The Delhi Police has been facing criticism for arresting student activists in their alleged role in Delhi riots, and anti- Citizenship Amendement Act (CAA) amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Student leaders and activists accused the Centre and police on Tuesday of indulging in “vendetta politics” against those who opposed the CAA.
At a press briefing held via video-conference app Zoom, former student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid hit out at the police for arresting Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students for their alleged involvement in orchestrating communal riots in northeast Delhi.
Independent MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani called the arrest of student activists a “witch-hunt” and “vendetta politics of the worst nature”.
“Taking advantage of the lockdown, police are targeting those who opposed the new citizenship law and fought for democratic principles.”
“That they are being arrested for hatching the conspiracy behind the riots is itself a conspiracy by the RSS-BJP to target those who are opposed to their ideology,” Mevani said. Former JNU Students’ Union president Kumar said they will have to find novel ways to raise their voice during the lockdown. He called the arrest of students a tactic to divert attention from the government’s “inefficiencies”.
“The government is taking advantage of the lockdown to play revenge politics against those who stood against the CAA, NRC and NPR.”
“It is also an attempt to scare students and tell them, If you raise your voice against us, you will also be thrown into jails like the student activists who are already in jails,” Kumar said.
N Sai Balaji, president of the Left-backed All India Students’ Association (AISA), concurred with Kumar and said it is shameful that a time when the number of coronavirus cases has crossed 1.65 lakh in the country, the government is targeting student leaders.
“This shows that the priority of the Centre is not tackling the coronavirus or solving the problems of migrants, but to target the anti-CAA protesters.”
“It is difficult to understand how reading the Preamble (of the Constitution) invites UAPA, but there is no action against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur for hate speeches. Spreading hate is nationalism,” he said.
Balaji also pointed out that Komal Sharma, who was allegedly involved in attacking JNU students and teachers on January 5, was yet to be arrested. He said the police know that during the lockdown, students cannot step out or even find lawyers and therefore, they are arresting them. “These are tactics to deviate the media from covering the coronavirus pandemic using the Hindu-Muslim narrative,” Balaji said.
Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Asif Iqbal Tanha and president of the Jamia Alumni Association Shifa-Ur-Rehman have been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly being part of a larger conspiracy behind the northeast Delhi communal violence in February. 27-year-old Jamia Scholar Safoora Zargar who was arrested last month, is now in the second trimester of her pregnancy.
“The government is using the lockdown to flatten the protest. A premier agency like Delhi Police is damaging its credibility to please its political masters.”
“What political pressure is it under that it has not even registered an FIR against Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur?” Khalid asked. He also questioned the timing of the cases on Pinjra Tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Jarwal.
“The moment they were about to be granted bail by the court, fresh cases were slapped against them in connection with the northeast Delhi riots.
“None of the arrested activists has ever supported violence. They have taken to the streets to raise their voice over issues related to gender justice and education,” Khalid said. Khalid has also been charged under the anti-terror law.
Accusing the police of brutalising students whenever they come out to protest, he said the students of Jamia Millia Islamia were victims of the December 15 police violence and not perpetrators of violence.
Safoora Zargar’s arrest has been condemned by international human rights organisation Amnesty. On May 1, Amnesty India released a statement saying,
“A particularly distressing arrest was that of 27-year-old Safoora Zargar, a research scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University. She was arrested on 10 April 2020 by the Delhi police for her alleged involvement in the February Delhi riots. But immediately after getting bail, the Delhi police arrested her again under UAPA and sent to Tihar jail in New Delhi, one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country. At the time of her arrest, Safoora was three months pregnant. She has been repeatedly denied access to her lawyer and her husband due to the nation-wide lockdown imposed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”
(With inputs from PTI)