Anyone who tries to protest in support of Kashmir is being detained: Sandeep Pandey

16 August 2019

On 11 August, Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and Ramon Magsaysay awardee, was briefly put under house arrest in Lucknow, along with his wife Arundhati Dhuru, a fellow activist. Pandey said this was done to prevent them from organising a protest the same day opposing the government’s effective nullification of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The police officials deployed outside Pandey’s residence did not let the couple leave their house until 4 pm that day. However, Pandey had already postponed the protest scheduled for 11 August to 16 August.

The local administration denied that Pandey had been put under house arrest. “Why should we arrest him? There is no truth in it,” the Lucknow district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma told the Hindustan Times. “Yes, the administration did not allow him to hold a demonstration at Gandhi statue in Hazratganj, as he had announced. They are free to stage protest at Eco Garden, which has been made the official dharna sthal”—protest grounds—“so that no inconvenience is caused to commuters.”

Pandey spoke to Tushar Dhara, a reporting fellow at The Caravan. He said he is determined to go ahead with the 16 August demonstration. “What they have done in Kashmir is wrong,” he said. “They have not consulted with the people or any political party of that state. It is anti-democratic and they know it.”

(Update: After this interview was published, Pandey was placed under house arrest, shortly before the protest was scheduled to begin.)

Tushar Dhara: Your planned protest is today and you were apprehensive about the police placing you under house arrest again. Has this happened?
Sandeep Pandey: No. The police have not placed me under house arrest. In fact, they called me and asked how many people were turning up for our protest this evening and said the information was needed for security arrangements.

TD: Why do you think the police have reacted differently this time?
SP: They are probably embarrassed by the negative publicity they received last time. When media persons called them up for an explanation, the police denied that they had placed me under house arrest. So they probably may not attempt a repeat of those events today.

TD: Can you describe what happened on 11 August?
SP: We had planned a candlelight demonstration in Lucknow to protest the abrogation of Article 370. We sent out the invitations for the protest [on 10 August]. The police informed us that since it was Bakr-id [on 12 August] we should not go ahead with the protest. We agreed and decided to postpone it to 16 August, after Independence Day. At around 1.30 pm, I stepped out of my house and I found police waiting outside. They must have come at around 11 am, but since they did not inform us of their presence, we found out only when I stepped out. The police told me I was not allowed to step outside my home till 4 pm, despite my telling them that the protest had been called off. I asked them whether I was under house arrest. The police did not confirm, they just said “these are our instructions.”

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Article 370 Kashmir Jammu and Kashmir