With protesters in a police station

How an agitation against price rise cost the protesters
Journalists have the best seats in the political theatre. This also means that we have to simply hear whatever is being said, whether spectacularly boring or even vitriolic. But there are good days when, for instance, an ironical drama unfolds in front of you. Last week, I was a ringside spectator to one such drama. A group of political parties were protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against rising fuel prices. After the regular round of rhetoric, and a march with flags and slogans, they proceeded to court arrest at the police station on Parliament Street. Once inside the station, they reorganised for a few more minutes of sloganeering, this time to be recorded and posted on their social media accounts. The enthusiasm went down, however, when at least half a dozen of them found that their mobile phones and wallets were missing. A protest against how fuel price rise was making them poorer had sadly left them even poorer. The annoyed protesters then shifted to the Station House Officer’s little cabin. The police inspector hurriedly arranged for water and steaming cups of tea to calm them. As cigarettes were lit and tea noisily sipped, the dejection at getting robbed took a back seat as amusing anecdotes started pouring in about the financial status of their brethren. One of them recounted a story of how a party MP returned home to Delhi one day after a long absence only to find his home ransacked and a note abusing him for his penury. The burglar was apparently anguished at seeing nothing but books and stacks of paper in the MP’s house. Amidst this chatter — mind you, they were still under detention — the inspector brought in a sheaf of papers and distributed them to all those who had lost their belongings. “ Pucca FIR file karna ,” he instructed his deputy.
Talk soon shifted to the history of the police station, and the mood of the protesters lifted. This was the police station where freedom fighter Bhagat Singh had been lodged during trial in the Delhi Assembly bombing case of 1929. They said that he would walk a furlong from the cell he was locked up in to the magistrate’s court next door. There, Singh, 22, would speak with great clarity about the meaning of revolution to perplexed English magistrates who asked him what “Inquilab Zindabad” meant. After this dose of history over cups of chai and due time spent in detention, the protesters walked out. “ Modiji ne pocket maar l i ,” they laughed.

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