Police have been collecting personal and professional details of the organisers of the Shaheen Bagh-inspired vigil in Bangalore and have also asked them to call off the protest against the new citizenship regime, several of the volunteers said on Wednesday.
The round-the-clock sit-in at Bilal Bagh began near the Bilal mosque on Tannery Road in east Bangalore on Saturday.
The local police on Tuesday collected the names of the main volunteers behind the indefinite vigil, they said. Some of the volunteers alleged that policemen even asked them to dismantle the tent pitched on one of the many crossroads of Tannery Road.
“Policemen came and collected details yesterday afternoon and then came again today to tell us that we are organising an unlawful assembly of people and asked us to remove the tent,” student activist Saqib told The Telegraph.
The organisers said they had not violated any norm as they had informed the local police about the vigil. They, however, said they had refused to furnish the bond of Rs 10 lakh that is mandatory to hold protests in the city.
“We didn’t face any issue for the first three days. But there is some plan to evict us from here as they (police) kept telling us this protest was unlawful since we didn’t have police permission,” said Warsi, one of the women activists who has been attending the vigil since Day One.
“The police took down my name, address, phone number, occupational details and even office address,” Warsi said.
Such details were collected from three other activists as well on Tuesday, she said.
“They (police) came again today and said we were causing traffic snarls on the main road by occupying this crossroad as people slow down to see what is going on at Bilal Bagh,” Warsi said.
Student activist Najeeb, who too had to share his personal details with the police, said there was an attempt to push them out of the spot.
“I feel there is some pressure from some quarters to move us out of this place. But we will not move,” he said.
Residents of the Muslim-majority neighbourhood have been supporting the Bilal Bagh protest against the CAA-NRC-NPR, he said.
“The people know why we are protesting by blocking a road, and that Bilal Bagh is not causing too much of inconvenience since there are many alternative roads for them to move around,” Najeeb said.
The police had initially appeared to be cooperative, the volunteers said.
Akmal Pasha, one of the lawyers assisting the protesters, said the participants at Bilal Bagh did not want any confrontation with the authorities.
“We don’t want a confrontation with anyone. So we are trying to explain to the police why we are protesting and why 32 other round-the-clock vigils are taking place across the country against this draconian law,” he said, referring to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
A police officer who was near the venue on Wednesday told reporters that there was nothing wrong in collecting personal data of the organisers. “We should know whom to contact if something untoward happens here. The idea is not to harass anyone,” he said.
Since the protesters have not furnished the bond that the police collect as a precondition for permission, he said it was the police’s duty to know who were behind the event.
Repeated calls to assistant commissioner of police S.D. Sharanappa for a comment on the allegations went unanswered.
Bangalore police commissioner Bhaskar Rao had recently clarified that such a bond was mandatory under CrPC Section 107.
He had said none had been told to actually furnish Rs 10 lakh in a bank draft or cheque. “We did not ask anyone to deposit the money. We are only saying, if anything goes wrong (as in loss or damage to public property) the organisers have to pay up to Rs10 lakh in damages,” Rao had said.
The city has so far not witnessed any violent protest although an average of six demonstrations have been held every day against the citizenship matrix since December.