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Saturday, April 04, 2020

After day of cat and mouse with police, Bhim Army chief Azad detained at Jama Masjid

"He surrendered before the police at gate no.1 and is being taken to the Crime Branch's office have for further investigation," a police officer told The Indian Express.

Written by Shivam Patel | New Delhi | Updated: December 21, 2019 5:20:50 am
chandrashekhar azad, chandrashekhar azad detained, chandrashekhar azad surrenders, caa protests, citizenship amendment act protests, jama masjid protests, delhi caa protests, delhi gate protests, indian express Azad reads the Preamble to the Constitution at Jama Masjid, Friday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

After evading protest for two days and giving police the slip from the steps of Jama Masjid on Friday afternoon, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad was detained from the grand mosque around 3 am Saturday. “He surrendered before the police at Gate No. 1 and is being taken to the Crime Branch’s office have for further investigation,” a police officer told The Indian Express.

Around 2.30 am Saturday, Azad stepped out of the mosque and stood on the steps of the Jama Masjid surrounded by hundreds of protesters and addressed the gathering on a microphone. He said, “…the fight to save the country cannot be fought from home.” At 3.18 am, Azad tweeted: “All those detained should be freed and then I’ll surrender. Friends, continue fighting and stay united for the Constitution, Jai Bhim and Jai Constitution.”

Several teams of Delhi Police had been trailing Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad before he appeared in front of Jama Masjid earlier on Friday afternoon. Policemen soon detained him, but amid resistance from the crowd, he managed to give them the slip. In a dramatic chase, he ran from house to house and jumped across rooftops with police on his heels before disappearing from sight. Police were yet to catch him till late night as he headed inside Jama Masjid later.

Prior to the drama, on Thursday, police from the southern range and crime branch had been trying to approach Azad after he called for a protest march from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar. But he “avoided the calls”, after which they approached his advocate, who said Azad would turn up at Jama Masjid.

On Friday morning, the Central district police made arrangements by deploying staff in and around Jama Masjid, where thousands were expected to gather. “Failing to trace Azad, the special cell of Delhi Police was also roped in by afternoon to locate his whereabouts, as he had switched off his phone at around 10.30 am,” a senior officer said.

Police personnel were standing at all 10 entrance gates of Jama Masjid when suddenly, soon after afternoon prayers, they came to know that Azad, who held a copy of the Constitution in one hand and a photo of Ambedkar in the other, was at the stairs of the mosque with supporters.

“Police rushed towards him, but they could not reach him as there was lot of resistance from the crowd. After a lot of effort, police managed to get hold of him and tried to take him out from the crowd. DCP (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa, along with one of his team members, was taking him out. Azad requested they don’t hold him like an accused, but as soon as they relaxed their grip, he escaped,” an officer said, adding that police chased after him but in vain.

Azad later turned up at Gate 1 of Jama Masjid around 4 pm when the late afternoon prayers began. Cops from a police post across the mosque watched him as he made his way, waving at the protesters and requested them to maintain peace.

As the crowd began to go inside the mosque for the prayers, Azad went in with them. As he was climbing the steps of the mosque, an officer at the police post deployed a drone to track him but by then, he couldn’t be found in the crowd.

Azad tweeted at 5pm: “I am sitting on the steps of Jama Masjid to tell the Modi government that Modiji, we will not let you kill the Constitution. This country is ours and we will fight till our last breath to save it.”

Later, after incidents of violence were reported, Azad tweeted around 6.30pm: “Those who are doing violence are not our people. Ours is a peaceful protest at Jama Masjid. Ambedkarites do not engage in violence. People who are doing it are from the RSS. I am at Jama Masjid and will stay here. People who are spreading violence want to weaken our movement.”

Police, meanwhile, said they were waiting for him to come out of the mosque.

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