Two stadiums — Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Bawana and Maharaja Surajmal Stadium in Nangloi — turned into temporary police lock-up where over 400 people detained from across Delhi were kept for almost six hours.
A total of around 1,200 people were detained, including those from different political parties, for protesting in north and central Delhi areas, demanding the scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Police said they did not have permission for these protests. The rest were kept in as many as half a dozen police stations across the city, said police.
The detainees were transported in buses from areas such as Red Fort, Delhi Gate, Daryaganj, ITO and Mandi House. All detainees were released by 7pm, said police
Prominent among the detainees were East Delhi former member of parliament (MP) Congress's Sandeep Dikshit, Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav, and Left leaders – Sitaram Yechury and D Raja.
Police imposed Section 144 of CrPC (prohibiting unlawful assembly) around Red Fort, Mandi House, as well as around Jamia University, and areas such as Seelampur, Jafarabad, Maujpur, Welcome and Brijpuri where violent protests took place on Sunday and Tuesday.
Multiple police officers that HT spoke to said that the two stadiums in outer Delhi were chosen as they were nearly 30-40 kilometres away from central and north Delhi areas where the protesters had assembled.
"The average time to reach the two stadiums is one and half hour, if the traffic is not heavy on the routes. The idea was remove the protesters before they reached their scheduled gathering points and take them to faraway places so that they do not return easily and rejoin the protest," said a senior police officer.
Unlike previous times when protesters were kept confined in the stadiums by locking the gates and deploying personnel, the police said that the detained protestors were allowed to roam freely and that they were provided water, tea, and food. In picture shared by Delhi Police, Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav was seen having lunch with four other detainees.
"The newly passed Citizenship Amendment Act is the biggest attack on the Indian Constitution and we oppose it. This is the first time after independence when our citizenship has been linked with our religion. Our freedom fighters have fought against this very idea. This act is against the soul of the constitution," Yadav said.
Senior Congress leader and former president of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) Ajay Maken's son Aujaswi Maken, daughter and wife were also detained from near Mandi House while they were talking to the media
When I reached Mandi House, there were hardly any protesters. There were journalists there who were interviewing us when the police suddenly came, held me by my collar and dragged me into the bus," said Aujaswi. "Neither were we carrying placards, nor were we raising slogans. We were just the three of us together so were not even violating section 144."
Sandeep Dikshit was detained near Mandi House when he was on his way to the protest at the Red Fort. "I was not allowed to go to Red Fort (for protest), so, I came to Mandi House," he said.
Yechury and Raja were detained at Mandi House.
"People are being detained from the Mandi House which includes the senior leaders of Communist Parties. We condemn this attitude of the government which cannot tolerate democracy. Shame. #NOtoCAA," tweeted CPI (M).
Among those who were detained from Red Fort were President All India Student Association (AISA) Sucheta De and student leader Umar Khalid.
"Picked up by Delhi Police from Red Fort. We had gathered to protest against the divisive CAB-NRC on Ashfaq & Bismil's martyrdom day. I appeal to all peacefully keep protesting till unconstitutional CAB-NRC is rolled back. This is something we owe to Ashfaq & Bismil's sacrifice," tweeted Khalid.
"Around 70 protesters were brought to Rajiv Gandhi stadium. We kept the gates open so that they can go out and come inside. Since it was cold, we had arranged mattresses for the detained protestors. We gave them water and tea. Later, all of them were released and they all left in buses to their respective destinations," said Gaurav Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (outer-north).
Police said that fruits, including bananas and dates, were served to detained protestors at Surjmal stadium where about 350 protestors were kept detained.
Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said that around 17,000 security personnel, including 5000 personnel from Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF), were deployed in protests duty.
"A total of 100 buses were placed at the scheduled protesting sites to remove the detained protestors. As many as 10 DCPs and additional DCPs were present at those places to ensure peaceful protests. We had meetings with senior police officers till late Wednesday night to plan our strategies following inputs that thousands of people would join the protests," said Randhawa.