New Delhi: At around 9:30 am on Tuesday, standing in groups of twos and threes on the lanes of Shaheen Bagh were people bearing worried expressions.
The Shaheen Bagh protest, where hundreds of women were stationed on the Kalindi Kunj road, had been removed by the Delhi police early on Tuesday morning in the wake of the lockdown owing to the outbreak of the coronavirus. A policeman, upon being asked how many police officials were present in the area, told The Wire, “more than a thousand police were stationed in the area to control the situation if it gets bad.”
However, he didn’t elaborate about what he meant by the “situation getting bad”. At the same time, another policeman entered the scene, ordered the media to not go inside the lanes of Shaheen Bagh lanes and held them responsible for “irking the sensitive locals”.
According to a woman who had returned from the protest site at 4 am last night, protesters had been removed forcibly by male police officials in the morning around 7 am. “When we got a call that the police had entered the protest site and removed people, we rushed to the spot immediately. But there were thousands of police and they didn’t let us in at all. We were all very scared, the police threatened to arrest us.”
Another woman standing in the lanes said, “They [male police officials] mishandled the women. How can they do that? They also picked up a boy from this locality.”
The police, however, refute all claims of women protesters being mishandled at the site. One official said they had removed protesters because they were “in violation of the ongoing lockdown in the national capital.” The officer also claimed that before removing the protesters and detaining them, they had been given ample time to clear the protest site. On Monday, Delhi had been, among other cities, placed under lockdown by the state government as a part of the measures implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Delhi government, led by Arvind Kejriwal, had said that all public gatherings, including protests, would be prohibited.
Mohammad Jameel, a carpenter who had been going to the site of the protest every day since it had started, reached the spot after he was informed that the protest was being “uprooted.” “I had been going to the protest site every day. Today, when we heard about the police removing protesters, who had done nothing but cooperate with the police, we immediately rushed towards the protest spot. I felt very bad, to see that all the efforts of the women in the past three months were for nothing.” He claimed that it was only because of the coronavirus outbreak that the police could remove the protesters, otherwise, “they wouldn’t stand a chance against the protesters.” Mohsid, a young student at Jamia Millia Islamia who had been actively participating in the protest since it started, said, “Look at this place. There are police all around. The police have ruined everything, all our efforts.”
However, Shoaib Jamai, a regular at the protest site who called himself the “media coordinator” of the protest, said that the police had “betrayed the protesters.”