An Uber driver in Mumbai took a passenger to the police late on Wednesday night after he heard him talk about the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Bappadittya Sarkar, a 23-year-old poet from Jaipur, told Scroll.in that officials from the Santacruz West police station questioned him for over two hours before finally letting him go.
Around 10.30 pm on Wednesday, Sarkar said that he took an Uber cab from Juhu to Kurla and began a phone conversation in Hindi with his friend about “protest cultures”, the anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, and about “people’s discomfort with Laal Salaam”, a communist greeting. Around 20 minutes later, the Uber driver drove Sarkar to the police station and accused him of being a “communist” and talking about “burning the country”.
Sarkar claims the Uber driver also threatened him by saying, “I could have taken you elsewhere, be grateful I brought you to the police station.”
Sarkar told Scroll.in, “He said this in front of the police and no action was taken against him.”
In the long interrogation that followed, says Sarkar, the police asked him about his ideology, what kind of books he reads, what kind of poems he writes, what his father’s salary is and how he sustains himself without a job. They also went through his phone and questioned him about his dafli, the percussion instrument he had carried with him to perform protest songs at the Mumbai Bagh protest in the city earlier on Wednesday.
While the police wrote down statements from both Sarkar and the Uber driver, Sarkar was not made to sign anything. He was let off at around 1 am after contacting an activist-friend for help.
Officials at Santacruz police station confirmed that an Uber driver had had brought Sarkar to the police on Wednesday night. “No case has been registered since it was just an inquiry,” said a Santacruz West police official who did not wish to be identified. “The Uber driver said there was communist man talking about protests and burning the country.”
Asked about the nature of the questions posed to Sarkar, the official told Scroll.in, “It was a normal inquiry” and hung up the phone.
Sarkar, who has been performing his poetry at several anti-CAA protests around the country, says the incident left him shaken and anxious. “What happened was uncalled for, scary and felt like being in a dystopia,” he said.
After activist and communist political leader Kavita Krishnan tweeted about Sarkar’s experience on Thursday, Sarkar claims he received a call from Uber, which assured him that the company would take action against the driver and keep Sarkar updated about it.