Waiting for Aazad: A chronicle of events from a meeting that did not happen in Hyderabad

31 January 2020
Shahid Tantray For The Caravan
Shahid Tantray For The Caravan

Chandra Shekhar Aazad “ran from house to house and jumped across terraces to avoid getting caught,” the Indian Express reported about a dramatic escape of the Bhim Army leader from the Delhi Police on 20 December 2019. Earlier that day, Aazad had read out the preamble to the Constitution to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act at the footsteps of Delhi’s Jama Masjid. Aazad later told The Caravan that the police had briefly detained him and then set him free. He reached Jama Masjid again at night.  

Early next morning, the Delhi police arrested Aazad in connection to violence that had ensued the previous day during an anti-CAA protest in Daryaganj, an area close to Jama Masjid. He remained in custody for over three weeks, till he was released late night on 16 January2020. Upon his release, he told The Caravan, “From tomorrow, we will teach people the Constitution, teach them their fundamental duties.” On the eve of Republic Day, he announced on Twitter, “To strengthen the mass movement against the black laws of the National Register of Citizens, the CAA and the National Population Register, I am coming to Hyderabad for the first time.”

In the afternoon of 26 January, Aazad was supposed to give a talk at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad. From there, at around 2.30 pm, he was to travel a distance of around fifty kilometers, to Crystal Gardens in the Mehdipatnam area to read the preamble. The next day, he was scheduled to visit the University of Hyderabad to speak to its students.

I reached Crystal Gardens at around 3 pm that day. Around one hundred people—of all ages—lingered outside Crystal Gardens eagerly awaiting Aazad’s arrival. Hours passed and Aazad was nowhere to be seen. We later found that the Hyderabad police had detained him. In those few hours, even without Aazad’s presence, I witnessed the aura he had built and his impact on all those who were present at the venue. The protestors hoped that Aazad would appear out of nowhere. 

Multiple cars were parked outside the venue filled with police personnel. As me and my friend got down from the auto, a policeman approached us and told us to leave as the high court had denied permission for the gathering, giving us the impression that the situation was more serious than it really was. But like the others, we waited outside. The police personnel were aggressively shoving people away from the entrance to the Crystal Gardens, which was barricaded from all sides. They said they had “strict orders” to disperse the protestors. The personnel even detained a few people, impressing upon the protestors that merely waiting outside the venue could get them detained. Aazad had posted on Twitter at 3 pm, “I am reaching Crystal Garden Mehdipatnam at 4 pm, but look at the Hyderabad police—they have made the spot a police camp and are stopping people from reaching the venue of the meeting.” 

C Yamini Krishna is an independent researcher based in Hyderabad.

Keywords: Chandra Shekhar Aazad Bhim Army CAA