I was taken inside the thana and made to sit in a tiny room. Then the questioning started. The man who had brought me here spoke to me politely. But then another cop came in and said very rudely, ‘This is your country and you shout slogans against it ?’
I found this very strange. When did I shout slogans against the country? I have been shouting slogans against Modi and that’s no secret. Had Modi now become the country? By now I was beginning to get the feeling that something was seriously wrong. On what grounds had I been arrested, I asked them. Where was the warrant ?
‘You’ll get the warrant in jail,’ he said. ‘There, you’ll get everything.’
After that he spoke to someone on the phone. He asked if he should arrest me.
After disconnecting his call, he asked for my father’s number. I am bad at phone numbers – I don’t even remember my own. Luckily I remembered Pitaji’s since he had been the first to get a phone at home. Calling my father, the cop told him that I’d been arrested for ‘sedition’.
It was the first time someone had spoken clearly about the charge against me. Hearing the words so starkly, I felt worried and emotional for the first time. Thoughts of my family came flooding to my mind. Seeing the look on my face, the officer asked a constable if I had eaten. I hadn’t. He gave instructions to feed me. I refused to eat. I said I would go on a hunger strike.
That made no difference to him. He got my belt removed. I was photographed from all angles.
Then I was taken to Safdarjung hospital to have my medical tests done. Before getting me out of the vehicle they covered my face. No medical test was done in the hospital. The police did some paperwork; the doctor wasn’t allowed to come near me. I was taken back to the car. The cloth over my face was removed. I was then taken to court.
It was my first time in a courtroom and it looked very different from the movies. Everyone stood up when the judge entered. The police told the magistrate that I was Kanhaiya. I had been shouting slogans against the country and had celebrated Afzal Guru’s barsi. This is the charge against him, they said. We need police custody (PC) for five days.
The judge turned to me. I introduced myself and said that the police were lying. I had never shouted slogans against the country. Nor had I organized a programme commemorating Afzal Guru.
The inquiry officer (IO) said they had a video to prove their charge.
I asked the judge to check the facts before believing the police. I had no lawyer. I had been arrested without being informed. Nor had I been shown any warrant. I also said that I had voluntarily accompanied the police to the station.
I’m a student, I said, who has come to JNU to study despite many hardships. I fought for issues; I spoke against the government, but never against the country. This country and its Constitution were mine too.
The judge asked for the video to be shown. I was not present anywhere in it. Slogans were being shouted but these were not the ones that were being shown on TV.
The judge said, ‘This boy is not raising slogans. Nor is he in the video.’
The three-day remand was coming to an end. So far I had not been allowed to meet any of my friends and colleagues. I was told that I would not be produced in court. A special court was set up for me in the office of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP), South Delhi.
The judge came there.
In the ‘court hearing’, the police asked for two more days to take my voice samples. The judge looked at my lawyer. Even before he could speak, I said I was ready to give them the voice samples. The police had no proof against me nor would they ever find any. The samples would be incontestable. Everyone could see once and for all that I had not done any sloganeering. Later in my cell I realized I had been naive. It wasn’t wise to have so much faith in the police when they were acting on someone else’s bidding. Nonetheless I gave the voice sample.
By now the police on duty had become very friendly with me. They even brought fruits for me and we’d sit together and eat them. During this time, I saw the hierarchical structure of the police from within. In the presence of the inspector everyone did ‘sir-sir’, but once he left, it was the sub-inspector who was called sir. Yet it was the constables who had to bear all expenses. The fruits, tea and snacks, all were arranged by them.
Sometimes they asked me if I’d go out and say that I was beaten up in custody. I couldn’t understand their concern. Why would they care if I did such a thing? After all countless people left the police station with such stories. Only much later did I come to understand that they were seeing me on TV each day, that I was the burning issue, fought over and debated hotly on primetime TV. What I said about them would count.
Occasionally a guard would ask, ‘Kanhaiya, when you’re released you won’t forget us, will you?’ They said, Kanhaiya, you wait and watch, one day you’ll be a big man. It’s a strange feeling to realize you’ve become famous (or maybe infamous) while sitting inside prison, locked away from the world.
Excerpt from Juggernaut Book’s ‘From Bihar to Tihar’ by Kanhaiya Kumar