Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad was on Saturday sent to 14 days’ judicial custody after he led a massive protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act the previous day in Old Delhi, PTI reported. The court rejected his bail plea hours after he was arrested by Delhi Police.
He was detained outside the Jama Masjid in Delhi in the early hours of Saturday. He had been inside the mosque since a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act on Friday afternoon, and surrendered around 3.15 am.
Police said Azad was kept at the Crime Branch office in Chanakyapuri after he was taken into custody and was later handed over to the central district police. He was taken to a hospital for a medical check-up and will be produced in a court, they added. The police alleged Azad instigated a crowd to turn violent near Delhi Gate and set a car on fire.
“We have to make sacrifice so that the legislation is taken back,” Azad said earlier in the day. “We do not support violence. We were sitting inside the mosque since Friday morning and our people were not involved in violence.”
At 3.18 am, Azad tweeted that he was willing to surrender if all others who were detained were released. He urged protestors to carry on their demonstrations peacefully after he was jailed. Earlier, Azad had claimed that those who committed violence were from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and wanted to weaken their movement. Violence and a police crackdown was reported on Friday evening.
After the Friday prayers in the afternoon, a huge crowd had gathered in front of Jama Masjid in Old Delhi to protest against the amended law. Azad, who had been denied permission to protest, was spotted in the front lines of the crowd, holding up a photo of BR Ambedkar. The Dalit leader was soon detained by the police, but escaped from their custody and returned to the protest venue.
“He surrendered before the police at gate number 1 and is being taken to the Crime Branch’s office for further investigation,” an unidentified police officer told The Indian Express.
“Bhim Army stands for the protection of the Constitution which is bestowed by BR Ambedkar,” the Dalit leader told the newspaper. “We will not allow division of the country.”
According to a Bhim Army functionary, their protest started after the Friday prayers around 1 pm and Azad was present at the time. However, when the police tried to detain him, supporters took him away and he was given shelter by a family. “For three hours, even we thought he had been detained. But around 4 pm, he appeared inside Jama Masjid,” the functionary said.
The Bhim Army asserted that the police had tried to escort Azad away from Jama Masjid but he managed to get away. The Dalit leader was “caught” later near Daryaganj but escaped from there too.
Hours after Azad led the massive rally at Jama Masjid, protestors carrying Indian flags and “Save the Constitution” banners marched from the mosque to Jantar Mantar in Central Delhi, when they were stopped at Delhi Gate. However, the crowd refused to back down and a car was set on fire outside Daryaganj police station as a confrontation became imminent. Policemen, who deployed anti-riot Vajra vehicles, then used water cannons and to disperse the crowd, and assaulted them with batons.
Many people, including minors, were feared injured in the demonstrations. Eight minors were detained at the Daryaganj police station. However, they were later released. Police officials said 40 people had been detained in connection with the protests at Daryaganj.
On Thursday, thousands of people had taken to the streets of the capital to voice their opposition to the law, which grants citizenship to people from six persecuted religious communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – except Muslims – provided they have lived in India for six years, and entered India on or before December 31, 2014. The protest continued and intensified on Friday.