New Delhi: After clearing protest sites at Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Millia Islamia early Tuesday, Delhi Police dismantled all art installations, and graffitis at both places were seen to be painted over.
“We removed all the material that was obstructing the pathway. Now that the protests have been cleared, we did away with the materials too,” DCP southeast R.P. Meena told ThePrint
However, he denied painting over the artwork at the two sites, claiming that civic authorities may be responsible for that.
“The local administration and authorities might be behind the painting of the walls, to bring them to their original condition,” Meena said.
The Shaheen Bagh protest, which became synonymous with the agitations against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act across the country, was dispersed amid the coronavirus outbreak and the few agitators present were detained by the police.
The move came after the Delhi government imposed a total lockdown in the national capital and imposed Section 144 to curb further spread of the infection.
According to Faizal Dilshad, a resident of B.R. Ambedkar hostel in Jamia Millia Islamia, “They (the authorities) came here with buckets of white paint to deface all the protest-related slogan graffiti on the university walls.
“This happened around 7.30 am. There was suddenly heavy deployment of the police forces around the university and subsequently they started getting all the slogans and graffiti erased from the walls of the university,” Salman Sayed, a resident of Jamia Nagar, who was present at the site told ThePrint.
The Delhi Police also used drones to monitor the situation around the university after the protest sites were cleared.
“While we were clearing the protest sites in Jamia, Shaheen Bagh and other areas today, some people have been arrested and detained as we faced a little difficulty. However, I am happy to tell that there was no resistance shown by people,” said Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Shrivastava.
‘Attack on remnants of protest’
However, many accused the police of selectively defacing protest graffiti and artwork, especially since the protest in Jamia had been voluntarily called off on 21 March due to COVID-19.
“This was an attack on the remnants of our protest, as they selectively defaced graffitis with slogans of Faiz, Pash and Manto while leaving everything else as it is,” said Saima Sayeed, a Mass Communication student of the university.
Similar scenes panned out at other protest sites in the capital as well. The protests at Hauz Rani and Turkman Gate were called off Monday, but the police still cleared the sites completely, dismantling all structures.
“The police barged in at the site, and completely dismantled the tents, broke down the scaffolding and even took away the mattresses. Why do this when there were no protesters in sight anymore? This shows the priority of the police in the time of a lockdown and a pandemic,” an organiser of the Hauz Rani protest, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint.
Meanwhile, at Shaheen Bagh, people gathered around what was once the protest site as the police tried to disperse them.
“They took away the tent, the India Gate replica and other artwork as well,” Khurshid Alam, one of the organisers of the Shaheen Bagh protest told ThePrint.
He added that they have no plans to reassemble any time soon. “We will wait till 31 March, at least. We will plan what we will do next after the lockdown ends.”
With inputs from Samyak Pandey.