A Tale of Two Protests, On Two Days.
Protests against the situation in Gaza have been held in Delhi yesterday, (Sunday, 13th July, and today, 14th July, in the morning). Yesterday, on Sunday morning, there was a peaceful protest in front of the Israeli Embassy – this came out of a call for protest by individuals. Yesterday, about a hundred odd people, including many young people, had gathered. I was present at this gathering. Some people made statements condemning the Israeli state’s aggression against the Palestinian people. The Delhi Police was present, but did not try to disrupt or disturb the protest. The protest happened right in front of the Israeli Embassy gates on Aurungzeb Road.
Today, another protest was scheduled, once again in front of the Israeli Embassy, at exactly the same spot as yesterday’s protest, and this was organized by students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and from Delhi University. I was not present at this gathering, but spoke to some people who were there on the phone before uploading this post. Some of those who were present at yesterday’s protest, including, for instance, Akbar Chowdhury, president of the JNUSU, had planned to be there at this protest too. The protestors, comprising mainly students, were stopped, arbitrarily, first quite far away from from the venue.
There was very heavy police presence. Some protestors managed to cross the barricades put up by Delhi police, and reached the venue and sat down. They were negotiating with the police, asserting that it would be a completely peaceful protest with some statements, slogans, and singing and that there was no intention on anyone’s part to enter or attack the embassy premises in any way. Suddenly, as this was going on, some police personnel began attacking the protestors who were sitting on the road, and began dragging them. Then, all the protestors began being attacked with batons. Kavita Krishnan, general secretary of the All India Progressive Womens Association, who was present at the gathering who was raising a slogan even as she was being dragged away was hit on her lip with a policewoman’s helmet. The protestors, including Kavita Krishnan, and Akbar Chowhury, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union and an activist with the AISA (All India Students Association) who was present at the gathering have also been taken there are at present being detained at the Tughlaq Road police station.
The police has been violent and abusive with the protestors, they have been beaten, several protestors have injuries, though apparently, no one is in a critical condition. Around fifty of them are still in detention, as I write, in the Tughlaq Road police station.
When a news team from CNN-IBN reached Tughlaq Road Police Station and tried to interview Kavita Krishnan at the Police Station gate, she was dragged in by police personnel who were present and prevented from completing her statement to the news team.
What is it that makes the Delhi Police behave so differently on two successive days at the same place?
1. Is it because a protest on a Sunday, when the embassy is shut, and the city quiet, is considered harmless, and a protest on a Monday when the embassy is open and the media active, considered inadmissible.?
2. Or, is it because the Delhi Police’s by now familiar hostility towards any gathering featuring the presence of left wing student groups, especially from JNU, kicked in today, almost like a natural reflex.Yesterday’s gathering did have some of the same students present, but it was not called by them. The call for today’s protest went out on the facebook pages of JNU students. It is noticable that everytime JNU students have tried to protest in the city on any issue, in the recent past, they have been prevented from doing so, with force, by the Delhi Police. Police reach the gates of the university to try and ensure that the students do not leave. And when that fails, they try and stop, divert and detain them on their way to the protest venue. This is becoming a regular pattern.
3. Or is it because, orders have come from ‘above’ that say no one can will be allowed to speak about Palestine in front of the Israeli Embassy in Delhi any longer.
Or, is it a combination of all three factors above?
When large peaceful protests with thousands of people can happen in London and New York in front of Israeli embassies and consular facilities, why does a gathering of a hundred odd peaceful young people in front of the Israeli Embassy invite batons, abuse and detention in a police station ?
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