Nearly 20 people, protesting the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) at Valluvar Kottam in Chennai were detained by the police on Thursday. The protesters had gathered at the protest venue around 4 pm for a silent protest. Eleven women and six men were detained at the APVP community hall in Nungambakkam.
Protests have been taking place at Chennai’s Valluvar Kottam for several days since December without written permission. However, Thursday's detention comes unexpectedly as the protesters had reportedly been given oral permission by the police for peaceful protests between 4 pm and 7 pm.
The protesters were reportedly warned by the local Assistant Commissioner to disperse within five minutes even as protesters were gathering.
Speaking to TNM, lawyer and human rights activist Gayatri Khandhadai who was at the protest, says, “On Monday, we held a candlelight vigil for the students who were attacked at JNU. The DCP asked us to go home that night and told us we could come back everyday and protest. We’ve been coming back every day since. This is our fourth day of protests. We’re all just citizens and students, no formal organisation.”
“We arrived as usual at 4 pm today, around 20 of us and we sat on the platform to protest. They suddenly told us that we have to disperse. They have detained us at the community hall and taken our personal details,” she says.
“If you're going to continue, I'm going to arrest you,” the AC is heard saying in a video. Stating that he's the deciding authority, he also asks the protesters to get permission and then come.
One protester is heard asking the AC why they were being ushered into the police van. The AC says, “You don't have permission.” When the protester pointed out that protests have been taking place all these days without permission, the AC says, “Today, we are arresting.”
Even as waves of protests have overtaken the country against the citizenship law and the police action on students at Jamia Millia University, Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Chennai police has not given permission for demonstrations in the city. In fact, protests have taken place without permission since the countrywide student protests began in December last year. The police have largely resorted to booking protesters a day after the protest while the agitations themselves have been allowed to be carried out peacefully.
The city police was slammed for the arrests of protesters who expressed their dissent by drawing kolams in Chennai’s Besant Nagar on December 29. Gayatri Khandhadai, who helped organise the protest was accused of having a ‘Pakistan connection’ by Chennai Police Commissioner.