Activist Teesta Setalvad on Monday said the Varanasi Police in Uttar Pradesh had wrongfully detained her in connection with the ongoing protests at Banaras Hindu University. However, she later said it was not a formal arrest.
“Freedom curtailed. Gheraoed [surrounded] by Banaras Police and local SDM here,” she said on Facebook. “No idea whether preventive detention or arrest. How long will be freedom be curtailed?”
In a Facebook Live video, Setalvad had claimed that District Magistrate Sunil Verma had told her he had received orders from higher ranks to have her arrested so she does not reach her training session at Rajghat in Varanasi.
However, the Varanasi Police denied knowledge of the arrest. “No information has come to us from the central office about this,” said an officer at the Lanka Police Station, which is nearest to the university. Constable Santosh Sinha at the Police Control Room also denied having any information on Setalvad’s arrest.
Students at Banaras Hindu University have been protesting since Friday morning, alleging that three men had molested a female student near Kala Bhavan inside the campus on Thursday night. They accused the administration of insensitivity and have demanded strict curbs on harassing women on campus.
Setalvad said she was in Varanasi for the Samajwadi Jan Parishad youth training programme, which was planned over a month ago. “All I have been hearing since morning is, ‘Are you going to BHU?’” she said. “I cannot understand if this is a free country.”
Earlier on Monday, a thousand BHU students were booked for arson after violence broke out during a protest march against a molestation. A few officers at the Lanka Police Station, where the FIR was lodged, were also removed from their posts.
Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik on Monday set up a four-member committee to investigate the allegation of molestation on the university campus. The state chief secretary will head the panel. Chief Minister Adityanath had sought a comprehensive report from Varanasi Divisional Commissioner Nitin Gokarn on the incident on Sunday.