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Citizenship protests: Hundreds detained; mobile, internet services suspended in Delhi

NEW DELHI: Thousands of students, activists and opposition leaders hit the streets in the national capital on Thursday defying heavy security clampdown and prohibitory orders even as authorities suspended mobile internet services and restricted traffic movement to quell the swirling agitation.

Opposition leaders D Raja, Sitaram Yechury, Nilotpal Basu, Brinda Karat, Ajay Maken, Sandeep Dikshit and activists Yogendra Yadav, Umar Khalid were among over 1,200 people detained from areas around Red Fort and Mandi House — the sites of the two planned demonstrations.

Large parts of Delhi and Gurgaon reeled under massive traffic jams for hours as police erected barricades to check the movement of protesters. Entry and exit gates of at least 20 Delhi Metro stations were shut for up to eight hours.

Notwithstanding the restrictions, hundreds of flag-waving students and activists converged near the historic Jantar Mantar in the afternoon to voice their anger against the contentious law after police forcefully evicted protesters from areas around Red Fort and Mandi House. Permission for holding any demonstration in the two sites was not granted.

In the locality around the Red Fort, scores of protestors were dragged into buses by police in a bid to clear the area where Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed which restricts gathering of more than four people.

Internet, voice and messaging services by Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio were suspended in parts of Delhi-NCR, in perhaps for the first time in the national capital, inconveniencing people.

Jyoti Saha, accompanied by her five year old twins at the Jantar Mantar protest, said: “So tomorrow, when they (police) make appeals to parents to not let their kids go to protest, they (kids) should know what they should do so.”

Small demonstrations took place in several areas including Rajghat, Shantivan, Daryaganj and Jamia Nagar and Kashmiri Gate.

“How many people will your jails hold? As Gandhiji said, once people lose the fear of being detained, they are free. Then the oppressors have lost. That is what is happening with the CAA protests,” tweeted activist Prashant Bhushan before he was detained.

After he was detained, Swaraj Abhiyan President Yogendra Yadav urged people to continue their peaceful protest but warned against committing “any mistake”.

“One day we might be grateful to @narendramodi and @AmitShah for they brought the whole of India together through protests like today’s. One day we shall feel proud that we registered our voice against this unconstitutional law,” Yadav tweeted.

According to Delhi Police, over 1,200 protesters were detained and kept in make-shift jails for several hours.

It said no untoward incident was reported during the protests. Besides police personnel, 52 companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and CRPF were deployed to maintain law and order in the city.

Delhi Police also used drones to keep a watch on protesters.

As the city witnessed massive protest over the citizenship law, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the union government not to implement the new legislation.

“I appeal to the Centre with folded hands to not bring this legislation at this time. The need of the hour is to provide employed to the youth. We should all try to bring employment opportunities for our children and this law is not needed,” he said on the sidelines of an event.

Scores of protestors at the Jantar Mantar offered roses to security personnel with a message of “Love in return of hatred”, saying police can baton charge them as much as they want.

Some lawyers participating in the demonstration also offered legal assistance to protestors in case they are detained by Delhi Police.

Several posters have been put up at the protest site against the amended citizenship law. One of posters read –“Digital India with no internet, Janta mange rozi roti, milti hamko lathi gali, save constitution save country.”

“They (police) can block the roads and close the metro stations. Let people walk through each street. Let each street be remembered in history for these protests,” said Ramesh Ram, a law student.

As protests over the law intensified, a blame game erupted among the AAP, the BJP and the Congress.

Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari challenged Kejriwal and Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra for a discussion on the new law.

“Let’s save our Delhi from burning. Let’s rise above politics and come together to clear the doubts and confusion of the Muslim society,” Tiwari said.

Both the AAP and the Congress have blamed the BJP and the central government for creating “division” through the “unconstitutional” citizenship law.

The BJP in turn has accused the two parties of spreading “rumours” about the law.

Source: Economic Times