police later claimed that the protesters pelted stones, which injured senior officers. A private car parked at Subhash Marg in Daryaganj was set ablaze. The police subsequently arrested 15 people from Daryaganj, who have now been granted bail.
As the Delhi police had not approved the request to hold Azad’s protest march on 20 December, he was arrested in the early hours of the next day. Shortly before the arrest, a video emerged on Twitter in which Azad said, “Amit Shah ka kahana hai ki Chandrashekar kisi bhi halat mein chahiye, toh Chandrashekhar khud jaane ko taiyyar hai”—Amit Shah wants me arrested at any cost, so I am willing to come on my own. The first-information report against Azad connects him to the violence at Daryaganj and states the charges against him as rioting, arson and destroying public property, among others. He has been lodged in the Tihar jail since then.
On 3 January, Azad’s physician, Harjit Singh Bhatti tweeted that the jail authorities were not providing Azad with medical treatment that he needed immediately—the Bhim Army leader suffers from polycythaemia, a blood-related disease. It was only on Delhi’s Tis Hazari court direction, issued on 9 January 2020, that the Tihar jail authorities later allowed Azad access to medical care at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The police also detained Mehmood Pracha, Azad’s lawyer who was with him during the Jama Masjid protest, on 21 December 2019. Pracha was released the same day. He hails from the Chandni Chowk area, where Jama Masjid is located. In an interview with Nileena MS, a reporting fellow at The Caravan, Pracha narrated the events of 20 December 2019. He termed the charges against Azad baseless. The violence at Daryaganj “was orchestrated by the police at the behest of their political masters. It is clear cut,” Pracha said.