The driver, who was listening, stopped the cab and told Mr Sarkar he wanted to withdraw money from the ATM. When the driver returned, he had two policemen with him.
A Mumbai Uber cab driver, overhearing a phone conversation on the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests, took his passenger, a poet-activist, to the police station on Wednesday night.
An activist, Kavita Krishnan, tweeted on what she called the “scary episode” involving poet Bappadittya Sarkar on Thursday.
Mr Sarkar said in a statement, tweeted by Ms Krishnan, that he took an Uber cab from Juhu to Kurla around 10:30 pm on Wednesday. During the journey he was discussing with his friend (on a mobile phone) people’s discomfort with the “Laal Salaam” slogan at the Shaheen Bagh protest in Delhi.
The driver, who was listening, stopped the cab and told Mr Sarkar he wanted to withdraw money from the ATM. The driver returned with two policemen, who allegedly asked Mr Sarkar why he was carrying a “dafli” (a percussion instrument), and also asked him his address.
Mr Sarkar told them he was from Jaipur and had visited the anti-CAA “Mumbai Bagh” protest in the city earlier in the day. He was carrying the instrument because he was “sloganeering”, he told them.
The driver allegedly asked the police to arrest his passenger as “he was saying he was a communist, was talking about burning the country and making a Shaheen Bagh in Mumbai”. The driver also claimed he had recorded the phone talk.
Mr Sarkar was then taken to the police station, the statement said. He requested the police to listen to the conversation and asked the driver what he found offensive in his conversation.
The driver allegedly said to him, “You people will destroy the country and do you expect that we will sit looking at you. You should be thankful that I took you to police station and not somewhere else.”
In his profile description on the ride-hailing app, it is written: “He drives because it allows him to study different characters and personalities”.
“It was in that moment that I felt unsettled, some sense of fear set in and stayed through the night,” the poet-activist recounted.
The police asked him about his ideology and “the people he read”. According to Mr Sarkar, the police also asked him “absurd” questions like his father’s salary and how he sustained himself without a job. And they kept asking why he was carrying the “Dafli”.
The police were polite with him and asked both him and the driver to record their statements.
Around 1 am, another activist, S Gohil, reached the police station, after which Mr Sarkar was allowed to go.
The police advised Mr Sarkar not to carry the ‘Dafli’ or wear a red scarf, “as the atmosphere is not good and anything can happen”, according to the statement tweeted by Ms Krishnan.
Ms Krishnan tweeted that the incident was a “glimpse of scary India under NPR NRC CAA, where every person will be incentivised to suspect and turn in others and police can harass everyone”. She also tagged Mumbai Police and Uber.
“We have followed you. Please share the exact details of case in DM,” the police said in a reply to her tweet.
Twitter handle ‘Uber India Support’ said the incident was “concerning”. “We’d like to address this on priority. Kindly share the registered details from which the trip was requested,” it said.