Driver Takes Passenger to Cops on Hearing He Protests Against CAA

Bappadittya Sarkar, a 23-year-old anti-CAA protester, was taken to a police station in Mumbai by his Uber driver.

Updated06 Feb 2020, 03:28 PM IST
Politics
5 min read

Video editor: Veeru Krishan Mohan

Bappadittya Sarkar, a 23-year-old Jaipur-based poet and anti-CAA protester, was taken to a police station in Mumbai by his Uber driver, after the driver heard him talking about the protests on the phone.

Speaking to The Quint, Sarkar said that the Mumbai Police had then proceeded to question him about various things including communism, his poetry, his father’s salary and advised him to not carry a dafli or wear a red scarf. He alleges that the cops even went through his phone. The statement of the driver who complained was noted down as well.

A message by Sarkar recounting the incident, which took place on the night of 5 February, was shared on Twitter by activist Kavita Krishnan. Sarkar says that Uber has informed him that they will investigate the matter and take necessary action.

A Cab Ride Gone Wrong

Sarkar recounts, “As I got in the cab, I called a friend of mine and we were talking about protest cultures in different cities, what happened at Shaheen Bagh the previous day, people's discomfort with Laal Salaam and how we could make Jaipur's protests more effective. Ten to 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.”

When Sarkar asked the cab driver why he had brought him to the police station, he says the driver had responded by saying “Tum desh barbaad kardoge aur hum dekhtey rahenge? Main kahin aur le jaa sakta tha tujhe, shukr mana police station laaya hun (You will destroy the country and we will just watch on? I could have taken you somewhere else too, be glad that I brought you to the police station instead.)”

Sarkar: Cops Went Through My Phone, Advised Me to Not Wear a Red Scarf

Recounting the questioning by the Mumbai Police, Sarkar says, “The police asked me why I am a communist, they asked me which countries communism is practiced in, which are the poets whose work I read, they wanted to read my poems. Then they started going through my WhatsApp and my contacts. I protested, asking how they can go through my contacts like that. They said, “We are doing it as part of the enquiry.””

They later told me, “Don’t carry a dafli around. Don’t wear a red scarf. They said, “Abhi mahaul kharab hai, kucch bhi ho sakta hai. (The situation is bad right now, anything can happen.)”
Bappadittya Sarkar

Sarkar adds, “The police personnel who were there were saying things like, “Do you think those who are protesting in Shaheen Bagh are doing so without money? Can people sit-in and protest for so long without getting money? Who is financing them?” The cops said this. They kept asking me for my father’s salary. It was almost like they were sure that somebody is funding me. I was finally let go from the police station around 1:30 am.”

Uber’s Response

Replying to the Twitter thread posted by Krishnan about the incident, Uber India Support wrote, “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.”

Sarkar says, “Uber called me on their own. I think they saw the (Twitter) thread and called. They asked me what had happened and told me that they will investigate further and then take necessary action. They said that they condemn this behaviour (by the driver).”

The Cab Ride That Ended at the Police Station

Here is the full text of Sarkar’s first-person account of what happened, which was also tweeted out by activist Kavita Krishnan.

I was at Silver Beach, Juhu, last night, and booked a cab around 10:30-10:45 to go back to Kurla, where I'm staying.

As I got in the cab, I called a friend of mine and we were talking about protest cultures in different cities, what 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 carrying the dafli because 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 banadenge, mere paas poori recording hai."

I told the policemen to listen to the recording and arrest me if they find me saying "Hum desh jala denge" or anything that is inciting or can be perceived as anti-national, I turned to the Uber driver and said "Sir, aapko kis baat ka bura laga, ye batao, aap police station kyu le aaye ho mujhe itni si baat pe?"

He responded with "Tum desh barbaad kardoge aur hum dekhtey rahenge? Main kahin aur le jaa sakta tha tujhe, shukr mana police station laaya hun."

It was in 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.

The Uber driver kept yelling at me through out.

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. 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 course of this inquiry and advised me not to carry my dafli around and/or wear a red scarf because "abhi mahaul kharab hai, kucch bhi ho sakta hai."

But I was still feeling unsafe, so my friend and I got our luggage and moved to a different place to stay.

(Note: The Quint has reached out to the Mumbai Police for an official comment on the matter. This article will be updated with their response if and when they reply.)

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Published: 06 Feb 2020, 12:47 PM IST
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