I was arrested at around 2.30 pm this afternoon [January 11]. It took place in the most theatrical way. Personnel from the Mata Ramabai police station surrounded us at an eatery in the CST station, where I was sitting with some activists, four of five of us. Half a dozen personnel – some of PSI rank, some constables – none of them in uniform, appeared suddenly and encircled our table. They said I was to go with them to the Mata Ramabai station. We asked why: Did they bring any summons. No, they had no papers at all. A woman PSI said that I was to leave with them right away. We asked them to state their reason but they wanted my mobile phone and told me to hand it over. Did they have authorisation to seize the phone, I asked. Or an arrest warrant, or summons of any kind. How could they use force? They had nothing, no documents. They called their seniors at the Mata Ramabai station and asked again to see my phone, saying they wanted my number. They also summoned a taxi and said they were taking me with them. I refused to hand over my phone because we know how this plays out. We have experienced how the police handle such devices after making illegal seizures.
I was taken in a taxi to the Mata Ramabai station. We got there at around a quarter to three. At first, I was told nothing, just that I was being arrested. There is a Ladies Special Room where they made me sit. I was not allowed to contact a lawyer or anyone else. Activists and lawyers had reached the station but I was not allowed to see them. Next they brought out an arrest form and asked for my details. After this, they asked whom I wanted informed at home. I gave them my brother’s number, and it was now, after completing the arrest form and sundry other forms, that a woman PSI contacted him. “We have your sister under arrest, and I am calling to inform you that she will be presented in court tomorrow, room no. 38 of the metropolitan court at Ballard Pier.” They said the same to the other activists there, telling them to leave as I would remain in custody till the following day’s appearance in court.
Only now was I told the reason for my arrest: the Facebook post of last year. I was informed that I had been taken into custody at the Mata Ramabai station. I contested this vigorously, saying I had been picked up from the CST after the police made a dramatic cordon around the table at which I was sitting with friends. It was all very public. Neither had I been arrested at a police station nor received any intimation to present myself at one. All this must be stated clearly in the arrest form, I insisted. They wouldn’t agree. I was put through the formal procedure of an arrest, the form, the phone call to my brother, mug shots, etc. Abruptly, at 6.30 pm the investigating officer called me to say the police wanted a statement from me and would be releasing me afterwards.
Why, after such a public arrest and all the other rituals? What was it all about?
Only the police can explain it, I can’t. But yes, I want to add that the case regarding the Facebook post was slapped on me by the police on April 4, 2020. They claim that I had shared a post that “creates enmity between two groups”. This was in the context of the Tablighi Markaz, corona and lockdown. The police say that I had appealed to Muslims to start targeting brahmins. I have already recorded a statement with the police about this, and presented myself before them every time I was summoned. The station diary will bear me out. I have denied ever making the kind of post I am accused of, and maintain today that I didn’t share such a post either. What is worth noting is that the writer of the post, the person who created it, is “Accused No. 2” in the police FIR, while I, who stand accused of sharing it, am “Accused No. 1”. The charges relate to 153 (a) and 34 of the IPC. They say it was a conspiracy to create social enmity and stoke tension, while also adding that the post was deleted within half an hour. This entire case is a fabrication of the police. No one had complained to them about the post. Their cyber crime cell registered the case and informed the Mata Ramabai station of it.
Our position is clear, the police action springs from a nationwide trend these days, of framing people on fabricated charges. The idea is to intimidate those working in the Ambedkarite movement and progressive movements in general – to cow them and the broader public. As oppressive policies come into effect, such pressure may prevent people from speaking out. This kind of police action requires no crime to act on. Nor evidence. It is symptomatic of the brahminist fascism at work all over the country. Another reason for the abrupt police action against me is our decision to hold another Elgaar Parishad on January 30. We had made the announcement regarding this on December 31.
The police would be the best people to ask what happened today or what they were up to. I’d like to point out here that they haven’t shown the same eagerness in going after brahminist troublemakers. The supporters of people like Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote have a free pass to spread hateful messages on WhatsApp and Facebook. Not one post shared by these people has seen the slightest action against them by police. An FIR was registered there, too. In July 2018, I myself had submitted details to the Deonar police station – the Facebook profiles of these people, whether from the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, the Samasta Hindu Aghadi, or other terrorist brahminical Hindu organisations. Not one complaint, mine or anyone else’s, has seen any action.
The government is mistaken in thinking such tactics will work. We are going to hold our Parishad on January 30, 2021. We will take forward the ideas and traditions of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jotiba Phule, Savitri Phule, Bhagat Singh, Annabhau Sathe. Many of our companions are in jail today. I salute their spirit with a Krantikari Jai Bhim.