A poet-activist on Wednesday (February 5) was taken to a police station by a Uber cab driver for allegedly talking over the phone about the protests against the new citizenship law.
The incident came to light when the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association Kavita Krishnan tweeted about the incident, which involved the poet Bappadittya Sarkar, on Thursday (February 6).
Krishnan, quoting excepts of what looked like Sarkar’s WhatsApp message, tweeted that the incident occurred at around 10:30 pm on Wednesday (February 5) when the latter took a Uber cab.
Sarkar said during the journey he was discussing with his friend about people’s discomfort with ‘Laal Salaam’ slogan at the Shaheen Bagh protest in Delhi, over the phone.
The driver, who was listening to the conversation, stopped the cab and told Sarkar that he wanted to withdraw money from the ATM and on returning had two policemen with him. The policemen allegedly asked the poet why he was carrying a ‘Dafli’ (a percussion instrument) and where he resides.
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
Sarkar told the cops that he was from Jaipur and had visited the anti-CAA protest at Mumbai Bagh in the city for “sloganeering” earlier in the day.
The driver allegedly asked the police to take him in custody as “he was a communist and was talking about burning the country”. The driver also claimed he had recorded the telephonic conversation.
The activist, who was taken to the police station without specifying which area the station was in, requested the policemen to listen to the conversation recorded by the cab driver and verify his claims.
The driver allegedly said to him, “You people will destroy the country and do you expect that we will sit looking at you.”
The driver allegedly told Sarkar that he should be thankful that he took him to police station and not somewhere else.
The police asked him about his ideology and “the people he read”, the statement further said.
The police were polite with him and asked both him and the driver to record their statements, it added.
Around 1 am, leftist activist S Gohil reached the police station after which Sarkar was allowed to go, the statement added.
The police advised Sarkar not to carry the Dafli or wear a red scarf, “as the atmosphere is not good and anything can happen,” according to the statement tweeted by Krishnan.
Tagging Mumbai Police and Uber, Krishnan tweeted that this incident was just a “glimpse of the scary India under NPR NRC CAA, where every person will be incentivized to suspect and turn in others and police can harass everyone.”
“We have followed you. Please share the exact details of case in DM,” the police said in a reply to her tweet.
Twitter handle ‘Uber India Support’ said the incident was “concerning”. “We’d like to address this on priority. Kindly share the registered details from which the trip was requested,” it said.
Sarkar himself could not be contacted to verify the account.
(With inputs from agencies)