- Protesters led by Bhim Army's Chandrashekhar Azad at Jama Masjid
- Mr Azad was detained by the Delhi Police
- Police speaking with crowd to defuse situation
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad escaped police custody on Friday after leading a huge protest against the citizenship law at Jama Masjid in the old quarters of Delhi. Before being caught, he, along with hundreds of supporters, shouted slogans and waved flags from the steps of the mosque, dramatically defying the police.
Delhi Police had denied permission to Chandrashekhar Azad's protest march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar in the heart of the city. Azad tweeted that he would make it to the area anyway, and he did. "Please ignore the rumors of my arrest. I am reaching Jama Masjid," he tweeted.
He managed to dodge the police and surfaced suddenly within the Jama Masjid complex just after Friday prayers, holding up a copy of the constitution and a photo of BR Ambedkar. Slogans of "Jai Bhim" rang out as Azad, who had kept his face covered in a blue hoodie to reach the mosque, emerged on the steps. Scores of policemen stayed on the other side of the gates, keeping a cautious eye on the swelling crowds. Drones used by the police to monitor such situations hovered overhead.
Azad, 31, read out the preamble to the constitution, the crowd chanting alongside. Protesters inside the mosque complex then spilled over to the road, shouting slogans and wearing black bands.
The narrow streets near the Jama Masjid rapidly filled up with crowds carrying flags and placards. The police had been prepared for potential trouble but appeared hopelessly outnumbered.
Police personnel were seen speaking to religious leaders to try and get the situation within control.
When they finally gripped Azad by his collar, they tried to take him away but the young Bheem Army chief who also calls himself "Raavan" slipped away and vanished into the crowds.
Delhi Police Spokesperson MS Randhawa he told news agency IANS, "We didn't detain him. So there is no question of him escaping from the Police."
Several protesters were detained on Thursday from a protest against the citizenship law about a kilometer away, near the Red Fort.
Section 144, or a ban on large gatherings, was enforced in the Red Fort area yesterday. The restriction was lifted to enable Friday prayers or namaaz at the Jama Masjid.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principals of the constitution. There are also concerns that the combination of the CAA and the NRC will leave Muslims vulnerable to being declared illegal residents in India.