Gaur said he would repeat his actions if he hears a passenger make similar statements

Rohit Singh Gaur being felicitated | Twitter handle of M.P. Lodha

Reports on Saturday claimed Uber had suspended a driver for taking a poet to police in Mumbai after he overheard the latter criticising the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

In the incident on Wednesday night, poet and activist Bappadittya Sarkar had booked an Uber cab driven by Rohit Singh Gaur to travel from Juhu to Kurla. Sarkar claimed he was taken to police by Gaur when he talked about the ‘protest culture’ in various cities on the phone with a friend.

Sarkar alleged Gaur had stopped the vehicle on pretext of taking cash from an ATM. Sarkar claimed Gaur accused him of talking about creating a ‘Shaheen Bagh’ in Mumbai and even claimed to have a recording of Sarkar’s conversation. Sarkar was later taken to the Santacruz police station and questioned for two hours.

On Saturday, The Indian Express quoted Sarkar as saying, “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.”

Interestingly, on Saturday, M.P. Lodha, the Mumbai unit chief of the BJP, felicitated Rohit Singh Gaur with an ‘alert citizen award’. Lodha tweeted images of the event, writing, “Rohit Gaur was called to Santacruz police station and greeted on behalf of the people of Mumbai and honoured with the alert citizen award.” Lodha also declared it was wrong of Uber to suspend Gaur.

Gaur has remained unapologetic about his actions. Speaking to the Mumbai Mirror, Gaur claimed he would do the same thing again if he hears another passenger making similar statements.

Gaur told Mumbai Mirror he began recording Sarkar’s conversation when the latter said “the country is going to burn”. Gaur refuted criticism that his actions constituted an invasion of privacy and claimed Sarkar was attempting to replicate a protest similar to the one being held in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi.

I am not speaking on behalf of any group: Uber driver

Lodha called the Uber driver on Saturday, asking him to come to Santacruz police station around 12.30pm, and after felicitating him with a cardboard plaque announcing “Alert Citizen Award” and garlands, assured him his suspension would be revoked.

Lodha also checked with the police about the status of the inquiry and asked them not to take action against him.

“I am not a politician or speaking on behalf of any group. So, one should understand I did it in a positive way. I cannot sit and just take it if someone says he will burn or harm my motherland,” said Gaur (35).

On Wednesday night, Bappaditya Sarkar (23), a poet from Jaipur who is in the city to perform at Kala Ghoda festival, boarded the cab at Juhu for a friend’s place in Kurla. According to media reports, he called up a friend from the cab and was conversing with him about the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens protests. Overhearing his conversation, Gaur drove him straight to the Santacruz police station.

Gaur complained to the police saying, “Sarkar said, yeh desh jalne hi wali hai (the country will burn).” Gaur said he recorded Sarkar’s conversation and gave the clip to the police. “The recording which I gave the cops was hardly six-seven minutes long. I started recording from the Mithibhai College route to the Santacruz police station. Sarkar’s act has got mileage and publicity for the launch of his first book,” he said. Police had earlier said Gaur could not produce the recording.

“The MLA told me he will speak with Uber to unblock my suspension,” said Gaur, adding the media had misreported his statement. “I told Sarkar he should feel lucky I drove him to the police station. Had it been some other person he would have taken him elsewhere for his anti-national utterances, but the latter half has not been reported at all,” he said. He added the police were polite with him and Sarkar and did their work of noting both sides.

Gaur recounted he came to Mumbai 14 years ago from Bhopal for work after discontinuing his studies (first-year BCom).

“I discussed the incident with my parents who reside in Bhopal. They supported me.”

Santacruz police senior inspector Shriram Koregaonkar said Lodha came to the police station and inquired if any case has been registered against Gaur. “The felicitation was done outside the police station. We did not charge or book the driver as he acted as an alert citizen,” said Koregaonkar.

Lodha tweeted, “Rohit Gaur…. Uber driver who handed over the taxi passenger to the police for devising a conspiracy against CAA. Felicitated Rohit Gaur on behalf of the people of Mumbai calling him to the Santacruz police station and gave Alert Citizen Award.”

A source at Uber said the driver-partner has been temporarily suspended and not taken off the mobile app platform. “We will look into the case and, if required, cooperate with police authorities. It is a due procedure that we follow in every such case where there is need for a proper inquiry— which is not time-bound but usually lasts a few days, during which time the driver-partner is not allowed to ply the cab. However, once the inquiry is complete and there is no culpability, the driver may be able to come back and operate on our platform,” the source said, adding the driver has been just “waitlisted” and not punished or banned.

When asked about Lodha’s plan to meet Uber officials, sources declined to comment. A source said considering that the rider had not pressed any charges and the police too had not registered an FIR, there were chances of the driver being reinstated soon.

(With inputs from Somit Sen)