On a day of gatherings in Delhi on Saturday, while some headed to Ramlila Maidan to watch Arvind Kejriwal take oath as chief minister, a much smaller number parked themselves outside the office of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha on Mandir Marg. The group, mostly students, was protesting against the right-wing outfit’s threat of marrying off couples found in public spaces on Valentine’s Day.
At 12.40 pm, within 20 minutes of gathering there, the group of about 60 protesters — present there to be part of the event called Shuddh Desi Romance — was put in police buses and detained at the Parliament Street police station. A few minutes before this, another batch of 50-odd members of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) too were taken to the police station.
Dressed in bright saris, sherwanis, dhotis and lehengas, sporting traditional wedding headgear and marigold garlands around their neck, with heart-shaped banners, the protesters carried guitars and trumpets, sang and danced to Bollywood numbers such as Khullam khulla pyaar karenge, and raised slogans against moral policing, Section 377 and outfits such as VHP, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS.
Over the next one hour, the numbers kept increasing and approximately 250 protesters were detained. “We first questioned why we were detained and under what section. We got no answers from the police. It was like a carnival inside as the slogan-shouting, dancing and singing continued at the courtyard of the station. We were detained for four hours and were provided with no food or water,” said one of the protesters upon release. Delhi-based musician Begum X, who was one of the many detained, performed, as did rapper Delhi Sultanate, while some broke into poems.
“We asked the protesters to move to Jantar Mantar, where they are legally allowed to stage protests. However, when they refused to move, we began rounding up the students,” Jatin Narwal, Additional DCP, New Delhi, said. “Around 200 to 250 students were detained in Parliament Street police station on Saturday afternoon around 1.30 pm. They were released around 5 30 pm.
No case has been registered and no one was arrested.
Word soon spread, as those detained began uploading photos and posts on the event page of Shuddh Desi Romance on Facebook, and a few gathered outside the police station, including JNU professor Nivedita Menon. “This was a non-violent protest by students who want to celebrate love, irrespective of gender, caste and religion. The police tell me that they have been detained under Section 65 of the Delhi Police Act,” she said.
The small bunch outside spent time shouting slogans against the Delhi Police, and when the 250 people were released, they were welcomed with loud cheers and an applause. “The basic point was to communicate that the students and youth of the country will not bow down to the diktats of the Hindu Mahasabha or other regressive forces,” Ishan Anand, secretary, Democratic Students Federation, JNU, said in a press release.