It was a night of high drama where the whereabouts of Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Azad was unknown after he was detained by the Hyderabad police on Sunday night. However, it was later learnt that the Dalit leader was made to board a flight and leave the city in the early hours of Monday.
Azad and his team, which included lawyer Mehmood Pracha, boarded an IndiGo flight (6E-5012), which took off to New Delhi from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) in Hyderabad around 6.50 am on Monday.
Azad was detained by the Habeeb Nagar police from the city's Mallepally area, as he planned to address a public meeting in Hyderabad against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act. After he was detained, a few concerned supporters of the Dalit leader were detained when they went to the Hyderabad Police Commissioner's office and tried to stage a protest demanding to know his whereabouts.
It was a tense night as authorities shifted him from one police station to the other, and denied that Azad was in their custody when reporters called to check. Some supporters following the police vehicle lost track of it at one point. Though there were reports that Azad was taken to Bolarum police station or Medchal police station, his supporters did not find him there.
Azad's supporters took to the social media to condemn his arrest and demanded his immediate release. #FreeBhimArmyChief was one of the top trends on Twitter.
At around 3 am, a local journalist found Azad's vehicle outside the Saifabad police station. From there, the Dalit leader and his team were dropped to the airport for their flight.
Azad was in Hyderabad to attend two meetings against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act â€” organised by alumni of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and the All India Dalit Muslim Adivasi Progressive Front (AIDMPAF). He was also scheduled to speak at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) on Monday.
As the police had denied permission for the public meeting, they took Azad and others accompanying him into custody and shifted them to various police stations.
Earlier on Sunday, the police started detaining the activists of AIDMPAF and other supporters of Azad reaching the venue. It dispersed many others who came to attend the meet.
A heavy posse of police personnel was deployed near the venue since morning to foil any attempt to hold the meeting.
Wahdat-e-Islami leader Moulana Naseeruddin, who had also reached the venue, condemned the police action. He alleged that the police were muzzling the voice of democracy and committing 'excesses' on those trying to protest peacefully against the CAA, NRC and NPR.
A public meeting at the same venue, scheduled to be addressed by former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on January 13, had to be cancelled as the police had denied permission.
Azad's detention came 10 days after his release on bail from Tihar Jail. He was arrested by the Delhi police on December 20 on charges of inciting people during anti-CAA protest. He was held when he tried to take out a march from Jamia Masjid to Jantar Mantar.
(With IANS inputs)