Witnessing the August 16 uprising

Some saw flashes of emergency in Tuesday's events

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Danish Raza | August 17, 2011


Protestor being bundled into a private bus to be ferried to the Chhatrasal stadium
Protestor being bundled into a private bus to be ferried to the Chhatrasal stadium

“Aap mujhe maaro aur mujhe rone bhi mat do” (you beat me and don’t even allow me to cry). These words of Rakesh Tyagi would summarise the events of the day to come.

It had been raining since dawn.

But it has failed to dampen Tyagi's spirit. The ardent Hazare supporter walks with me towards the gazetted officer’s mess in North Delhi.

This is where Delhi Police is holding Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia after they were arrested from outside flat number 203 in Supreme Enclave in Mayur Vihar phaes I, East Delhi.

The police have set up barricades on the roads leading to the mess. Thousands of Delhi university students know only this route to reach their colleges. They are stranded, stumped by the blockade. Traffic curdles as this is a popular route which connects rest of the city to its northern parts. But the police will not budge.

Once I walk past the barricade, I see a mix of policemen and media, the former outnumbering the later by at least 200. The cops are without batons and rifles and the number of female policemen is more than usually are seen during such events. There are three riot control vehicles stationed afar.

Minutes outside the mess, everybody starts running in one direction as if they are racing. “It’s Prashant Bhushan. He is here to file a PIL,” a fellow journalist tells me. The man is Shanti Bhushan, Prashant’s father. Till then, Bhushan junior had not made an appearance.

Police has detained Shanti Bhushan, co-chairperson of the joint drafting committee on the lokpal bill.

Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer has been detained from Rajhgat.

A crowd of around 100, consisting mostly of youth, try to approach the site, shouting slogans. Before they reach the barricade, they are held and bundled into a rickety DTC bus.

The arrest of people protesting democratically begins.

“August 15 we gained freedom, August 16 we lost it,” reads a placard.

I follow the bus for around 30 minutes to reach Chhatrasal stadium. Civil Lines to Chhatrasal is a 15 minutes drive, but police has blocked the roads and one has to take detour.

It is 10 am. It is mayhem on the narrow road outside the stadium.

The moment the bus enters stadium gate, lensmen jostle to capture a glimpse of the protestors.

By now, more than 2,000 Hazare supporters have been brought here.

Vans stationed by newschannel, barricades, policemen and onlookers quickly jam the road.

I am not allowed to go in. So, I turn to the crowd.

"Anna tum sangharsh karo…ham tumhare saath hain” (Anna you struggle. We are with you), the crowd thunders.

Their voice has resonated in the parliament. I get an alert on my mobile: parliament has adjourned over Hazare’s arrest.

A Team Hazare member calls me from an unknown number to convey that Prashant Bhushan will address the media at 1.30 pm at Gandhi Peace Foundation, ITO.

The man on phone who I know for two years now cannot disclose his location to me. “Bulk messages from our phones have been blocked. Facebook is blocked,” he says, sounding panicky. He hangs up.

I wasn't even born when the emrgency was declared. But from what I have read about it, I can say it sounds frighteningly similar. The scale of atrocities was probably much larger though. But the intensity, I guess, is the same.

It is 11.45 am. Police moves Anna Hazare and others to Rajouri Garden police station.

After spending 30 more minutes outside the stadium, I leave for ITO to attend the press conference.

The auditorium at the Gandhi Peace Foundation has double the people than it can accommodate. Prashan Bhushan and Swami Agnivesh start the conference at 1pm- 30 minutes before the given time - because the news-channels flashed the conference timing as 1pm and are going live. “Unless the government stops detaining our people like this, there is no scope for any kind of negotiation with the government on Lokpal bill. Delhi police is acting as the puppet of the centre,” declares Bhushan adding that he would file a petition in the supreme court against the government’s atrocities.

Five minutes from the Foundation is Jai Prakash Narain Park. Had he not been arrested in the morning, Anna Hazare would have come to this park with his supporters to protest for the jan lokpal bill.

Police sealed the park under section 144 and all the Anna supporters who tried getting in despite the ban have been taken to Chhatrasal stadium.

The park is a different location, but characters are same - police, media, onlookers, traffic.

Meanwhile, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni tells the media that Delhi police is acting on its own and the centre has nothing to do with it. Her cabinet colleague home minister P Chidambaram tells the media that he has asked the city police commissioner to hold a press conference.

An irony of sorts!

It's three in the afternoon. I am at Delhi police headquarters, ITO. Commissioner B K Gupta briefs the press. “We have detained 1,400 - 1,500 people. You have to note that the police did not resort to violence,” emphasises Gupta.

Thirty minutes before the police commissioner starts talking to the press, Hazare was and seven others were sent to Tihar prison to remain in seven days of judicial custody. “I do not know about this,” replies the city police chief when a reporter asked him to confirm this development.

Within moments of Anna reaching Tihar’s admission ward, thousands, some from as far as Assam and Jammu, throng the streets that lead to the prison. As long as the 73-year-old is not released, they will camp themselves outside the prison, some say.

For the some from the generation preceding mine, it has brought back memories of the emergency.

For me, it is something new. These are developments which will influence my decisions regarding the state as and when I have to take them.

The August Kranti of 2011 is here. There will come a time when it becomes a part of the annals of history.

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