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Hundreds held as anti-CAA stir sweeps through Capital

Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Delhi even as authorities forced the telecom service providers to suspend voice call, mobile and Internet services in various areas in what was possibly the first such experience for the residents of the national capital.

SNS | New Delhi |

Hundreds of students, political activists, and members of the civil society were detained by police here today as massive protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) proposal swept through the national capital ~ mirroring similar protests across the country ~ in defiance of large-scale prohibitory orders.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Delhi even as authorities forced the telecom service providers to suspend voice call, mobile and Internet services in various areas in what was possibly the first such experience for the residents of the national capital.

In the area around the historic Red Fort, a large number of protesters were detained and dragged into buses by police for defying Section 144 of the CrPC, which was imposed in several areas. This provision restricts the gathering of more than four people.

A slew of Opposition leaders ~ including Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Nilotpal Basu, Brinda Karat, Ajay Maken and Sandeep Dikshit ~ activists, including Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Umar Khalid, were among many who were detained near the Red Fort and Mandi House ~ the sites of two planned protests against the “unconstitutional” CAA and against police crackdown on students.

Hundreds of flag-waving, placard-carrying students and activists subsequently gathered at Jantar Mantar in the afternoon to hold a demonstration to “save the country and the Constitution” peacefully after Delhi Police personnel evicted them from the Red Fort and Mandi House areas.

The entry and exit gates of 20 Delhi Metro stations were shut ~ another first for the national capital ~ while barricades were put up in large parts of South, East and North Delhi to curb the movement of protesters, causing massive traffic jams across the city.

The Delhi-Gurgaon route was gridlocked as vehicles lined up for kilometres on the expressway connecting the two adjoining cities. To stop protesters from reaching Delhi from Gurgaon, Delhi Police placed barricades on the border in a bid to check vehicles, which threw traffic out of gear on the entire stretch.

Nineteen IndiGo flights were said to have been cancelled and 16 other flights were delayed as crew members were stuck in traffic jams.

The voice, messaging and Internet services by Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio were reportedly suspended in various parts of Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region).

Several small-scale demonstrations were also reported from several areas including Rajghat, Shantivan, Daryaganj, Jamia Nagar, and Kashmiri Gate.

“How many people will your jails hold? As Gandhiji said, once people lose the fear of being detained, they are free. Then the oppressors have lost. That is what is happening with the CAA protests,” Prashant Bhushan reportedly said before he was detained.

Following his detention, Swaraj Abhiyan president Yogendra Yadav reportedly urged people to continue their peaceful protest. “One day we might be grateful to @narendramodi and @AmitShah for they brought the whole of India together through protests like today. One day we shall feel proud that we registered our voice against this unconstitutional law,” Yadav tweeted.

Amid the raging protests, Delhi chief minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said there was an “atmopshere of fear” in the country. “I appeal to the Centre with folded hands not to  bring this legislation…The need of the hour is to provide employment to the youths,” he said.

Scores of demonstrators at Jantar Mantar offered roses to security personnel to send out the message of “peace, love and dialogue”. Some demonstrating lawyers offered legal assistance to protesters in case they are detained by Delhi Police.

“They (police) can block the roads and close the Metro stations. Let people walk through each street. Let each street be remembered in history for these protests,” Ramesh Ram, a law student, reportedly said.