Mumbai BJP president M P Lodha with the Uber driver. (ANI)
Mumbai BJP president M P Lodha on Saturday felicitated the Uber driver who took a Jaipur-based poet to Santacruz police station after he overheard a conversation on the ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The driver was garlanded near Santacruz police station in the presence of several local BJP leaders and workers.
“Your safety is something we take seriously and we would not want you to pay for the inconvenience caused,” Uber informed poet Bappaditya Sarkar, who returned to Rajasthan from Mumbai on Friday.
“We want to inform you that we have temporarily restricted the driver’s access to the Uber app while the investigation is underway,” the cab aggregator added.
Confirming the same, Sarkar told The Indian Express, “They (Uber) called me today and said the driver partner’s account has been temporarily barred. They are also waiving off the charge that was levied for the trip.”
On Wednesday night, Sarkar had booked the cab from Juhu Silver beach to Kurla to visit a friend. After getting into the vehicle, he called up another friend in Jaipur and discussed the ongoing protests against the Citizenship law.
“We were talking about protest cultures in different cities, what happened at Shaheen Bagh yesterday, people’s discomfort with Laal Salaam and how we could make Jaipur’s protests more effective,” Sarkar said in a WhatsApp message.
Screenshots of his text message were shared on social media.
Sarkar said that about 20 minutes after he sat in the cab, the driver stopped the vehicle outside the Santacruz police station and asked if he could withdraw money from a nearby ATM. Minutes later, Singh returned with two constables. “That’s when I realised he had gotten me to a police station,” Sarkar said.
According to Sarkar, Singh told the police: “Yeh desh jalane ki baat kar raha hai, bol raha hai main communist hoon, hum desh ko Shaheen Bagh banadenge, mere paas poori recording hai (He was talking about burning the country, saying he is a Communist, he will make the entire country a Shaheen Bagh, I have the entire recording).”
“I told the policemen to listen to the recording and arrest me if they find me saying ‘Hum desh jala denge (We will set the country on fire)’ or anything that is inciting or can be perceived as anti-national,” said Sarkar.
Sarkar said that when he asked Singh why had brought him to the police station, Singh said, “Tum desh barbaad kardoge aur hum dekhtey rahenge? Main kahin aur le jaa sakta tha tujhe, shukr manno police station laaya hun (Will we just watch while you destroy the country? Be thankful that I brought you to a police station, I could have taken you elsewhere).”
Sarkar said: “That was a scary moment for me. The fact that I could have just disappeared”.
He said that for the next two-and-a-half hours, the police questioned him on the books he reads, poems he writes, his views on communism, CAA, the ‘Mumbai Bagh’ and Shaheen Bagh protests, and also on why was carrying a tambourine with him. He said police also asked him how he managed to earn money while attending protests.
Sarkar said he was allowed to leave the police station around 1.30 am, while Singh left a little before him. “This incident shows we are in a fascist state. The police were polite but it was unnerving. I just wanted to be part of as many protests as possible to show solidarity. CAA is a law against the poor,” he said.
The next day, Sarkar was so afraid to take a cab, so he decided to travel by train to Nagpada to join the Mumbai Bagh protest.
When contacted, an Uber spokesperson said the “inquiry is ongoing”.