It was mid December, I had returned to Delhi only a few days ago from New York, having completed my master’s in journalism from Columbia University. Soon after my arrival, protests broke out over the Citizenship Amendment Act, which makes provisions for granting citizenship on the basis of religion in specific circumstances, but singularly excludes Muslims from its scope. On 15 December, the Delhi Police brutally attacked innocent students in the Jamia Milia Islamia library, leaving several students injured and one student blinded in one eye.
Like a roar came out demonstrators across the country. It was just the beginning.
On the morning of 19 December, I took a metro to Mandi House, where a protest rally was to convene that day. In my bag was my camera, a water bottle, and swim goggles—a last-minute resort against possible tear gas, which the police had used without restraint in Jamia. I learnt that the Mandi House metro station had been closed in anticipation of the protest. It was one among at least seventeen metro stations that had been temporarily shut down. Modes of communication, including voice call, SMS and internet services, were also intermittently suspended in parts of the capital. I alighted the metro one stop earlier—at Janpath.
Outside, I saw a five-hundred-strong protest marching towards Jantar Mantar. The rally from Mandi House, which was slated to march to a different location, had been diverted to Jantar Mantar. The Delhi Police had imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which prevented an assembly of five or more persons, at Mandi House and Lal Qila—a convening spot for another protest march organised for the same day. Soon enough, news came in that people had begun to be detained.
From Janpath, I made my way to Mandi House with a friend, and saw dozens of police and security personnel lined up by the road. Several buses were parked in the area, to cart off detained protesters. It was ominous seeing the familiar space swarming with police forces, rifles, batons and bulletproof jackets.