Delhi Police using pretext of Delhi riots to target, frame and witch hunt anti-CAA activists: Activists, scholars, community leaders
New Delhi, 21 May 2020: An online Press Conference was held today by several activists, scholars and community leaders to condemn the implication of anti-CAA, NRC-NPR activists under false charges and the continuous witch-hunt of students and activists by Delhi Police.
Senior lawyer of the Supreme Court Prashant Bhushan, human rights activist and secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace Teesta Setalvad, Delhi University faculty Prof. Apoorvanand Jha, Rajya Sabha MP and Delhi University faculty Prof. Manoj Jha, civil rights activist Kavita Krishnan, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat president Navaid Hamid and Vice President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Prof. Mohammad Salim Engineer have addressed the media persons on the issue of arresting of anti-CAA, NRC-NPR activists under false charges and the continuous witch-hunt of students by Delhi Police. Activist Nadeem Khan coordinated the press conference. After the online conference, they issued the following joint press statement:
“The spate of arrests of anti-CAA activists by the Delhi police, in the middle of the pandemic and lockdown refuses to stop. After Safoora Zaragar, Meeran Haidar, and Shifa ur Rehman, the Delhi Police has arrested one more student of Jamia Millia Islamia Asif Iqbal. On the 16 of May, then Asif Iqbal Tahna was taken by the Special Cell of Delhi Police for interrogation but was arrested on 17.05.2020 by Crime Branch, Chanakypuri, Delhi. He was produced in front of a magistrate and declared arrested, in connection to the case pertaining to violence near Jamia on 15.12.2019. We remember that it was the Jamia students who bore the brunt of the violence on that dreadful night when police barged into the university and the library premises and brutalized the students unprovoked. The police arrested Asif and sought for police Custody. The Judge refused Police Custody since Asif had already been interrogated by the police many days in the past and chargesheet has already been filed in the case where the police have mentioned that the role of Asif is still ascertain and hence does not file the Chargesheet against him.
The judge granted him judicial custody of 14 Days. Asif’s friends who went to meet him in Crime Branch to deliver clothes informed that Asif was beaten up by Special Cell Police on 16.05.2020. Asif today informed one of his close friend by a call from jail that he was beaten up by a jail Munshi because he was a ‘Jamia student’.
Yesterday (19.5.20) the Special Cell of Delhi police simply re-arrested Asif and now linked him up with the North East Delhi riots under FIR no. 59 and took him into police custody of 7 Days . With this he literally became another of the pattern arrests that Delhi Police are doing with anti-CAA activists.
The Curious case of FIR 59, of North East Delhi Riots: This FIR filed in connection to the riots in North East Delhi that took place between 23-27 February, at the beginning had all bailable sections. Three Popular Front activists Mohammad Danish, Pervez Alam and Mohammad Illyas who were arrested on March 12, were granted bail on March 14 and the Judge Prabh Deep Kaur reprimanded the IO for not granting them Station House bail on the day of the arrest. "It is a settled principle that in bailable offences, it is the duty of the IO to offer bail to the accused persons at the first instance. There is no explanation by the IO as to why he had not offered bail to the accused persons at the first instance as per the constitutional as well as procedural mandate," the court said.
This particular FIR was again evoked when Ishrat Jahan a lawyer arrested from Khureji was granted bail in her previous case on 21.03.2020. She along with Khalid Saifi was re-arrested under this particular FIR, when this time some more stringent sections like 302 was inserted in the FIR and Ishrat’s bail was subsequently rejected.
On 13.04.2020 Safoora Zargar a student from Jamia Millia Islamia was arrested for the violence in Jaffrabad. When she was granted bail in that case the police re-arrested her in this particular FIR. Similarly, Gulfisha and student and anti-CAA activist from Jaffrabad was arrested in connection to violence in Jaffrabad and after getting bail in that case she was rearrested in this FIR. Now with Asif Iqbal, we have seen the same pattern. After the arrest of Safoora and Meeran Haidar in FIR 59, the police further revealed that they have added four sections from the draconian UAPA in this FIR, although they are not even ready to reveal who all are implicated under UAPA. In effect all detainees under this FIR are now potentially implicated under UAPA. Shifa Ur Rehman from Jamia Alumni Association was also booked under this FIR. So the chronology is very clear: First a person is arrested under some case, and when he/she gets or is about to get bail in the case, they are implicated in this particular FIR.
This FIR which started with all bailable offences have now been turned into almost an anti-terror case and it is particularly targeting anti-CAA activists and students and framing them as ‘dreaded terrorist’ who were ‘responsible’ for the Delhi riots in North East. Moreover, the FIR is most vaguely worded and makes sweeping generalisations and accusations which makes it easy to be used against anybody.
It is curious to note that although the majority of the victims in the Delhi riots who had lost their lives and livelihoods were Muslims, all the arrested persons under this FIR so far are also Muslims. This clearly shows the prejudiced behaviour of the Delhi Police and how they are using the pretext of the Delhi riots to target, frame and witch hunt anti-CAA activists.
The insensitivity of the Delhi Police is clear from the fact that they have arrested Safoora who is in the second trimester of her pregnancy and is refusing to release her. During the pandemic and lockdown, the Delhi Police kept calling students of Jamia and other anti-CAA activists for interrogation. Repeated appeals to refrain from this during the lockdown were summarily ignored. The Delhi Police continued to call activists from outside to Special Cell office even after one of their head constable was found COVID positive. We have also come to know that Delhi Police are constantly pressurising and harassing the activists called for interrogation to turn ‘approvers’ for them. This shows that they do not have an iota of evidence for these arrests and are doing this to create a fake narrative and intimidate activists, particularly the ones who were vocal against CAA.
We strongly condemn the arrest and witch-hunting of the anti-CAA activists. These desperate attempts by Delhi Police to make people sign on blank papers or pressurising them to turn approvers is particularly disturbing and highly illegal. This shows that the Delhi Police is using this case to only frame activists.
We demand the immediate release of all these students and activists. The use of the draconian law like UAPA to intimidate students and activists of a peaceful democratic movement is abominable and highly condemnable.