Fourteen-month-old Champak is being taken care of by her grandmother Sheela Tiwari after the Uttar Pradesh police picked up her parents Ekta, 32, and Ravi Shekhar, 36, six days ago.
Social activists Ekta and Ravi Shekhar, who run an NGO, Climate Agenda, are among 73 people arrested so far in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, following protests against the newly enacted citizenship law and proposed National Register of Citizens. Besides activists, those arrested include members of Left-wing political parties, and students.
According to senior police officers, 56 people were arrested on December 19 from Beniyabagh locality that comes under the purview of Chetganj police station. They were participating in a protest organised by CPI, CPM, and CPI(M-L), they said. Another 17 people were arrested the same day from nearby localities, including the Dashashwamedh Ghat.
More arrests were likely since many of the 100-150 more people against whom FIRs were lodged in different parts of the district were yet to be identified, the police said.
Students of Banaras Hindu University protesting under a banner of Joint Action Committee said a dozen of their colleagues have been arrested. FIRs reviewed by The Indian Express revealed that at least three of those arrested had mentioned the room numbers of BHU hostels as their address.
“Of the 12 arrested, three are PhD students, eight MA students and one a BA student. On Tuesday, they were denied bail by a Sessions court. The next date of hearing is January 1. The administration is doing nothing,” said Priyesh Pandey, MA first year student, and member of the Joint Action Committee.
When contacted, BHU spokesperson Rajesh Singh said the police had not shared the list of those arrested. “If someone is arrested for breaking the law at a third place, there isn’t much the university can do,” he said. The police also denied that students were arrested.
SSP Prabhakar Chaudhary said: “Neither BHU students were arrested nor did we pick any one up from inside BHU. Those arrested were mainly leaders from the Left front. There might be some former students of the BHU. But no one was arrested from the university campus.”
The FIR lodged by the police at Chetganj station said the police denied permission for a protest called by the CPI(M) on December 19 since Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (barring assembly of more than four persons) was imposed in the district.
“Around 1 pm, these 56 persons along with 20-25 unidentified others gathered and started raising anti-national slogans,” the FIR registered on the complaint of Chetganj SHO Praveen Kumar said.
CPI state secretary Girish Sharma, however, said the Beniyabagh protest was peaceful. “Among those arrested by the police, there are 12 CPI members, 11 CPI-M and seven of CPI (Marxist-Leninist). Rest are social activists and students,” Sharma said.
Meanwhile, Champak’s grandmother is struggling. “For six days now, Baby Champak is without her parents. It’s hard for us to take care of her as every now and then she starts crying for her mother. Since her birth Ekta has never left her alone and now this is happening,” said Ravi’s mother Sheela Tiwari.
“On Thursday, around 11 am Ekta left the house saying she is going to buy milk and diapers for Champak. But around 3 pm, I got a call that she and Ravi have been arrested. In the past, they have been detained by police for protests but every time they have returned in a few hours. This time, we kept waiting and they did not come. Around an hour later, I got another call saying their phones will be taken away and there will be no more calls,” said Sheela as she tried to calm down a crying Champak.