Let no man live,
Uncurbed by law nor curbed by tyranny;
A vicious drive is on by the Delhi Police under the tutelage of the Central Govt. of BJP-RSS to take full advantage of the lockdown for the pandemic to wreck vengeance on leading Muslim women and students linked to the peaceful anti CAA women protest sit-ins. Alongside, some open-ended FIRs have been lodged by the Delhi Police in various police stations in this district. They are being used to call Muslim youth to the police stations in the period of general lockdown to harass and intimidate them, and also to arrest some. It is difficult for lawyers also to move at this time, courts are not functioning normally and full advantage is being taken of these factors to throw both these youth and the women and student leaders into jail. It is also being used to link the totally peaceful anti CAA women protests which had added a new chapter to the women’s movement in India, to the police abetted violence in the North East district, thus foisting a criminal intent on the former.
Communal polarization was being provoked and a hate campaign against the anti CAA protests was being carried out systematically by the BJP RSS top functionaries ever since the protest against the CAA by the Jamia students began. In Delhi several centres of women’s protests slowly established themselves in the wake of Shaheen Bagh. The Delhi elections in February were preceded by a rabid hate campaign of massive proportions by the BJP and RSS leaders. Their rhetoric targeted the anti CAA protests in general but specifically and pointedly the anti CAA protest sites chosen and maintained by anti CAA women protesters in the city.
These women protest sit-ins in turn, were born in opposition to the barbaric unprecedented police violence against Jamia Milia students’ protests against CAA. This violence was so naked and hate filled that the Jamia administration was forced to say it was trying to file a FIR against it and against the police entry into Jamia campus. The mothers and sisters came onto the roads to protect their brutalized children. And in the midst of the tirade and hate directed against them by the BJP and RSS leaders led by the Home Minister in the course of the election campaign in Delhi, these sites remained centres of peace, bejwelling Delhi and carrying on the sit in protests against CAA. Post the elections, the hatred spewed and polarization attempted was used to tip the balance and violence tore apart North East Delhi from late 23th February for four days. To assess what happened and why, one remarkable fact must be kept in mind. The rest of the city remained totally peaceful. Not only that. A desperate simultaneous all Delhi rumour campaign on the evening of 1st of March of communal attacks everywhere, resulted in people panicking throughout the city but NO where did they rise to the communal bait. The North East district was also the one where the BJP won 7 of the 10 assembly seats; it only won one outside this district. This may have also contributed to aggressive stance of the BJP RSS in this area.
In the four days of horror in the North East District, few features were everyone’s experience. The area was sealed in by the police completely the first two days and no medical teams, no peace teams, no concerned citizens allowed in. Second, the newly elected Delhi Govt. and AAP MLAs did not stir into the area immediately; to the extent that Delhi Govt. did not even agree to send its ambulances in on the first night until a court directed the concerned DCP to do the same in the early hours of the second day. All the seriously injured and injured who made it to hospitals initially, spoke of outsiders being present in initial violence who had raised rabidly anti Muslim slogans and come in across the border with UP, of police support to them and of general partisan role of police. The accusation against the police persisted.
Evidence also poured out via social media and one such will have to be discussed eventually though many images were broadcast over channels as well. Whatever the estimates of various people, some facts are undeniable. 53 were recorded either brought dead or died of injuries in the designated Delhi Govt. hospitals. Of these two third were Muslims. Among the other dead was a policeman, an Intelligence officer and also others of the area; a DCP allegedly sustained serious injuries in a clash in the course of which the policeman was killed. There was massive targeting of property, systematic looting of property and also arson, hundreds of injured. Widespread displacement of Muslims was reported. Thousands of them crowded the relief camps of the Delhi Govt. and of other relief agencies.
The BJP and RSS leaders clamoured that it was the anti CAA women protest sites which had provoked the violence. However, these sites in all points in Delhi other than North East district continued peacefully though under constant threats from BJP sympathizers and also police. Arrests began in FIRs on the deaths of the policeman and the intelligence officer, with an AAP Corporator and his brother also being arrested after being named by the family of the latter. However, there is no information available in public domain of whether there were arrests in the other 51 FIRs which must have been lodged as MLCs. This issue is even more relevant in the death of Faizan, who was one of some Muslim youth captured on video being mercilessly beaten by police personnel and being made to sing the national anthem alongwith. The force can obviously easily identify its own personnel. Tens of other videos and clips of violence surfaced with often police being the perpetrators, but it is not known if the police have identified and lodged cases against the guilty especially those of its own force.
By mid March the Corona virus took over events and with the lockdown of the country the anti CAA women protests sites which had held out despite threats and also practiced physical distancing, were shut down by police by making arrests under the Epidemic Diseases Act. But from immediately after the violence a firm demand had been raised by so many sections, democratic organizations and women’s organizations, many of whom were part of the anti CAA – anti NRC, NPR countrywide mass movements, that there should be a public judicial time bound enquiry into the sequence of events in the North East Delhi violence. Equally strongly, it was demanded that BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, Ragini Tiwari and Abhay Verma who had given blatantly provocative communally polarizing speeches, should be booked by the police.
In place of the Public Enquiry demanded, the Delhi police set up a SIT enquiry of 16 police personnel. This is blatantly against any principles of fair play and Justice, police being widely accused of being partisan. Thus obviously there has been no Enquiry but a witch-hunt under the supervision of the Union Home Ministry and executed through the Delhi police is on. The Corona virus has provided the unfortunate cover and the lockdown has been used by the Central Govt. to wreck vengeance against many anti CAA protest front line Muslim women and students, while also targeting several of those who supported the anti CAA protest sites in the North East district. The police has also used the opportunity to severely harass ordinary Muslim youth, especially those injured in the violence. This is especially so in the name of investigating the open ended FIR no 60/20 lodged by a constable at Dayalpur police station in the case of policeman Ratan Lal’s murder. The entire so-called scientific investigation is shrouded in secrecy. About 45 FIRs are definitely known, lodged at Welcome, Jaffrabad, Dayalpur, Bhajanpura, Usmanpur and Khejuri Khas Police Stations and around 100 have been arrested under these, 25 of them at least in the course of the lockdown period from among the dozens called to North East thanas daily for ‘investigation’ in the same period. The police have stated that the SIT has done ‘scientific analysis’ and has arrested 800 people under various FIRs, but these are not in public domain and who the other 700 are is also not known. Differing figures were given in answer to a question in the Rajya Sabha and in response to a RTI query. (Huffington Post 22nd April)
The FIRs that are known about are also interesting. The story of one set was covered in News Click (19th March report of Tarique Anwar and Amit Singh). The narrative in 5 FIRs filed at Dayalpur Thana, each against a separate person with a separate complainant and a separate site, is the same. A different policeman is the complainant in each case; in each a different person was seen by two policemen trying to hide and on being caught proved to have a local katta. The concerned FIRs are 66/20, 67/20, 68/20, 69/20 and 70/20. Similarly it was found by lawyers that FIRs 84/20, 106/20, 113/20, 112/20 and 107/20 under Jaffrabad Thana are all under Sections 147, 148, 149, 436, 34 IPC and 3 and 4 PDP (Prevention of Destruction of Property) Act and in all the accused are Atir, Osama and Gulfam till the time the case was studied. Similarly FIR numbers 78/20, 160/20, 162/20 and 93/20 of Bhajanpura Thana are identical except that the first accused named is different in each. Mohd Shahid who has a gunshot injury, has a FIR against him under the Arms Act in Jaffrabad Thana and again the complainant is a constable. There is widespread whispering that the people of the area have not been allowed to file FIRs by the police and only an independent enquiry can actually bring out these aspects which may be a fact but will not be clinched unless all the FIRs are in public domain.
On the other hand is a known FIR no 59/20 which began with having charges under sections 147, 148, 149 and 120B of IPC but has probably added several sections since, including 302. This was the political FIR lodged on 6th March by a policeman posted in the Crime branch on evidence from an ‘informer’. It is open ended, naming only two people, Umar Khalid a student leader of JNU and an activist called Danish and giving a narrative in line with the Central Govt. and RSS propaganda that anti CAA protestors are guilty of instigating, planning and collecting arsenal for violence. Apparently the initial arrest under this FIR was undone by a MM who got angry with the IO for not giving bail in bailable offences to two youth alleged to be PFI members.
In early March itself, via the Police, the RSS had begun spreading the story of the North East Delhi violence having been provoked by anti CAA protestors themselves, especially holding guilty the peaceful anti CAA women protest sites for the violence in North east district. There were widespread rumours that members of United Against Hate and of Pinjra Tod- a group of women students of Delhi University – would be arrested. However so much is the fear deliberately spread by the Police, so much is the lack of transparency that the sequence of being called for investigation, actual arrests and under which FIR can only be patchily put together and there is no comprehensive picture. What is clear is that Advocate Ishrat Jahan, ex Municipal Councillor from Congress who was reportedly regularly participating in the women’s protest site at Khejuri Khas in NE district since it began on 13th January, was arrested as was an activist Khalid Saifi among others, on 28th February, the day the protest site was disrupted by the police around mid-morning. Lawyers sent out messages from Khejuri Khas Thana at 2.30 pm alleging that around 50 anti CAA protestors had been brought there and lawyers were not being allowed to meet them. Ishrat was shown arrested from the site though it was reported that she had gone to the police station on being summoned there and was arrested at the thana itself around the time the protest was disrupted. She and Khalid Saifi, a local activist, were denied bail the same evening and she was taken to the Mandoli Thana. It is widely believed that Saifi emerged from custodial interrogation with evidence of custodial torture but was sent to jail. As per FIR No 44/20 lodged at Jagatpur Thana and in which it is known that six people are named, Ishrat and the others are charged under Sections 147, 148, 149, 186, 353, 332, 307, 109/34 IPC and Sec 25/27 Arms Act. Ishrat now stands charged under UAPA.
The women protest site at Seelampur was also disbanded by the police on the eve of lockdown; a prominent associated face, 25 years old MBA student Gulfisa is also under arrest on some charges reportedly since 9th April and anyway has now been charged under UAPA. It is learnt that she has been denied access to her lawyer. On 1st April, about a week into the lockdown, Meeran Haider, RJD youth wing leader of Delhi, member of the Jamia Coordination Committee and a PhD student of Jamia Milia was called to the Crime Branch office at Lodhi Road and arrested under FIR 59/20. Later probably charges under UAPA were added.
On 10th April 27 years old, feisty and clear speaking Safoora Zargar, reported to be earlier associated with the NSUI team of Jamia University, member of the Media Coordination Committee of the JCC, research scholar at the Sociology Dept of Jamia University, was initially arrested reportedly under FIR 59/20 and charged under so many sections including Arms Act. Safoora was 3 months pregnant at the time of her arrest. Even though she was given bail, the Crime Branch asked the Magistrate for fifteen minutes time and arrested her under fresh charges. So much for the ‘scientific evidence’ collection by Delhi police, which could make a new FIR in fifteen minutes flat. Courts failed Justice and this pregnant student remains behind bars in corona times. Because of her presence in Tihar in solitary confinement, the Police has had to make public the information that three other pregnant women continue to be lodged in Tihar, all talk of giving parole to prisoners and releasing undertrials in pandemic times notwithstanding. Safoora has since been charged under UAPA.
Safoora’s case is outstanding, both for what the country is doing to its precious asset of capable and articulate women students who have actively come forward to ensure the idea of a plural India and to uphold the aspirations of the Preamble and also for the macabre filth being poured out against her and her unborn child and which does not become offence or issue for suo moto notice by any Court in Manuvadi times. Social media is flooded with allegations of illegality against the unborn child, Safoora’s marriage is questioned as though married women are obliged to publicly certify to every RSS sympathizer the fact or legality of their marriage. Her character is being attacked and besmirched and how; her participation in the anti CAA movement being openly and revoltingly equated with times for sexual freedom, thereby totally blackening, mocking and belittling the powerful movement for defense of the Idea of India spearheaded by Muslim women and backed by a maximum number of leading women organizations and activists. Women student leaders like Safoora end up challenging feudal notions of how married pregnant women are supposed to behave. The energy and self-confidence of such women of our country are perceived as threats by the feudal patriarchal order. Anyhow as an outspoken member of the Media team of the JCC and one who detailed convincingly police violence against students in the anti CAA stir she has definitely earned the ire of the Police. It is good that the Delhi Commission of Women has demanded that the Delhi Police report the action taken to lodge FIRs against the filth mongers. It is reminded to the reader that the Delhi police can ignore this move which is actually largely a political salvaging of AAP’s much touted pro women pretensions. The silence of NCW and NHRC, of the Delhi CM who projected himself as a defender of the rights of Delhi’s women, is still sticking out and resounding in its silence. That Lady Justice, blindfolded against prejudice, does not drop her scales in disgust where she stands outside the Supreme Court is to be wondered at; the Delhi High Court has displayed it takes no suo moto notice of undiluted personal gender based slander against the women under its spatial jurisdiction, even when it is such that no woman should face no matter whether one agrees with her beliefs or not. It also does not move suo moto to protect the unborn child from debasement. The mirage of Gender Justice lies cracked indeed from ‘side to side’.
On 27th April Delhi University leader of AISA Kawalpreet Kaur went public that police had confiscated her cell phone under a slew of charges alleging it was needed for investigation into the North East Dist. violence. The appeal to a court to give her a copy of the information in the phone since the police had forced her to share the password, was turned down. It turned out and the Police also acknowledged, that almost 50 student and youth leaders and activists running democratic organizations who had supported the anti CAA protests in North East District had also been issued notices under Sections 107 and 512 of CrPC in the lockdown period. One of the youth leaders associated with Bigul had also been earlier summarily picked up and asked to join the investigation. On 26th April, the Police or Crime Branch arrested Shifa Ur Rehman, President of Jamia University Alumni Association and member JCC and also slapped UAPA charges against him.
There was of course a pending thorn from the Delhi Govt. machinery which has in entirety not spoken openly against the role of the BJP leaders and the Delhi Police in the events since Delhi elections. Chairperson of the Delhi Minority Commission, an appointee of the Delhi Govt., had spoken out of turn on some issues post the North East Violence. On a mere tweet of congratulating Gulf countries for speaking out against Islamophobia, a tweet he later withdrew as mistimed, he has been charged with Sedition!
It is not as though the Central Govt. has been preoccupied with ensuring that repression goes on in Delhi. Dr Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha have been sent to jail in a highly contested FIR of Bhima Koregaon violence. Supreme Court did not find them fit applicants for bail despite the lockdown, the pandemic real threat and their age. Arrests are on of journalists in Kashmir too.
The arrests in Delhi and the ‘scientific’ police investigations into the North East Delhi violence is raising many troubling questions. The Delhi police cannot conduct this Enquiry as it stands accused of a partisan role. Thus its objectivity will always remain under doubt. But there are even more serious questions of logic.
Two third dead in north east Delhi violence are from one community, so much property was destroyed or looted, 19 Masjids were gutted, these are all matters which can be verified by checking records. It seems to be the Crime Branch’s case, as made out in the FIR no 59 that protests were actively called for in that district by anti CAA protestors in the course of Trump’s visit. But to use this argument for making a case that the anti CAA protestors orchestrated the violence in Delhi is totally questioning common sense. No such communal violence can go on for four days without support of state forces, in this case the Delhi police. There are allegations galore that the police abetted the BJP and RSS aligned violence wreckers, sometimes they just looked on, that they are themselves guilty of anti-minority violence. Who are guilty of the killings of the Muslims among the 53 officially acknowledged dead due to injuries sustained in the violence? Where is the enquiry into all those FIRs? What are their numbers- nothing was being uploaded on the websites of concerned police stations after 24th February upto their being checked pre lockdown. Who are the other 700 arrested; police has been maintaining that 800 people have been arrested for the North East Delhi violence. Justice must prevail and for that all facts must come into public domain.
Hundreds of intellectuals including prominent film personalities have condemned the witch-hunt in Delhi. Over 1100 women activists, intellectuals and organizations have condemned the targeting of the anti CAA women protestors and targeting of student leaders; demanding immediate release of Gulfisha, Safoora and Ishrat and the student leaders and stop to hounding of activists. They have demanded withdrawal of UAPA.
Women’s organizations of Delhi, including PMS have submitted a letter to the Home Minister with signatures of over 200 organizations and activists demanding public judicial enquiry along with other demands. Representatives of mass organizations like Nishant, IFTU, PDSU etc have also signed on this quest for justice.
The witch hunt on in Delhi is in the ‘best’ fascist repressive traditions. There has been no arrest in the violence against JNU students by outside hoodlums inside JNU campus and under the benevolent eyes of the police; the only people publicly known to have been asked to come for questioning were the students themselves. The Jamia administration’s attempt to file a FIR against the Delhi Police has died may be an intended death. The BJP RSS sympathizers and activists guilty of shooting incidents at Jamia University against students and at Shaheen Bagh against women including dadis, have been given bail by the courts after being respectfully arrested by the Delhi police. The vengeful witch hunt must be made to stop, it must be unequivocally condemned and opposed by the united strength of all forces in Delhi. A public, time bound Enquiry by sitting judges, releasing of all arrested, withdrawal of UAPA charges, stop to harassment of activists and to hunting down of Muslim youth are issues needing sustained joint struggle. The functioning of the SIT of the Police must be stopped and the report of an impartial enquiry team awaited. All those who complain that they could not lodge FIRs due to police attitude and repression must be enabled by such a Committee. Interrogation and arrests by the SIT must stop immediately. Those who have maligned Safoora Zargar on social media should be identified and FIRs should be registered against them. And an honourable release immediately of the three women anti CAA protestors- Safoora Zargar, Ishrat and Gulfisha.