Activists protesting an “ongoing attack” on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act alleged on Friday that the Delhi Police stopped a peaceful demonstration that was being held outside the Delhi University’s Arts Faculty.
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a national platform of workers’ collectives, shared a video on Twitter that showed police officials telling demonstrators to leave the site of the protest. Activists Jean Dreze and Richa Singh were among those taking part in the demonstration.
For the past month, NREGA workers and activists have been holding protests against measures related to the scheme such as mandatory online attendance and Aadhaar-based payment.
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha said on Friday that the police detained an activist named Somnath, a student from the United States and several Delhi University students, and took them to the city’s Maurice Nagar cyber cell police station. It alleged that the authorities were silencing the right of peaceful protestors to hold public discussions on subjects that are crucial for the poor.
“Do citizens not have the right to discuss a public issue in a public place?” the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha asked in a tweet. “Why are students, activists, workers being detained for merely exercising their fundamental rights? This is an attack on the very idea of democracy.”
A senior police official was quoted by PTI as saying that the university had approached the authorities due to apprehensions that the protest could disturb peace and tranquility.
The police said that no first information report was registered in the matter and eleven persons who had gathered at the spot were “peacefully removed”.
The activists also alleged that earlier this week, NREGA workers protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar were forcibly removed from the site although they had prior permission to hold the demonstration. “The workers were asked to vacate the site and make way for events and rallies organised by the Aam Aadmi Party and BJP party workers,” NREGA Sangharsh Morcha alleged.