In a heartening show of empathy and solidarity, the prominent citizens in jail wanted the plight of the faceless to be highlighted. They would take care of themselves and face the consequences, they said. But so little is known about the nameless and faceless protesters that the compulsion is to write about the more prominent faces.
SR Darapuri, IPS (retd), social activist
S.R. Darapuri breaks every cliché about the stereotypical policeman in India. A former Inspector General of Police, even at 76, he stands tall for human rights and justice. Much respected for his honesty as well as his courage, this septuagenarian, plagued by cancer, is now himself languishing behind bars like a criminal.
He was placed under house arrest two days before the Lucknow protest on December 19 to prevent him from attending. Nor did he attend any protest. Yet after the protest, he was picked up and late at night his well-wishers found that he has been arrested.
His friends said that he was not even given time to pick up his medicines when police landed. The question we all are asking ourselves is, if a retired senior police officer can be arrested for just being in solidarity with citizens in a democracy in India, what chance do the rest of us have? The answer is not pleasant.
Darapuri hails from Punjab’s Jalandhar district. He retired as Inspector General in UP Police, his last posting being the Police Training Centre, Sitapur.
Post-retirement, he works to provide support to social justice movements on issues such as human rights, and rights of women, tribals, Dalits and minorities, among others. He was involved in work on empowering the poor and the deprived communities.
He contested Lok Sabha polls from Robertsganj (reserved) constituency in 2014 and 2019 on a ticket of All India Peoples’ Front (Radical), a political outfit of which he is the national secretary. He is also state president of Mazdoor Kisan Manch, and founder-member of Dr Ambedkar Mahasabha
Darapuri was earlier associated with civil society organisations such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jan Sangharsh Morcha, Right to Food Committee in UP, Society for Promoting Buddhist Knowledge, among others, Kapoor said. The retired IPS officer also worked for Forest Rights’ Act and raised his voice to regularise jobs of contract labourers in Sonbhadra district
— A young associate of SR Darapuri
Deepak Kabir, social activist and artist
When I was an undergraduate student in Lucknow University, I would hear about a brilliant student who would run around helping anybody who asked for help and yet get top
marks. Later my mother told me about a shy boy and his girlfriend who helped her when she was being harassed by some university hoodlums. That shy boy was Deepak Kabir.
But I really started knowing Deepak after I left for the US and both he and I became members of a poetry group. He was a very talented writer, a spinner of words; equally brilliant at philosophical outpourings and classical poetry but with a great sense of humour.
Over the years we became good friends, arguing about philosophy and poetry. I would chide him for being too philosophical in the materialistic age and to get down to earning serious money. But money was never his passion. He often wrote of his simple middle-class childhood with longing, of his parents.
He would often speak of his wife Veena as his rock, and his closest friend. He would write about his young son proudly, calling him more mature between the two of them.
Despite being born in a Hindu Brahmin family, he changed his surname to Kabir because he felt strongly against the caste system in India. His passion was a harmonious India.
“We need to educate the young about India’s heritage through drama and music.” It was his brainchild to start Kabir festival in Lucknow. Today the same cheerful, gentle Deepak Kabir is arrested and in jail for attempt to murder. Newspapers say he’s been tortured very badly. I always told him his habit of helping people would land him into trouble. But I think his mother would be proud of him.
— A former classmate of Deepak Kabir
Mohammad Shoeb, Advocate
The President of Rihaai Manch, an NGO dedicated to releasing innocents in jail, the 76-year-old advocate Mohammad Shoeb is ironically himself now in Jail.
Shoeb sahib has been fighting for social and human rights right from his student days, and this is not the first time that he is being arrested. During the emergency in 1975 too he had been arrested and put in Gonda jail for two months. On December 19, he was placed under house arrest from 9 am in the morning.
At 10:30 pm in the night, he was called to the police station on the pretext of questioning and arrested. He took up court cases for the poor and the needy free of cost and hardly turned back anyone who sought his help.
He was also attacked by fellow lawyers in court for fighting cases of young under trials but he never backed out and got 14 innocent men released by court. A staunch believer in the Constitution and law and order, it is our misfortune that such a protector of democracy was arrested flouting every democratic norm and Constitutional value.
—An author and friend of Md. Shoeb
Robin Verma, professor, social activist
A scholar, an educationist, an Ambedkarite, Robin Verma is a model Indian citizen. He was our guide to most culinary delights of Lucknow when we visited the city. Sharma ki chai, Nihari, Avadhi Biryani, he would zip us around on his scooter, taking us to try the culinary delights of Lucknow, trying to convince us earnestly that the Lucknow biryani was better than any other.
It was many days after meeting him that we learnt that he was also a man of letters, a professor at a college in Lucknow. Father of a toddler and an infant, and taking care of his old parents, he still found time to teach underprivileged students, and worked on civic issues.
His passion was for social justice for Dalits and education of children and his evenings were spent in touring in the lanes of Lucknow, helping the less literate citizens who wanted him to help them with ration cards and water cards. News has just come in that he has been suspended as a professor of Shia College in Lucknow following his imprisonment.
—A colleague from Delhi