Rajasthan based poet Bappadittya Sarkar, on February 5, said he was taken to a police station by his cab driver after overhearing his conversation on the Shaheen Bagh protests that are taking place against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Sarkar shared the incident with social activist and secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association Kavita Krishnan, who posted it on Twitter.
Last night, poet @Bappadittoh had a scary episode in Mumbai, at the hands of an @Uber driver and @MumbaiPolice cops (see screenshots): a glimpse of scary India under NPR NRC CAA, where every person will be incentivised to suspect & turn in others & police can harass everyone. pic.twitter.com/OOKUB58BxK
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) February 6, 2020
According to the statement, the driver allegedly told the policemen at the police station that the poet was talking about “burning the nation” – an allegation that Sarkar denied – and ask them to arrest him.
As per Krishnan’s post, he was invited to Mumbai to read his poems at the Kala Ghoda festival. On the night on February 5, he boarded an Uber cab from Silver Beach in Juhu. During his journey, he happened to chat with his friend on phone about the massive protests against the citizenship law across the country.
On overhearing his conversation, the cab driver took him to the police station on the pretext of going to an ATM and asked the police to arrest him.
“The policemen asked me where I was from and why I was carrying a dafli, I told them I am from Jaipur and that I was sloganeering at Mumbai Bagh earlier in the afternoon,” read Sarkar’s messages.
The cab driver then asked the policemen to arrest him, “Sir aap isko andar lo, ye desh jalane ki baat kar raha hai, bol raha hai main communist hoon, hum Mumbai mein Shaheen Bagh bana denge.” (Sir, you arrest him, he is talking about burning this nation, saying that he is a communist and will make Shaheen Bagh in Mumbai)
The driver further told the police that he had recorded Sarkar’s conversation.
In reply, Sarkar told the policemen to listen to the recording and arrest him if they find him saying “Hum desh jala deinge” (we will burn this nation) or anything that is inciting or can be perceived as anti-national.
Sarkar’s stated that he then turned to the cab driver, and asked him, “What did he mind and why he took him to the police station?” To which the cab driver responded, “Tum desh barbaad kardoge aur hum dekhtye raheinge? Main kahin aur le jaa skta tha tujhe, shukr mana police station laaya hun.” (You will ruin the country and we will keep watching? I could have taken you somewhere else, thankfully I have brought you to the police station)
“I was, then questioned in the police station, they asked me about my ideology and people I read. And other absurd questions and they asked him to give his statement and took mine, which included unnecessary details like my father’s salary, and how I sustain myself without a job. The kind of poems I write, my social media handles,” said the poet.
The police advised him not to carry my dafli around and/or wear a red scarf because “abhi mahaul kharab hai, kuccch bhi ho skta hai” (the atmosphere is bad, anything can happen)
“At around 1, Comrade S Gohil came and I was let go shortly after,” added Sarkar.
In response to Krishna’s tweet, Uber India sought the registered details from which the trip was requested and assured that they will address this.
This is concerning. We’d like to address this on priority. Kindly share the registered details from which the trip was requested via Direct Message. A member from our safety team will get in touch with you at the earliest. https://t.co/1WqzzOmdKe
— Uber India Support (@UberINSupport) February 6, 2020