A personal account of how 16 women, who went to protest the Delhi gang rape on December 25 ended up being arrested

On Christmas Day, December 25, 2012, my mother, our friend and I went to Jantar Mantar for a peaceful protest. We arrived to find things loud but calm, the police stood silently behind the barricades while the protesters raised slogans. There was no conflict. The three of us had found a group of women and were discussing the state of things when two panic-stricken girls approached us, saying they had seen some women protesters being attacked by the police and dragged away by them to Parliament Street Thana.

All of us women made a collective decision to accompany the two of them to the Thana and find out what happened to the detainees. There were about 12 of us and two young men who also came.

Resistance and force

When we arrived, we asked to speak to the female ACP. They refused and told us to leave the station. We asked for the names and ranks of the constables present, but they withheld this information; their badges were hidden by their jackets. We then asked on what grounds those protesters had been detained and one constable (I later identified him as SHO Dinesh Kumar) said under Section 65.

He told us he would never release them and that if we did not leave the station immediately he would detain us. And that’s exactly what happened. Our resistance was met with brute force when some women constables were called and Dinesh Kumar ordered them to forcefully detain us. We were pushed, pulled and dragged. One female constable began to pull the hair of a woman and I ran to her aid. The constable then turned her blows on me, pulling my hair. From behind, Dinesh Kumar slammed my head into a wall. We were all pushed into one room with the other detainees and kept till well after 6 p.m. At last, a woman claiming to be from “Deepjyoti NGO,” came to tell us that “mistakes had been made” and that she would release all of us if we admitted we did something wrong and gave them our personal details and promised not to speak to the media.

Tweeting

Initially all of us refused to sign anything, but then, petrified, we all made a collective decision not to give our real names and to just get out of there quickly. None of us felt safe disclosing information that the police can use to further harass us. All day, I had been live-tweeting (as I had been doing for some days) about the protests, the crowds, the police, the violence and the battery. I did this in order to inform and alert friends, activists and mediapersons on Twitter of what exactly was happening to us peaceful protesters.

My friends on Twitter helped spread the word. As a result, the media did pick up on what was happening and arrived outside the Thana before we were released and phone calls began coming to the Thana, asking for us detainees.

They agreed to let us out at around 6.45 p.m. Just as we women were being let go, the “NGO worker” came running out with the police asking “who is Shambhavi?”

None of us had given our real names — to protect ourselves from the police. My mother, terrified, ushered me out of there quickly. This wasn’t the end of police terror. That same day at 10.24 p.m., my mother received a threatening call from 011-23361100 (Parliament Street PS); a male voice said that if she did not bring me to the Thana immediately to apologise, they would come to our house and arrest us.

Detained twice

Of course I was detained twice in two days, there are people who are detained daily to prevent them from protesting. Of course I wasn’t tweeting while my head was being bashed against the wall, that’s an insane assumption people have made. Of course I didn’t tweet after being released, scared that the police would get wind of it and follow us and harm us. Of course I did not reveal sensitive information about myself because I just don’t feel safe around the police. No young woman in the city does! If this is the kind of treatment our so-called protectors give to peaceful protesters, I shudder to think of how the police behave in other parts of India. To think that all 16 of us, educated, well-connected women who knew our rights were violated in this way is disturbing. It is because of police like this that rapes happen every day. Despite all this, I will continue fighting for the safety of women, for justice for the Delhi gang rape victim, for all rape victims and all victims of sexual harassment.

(Shambhavi Saxena is a 19-year-old student of English at Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi. She is also a volunteer for Greenpeace India and is passionate about the environment and human rights issues.)