Mumbai: A poet, Bappadittya Sarkar, who resides in Jaipur and had been invited to attend the ongoing Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai, had a harrowing time while returning to Kurla on Wednesday night in an Uber.
During the journey, Sarkar was chatting with his friend on phone about the massive protests against the Citizenship Act across the country. Finding his anti-CAA views unpalatable, the cab driver took him to the police station on the pretext of going to an ATM and asked the cops to arrest him.
‘‘I was at Silver Beach, Juhu, last night, and had booked a cab at 10:30 pm – 10:45 pm to go back to Kurla, where I’m staying. As I got in the cab, I called a friend of mine and we began chatting about protest cultures in different cities, what had happened at Shaheen Bagh yesterday, people’s discomfort with Laal Salaam and how we could make Jaipur’s protests more effective; 10-20 minutes into the conversation, my Uber driver stopped and asked if he could use the ATM; I enthusiastically agreed.
Minutes later, he came back with two policemen and that’s when I realised he had gotten me to a police station. The policemen asked me where I was from and why I was carrying a ‘dafli’. I told them I’m from Jaipur and that I was sloganeering at Mumbai Bagh earlier in the afternoon.
The cab driver said “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 deinge, mere pass poori recording hai.
”I told the policemen to listen to the recording and arrest me if they find me saying “Hum desh jala deinge” or anything that is inciting or can be perceived as anti-national; then, I turned to the Uber driver and said, “Sir aapko kis baat ka bura laga, ye batao, aap police station kyu le aye ho itni si batt pe?”
He responded, “Tum desh barbaad kardoge aur hum dekhtye raheinge? Main kahin aur le jaa skta tha tujhe, shukr mana police station laaya hun.”
It was at that moment that I felt unsettled, some sense of fear set in and stayed throughout the night. But I texted Rahul and a few other friends and sent them my live location.’’
Social activist and secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association Kavita Krishnan shared his story on Twitter on Thursday morning.
She said “Poet Sarkar had a scary episode when a police officer harassed him and interrogated for an hour, as to where he is from? What does he do?”
“Basically an @Uber driver Rohit Singh (said he's from Bhopal) overheard an innocent phone conversation of a passenger, and called the cops to "turn in" and denounce @Bappadittoh as a "Communist;" and the police even discussed calling the ATS! This can happen to ANYONE,” Krishnan tweeted.
The Uber driver kept yelling at me throughout. I was, then questioned in the police station, they asked me about my ideology and the authors I had read.
There were other absurd questions and they asked the driver 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.’’
I had come to Bombay because I was invited to read at Kala Ghoda, and they insisted on me giving them the email of the organiser, which I refused but agreed to concede the first name. They also kept asking me why I was carrying a ‘dafli’.
At around 1, Comrade S Gohil came and I was let go shortly after. However, the police was polite throughout the inquiry and advised me not carry my ‘dafli’ around and/or wear a red scarf because “abhi mahaul kharab hai, kuccch bhi ho skta hai”
But I was still feeling unsafe, so my friend and I got our luggage and moved to a different place to stay.”
Paramjit Singh Dahiya, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 9), said, preliminary enquiries were made after the driver approached the police and when it was found that there was nothing warranting police intervention, the driver and the poet were let go.
"Police officers asked normal questions such as queries about where they came from, where they were headed and their occupations. No case was lodged," said Dahiya.
“As soon as the incident was brought to our attention, we took it up on priority. We are in touch with both the rider and the driver, and are reviewing the matter,” said Uber spokesperson.