I would like to share an email sent into the People’s Resistance network by Abira Ashfaq who managed to sneak inside the poilce station along with Moneeza to help keep an eye on the 8 civil society activsits arrested outside Rana Bhagwandas’s House
So everyone is out. The good news is that many people and the media showed up at the thana. It may not always be a happy ending.
I was inside the police station for at an hour and a half, and they had basically decided they were not going to give us any information or allow Moneeza and myself to see the detainees. We had managed to get in by fluke, and after us they would not let anyone in. In fact they tried to get us out, but we said we’d wait. But they did not allow us privacy when we were on the phone, and followed us around. At one point, the SHO threatened Moneeza that if wanted “vo us ko bahir karah kara de ga.” They maintained that the decision for FIR’s, bail and release would be made at the Clifton thana, and that we should go there. A nice crowd had gathered outside the thana. SHO Ehsan was planning to leave, but when he saw the crowd and our resolve to stay, he decided to stay at the thana.
When we pressed the SHO about why these arrests were made, he was cryptic and said that he knew and I knew why this was happening. And he knew and I knew that I would not be allowed a visit even though that maybe a legal right. He made constant references to invisible hands. We got to talking about the violence after BBs death and he suggested that police did not go out as there would have been bloodshed.
Things eased up when Salahudin Ahmed’s family showed up along with a few others, and it was apparent that phone calls were being made and orders issued. At that point they let in Urooj, Riaz and others who had agreed to bail their friends. The detainees were brought out of lock-up and were seated in the SHO’s office. Everyone seemed upbeat as they awaited imminent release. In the meanwhile, Moneeza and I talked at length with the lower level police officers who expressed their frustrations about low pay, and their inability to unionize etc.
This is a wakeup call
Had it not been for high profile people among the arrested, things may have gotten ugly. I am not sure if they would have released the CMKP activists this fast. In future rallies, as a strategy, people who think they are connected should get arrested. Invisible hands can cause arrests for the unconnected, but other invisible hands do not work for the release of the unconnected.
I really want to know something.
I am a lawyer and not completely unprivileged, but I really had no idea what was going on. I had no idea where deals were being made for securing release. I did not think I could effect any change and people who wield power in this society – men, ex-judges, business executives, media owners– were the ones who would get the detainees released. Short of the people outside storming the station, we were ALL at the behest of these phone calls. At one point, I called a high profile lawyer I know and he too referred to calls being made and that he was on the other line about this with someone else. It would be good to see some transparency on this issue. I think all the good people involved deserve to know how exactly release was negotiated so we can strategize better. If Justice Fakhruddin and others like him had not showed up, would they still be released?
Also, we need to get updates of the 300,000/ 98,000 FIRS in Sindh. This is also a wakeup call on all arrests as we saw firsthand how the state’s power to put people away can be quite frightening. How much more frightening for people who don’t have Dawn TV with their big lights at the thana gate. How do we have a principled policy on arrests that takes into account class privilege? How do we take stock of this and move on, and not keep reacting and spinning ? A big class thing just happened here.