Shambhavi Saxena, 19, a student of English literature at the Lady Shriram College in the national capital, was picked up twice by the Delhi Police while protesting against the gang-rape of a para-medical student. On December 25, she managed to send regular updates on Twitter using @Shamwoo as her handle, but many people questioned her authenticity. She breaks her silence to DNA after filing a formal complaint against the police personnel on December 26.
On Tuesday, December 25, my mother, our friend and I went to Jantar Mantar for a peaceful protest. Since the metros were shut and autos refused to go till there, we walked towards the spot. It was peaceful and we began talking to some women protesters. We were then approached by two panic-stricken women who said they saw some women protesters being dragged away by the police. They were asking for help and so, we went to the Parliament Street police station where the women were detained.
Ours was a group of 12 women and two young men at the thana. We said we wanted to speak to a female ACP, but were told there was none. On being asked on which grounds were the women detained, SHO (station house officer) Dinesh Kumar said section 65. Our demands to see the badges of the cops were ignored. All of them had them hidden under their jackets and refused to show them.
The SHO told us to leave and added that he would not release the detainees. When we refused to budge, he ordered women constables to detain us. We protested and said we cannot be detained without a reason, but the police used brute force and dragged all of us. Some of us were beaten up when we resisted. A policewoman pulled my hair while Kumar slammed by head against a wall. We were then thrown into a room with other detainees.
A woman claiming to be an NGO worker told us it was a mistake and that we would be released if we admitted that we were wrong and did not speak to the media about the incident. At 6.30, we were released without giving us an explanation. We were made to feel like criminals.
While we were leaving, the woman yelled, “Who is Shambhavi? She has been telling everything to the media.” They tried to snatch the phones of the other girls, but I managed to retain mine in order to continue tweeting as I had been doing for two days. I was not tweeting while I was being beaten. I think my grammar conveys that.
Once I was detained, I began tweeting, hoping to alert my friends and the media. It was because of those tweets that people began calling the thana to inquire about the detained women. The police initially denied we were there.
I know people are calling me a liar, but they were ready to believe me first. We did not give our real names because we were scared and they were asking for details. When people called the thana asking for ‘shambhavi’ there was no such person on the list of names, but I know what name I gave. This can be easily verified.
People are asking me to reveal my personal details, but I won’t. Already, because of the media attention to my tweets, my mother received a threatening call from the thana number, saying: “If you don’t come to the thana with your daughter and apologise for spreading lies, we will arrest you.”
We all did what we had to to protect our identities from the police. But I was very much there and I have the aches and pains to prove it. The twitterati is targeting two of my friends who were detained with me. My friend Zainab is also being harassed by people on Twitter. But I know what I went through, what we all went through.
Shambhavi's twitter details
All of 19, Shambhavi tweeted about her police ordeal using @Shamwoo as her handle. Her Twitter bio reads: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Godless Commie. Rainbows. Wildlife Enthusiast. Made in 1993.