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Right to dissent is at the core of democracy

Do not isolate and target students, unite as a nation: Civil society condemns Delhi Police for falsely implicating students and activists in Delhi riot cases

Sabrangindia 23 Apr 2020

Umar KhalidImage Courtesy: jagranjosh.com

Scores of activists, academics, journalists, teachers, scholars and eminent citizens of India have spoken in one voice to condemn the use of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against those who use their Constitutional right to dissent peacefully. 

Civil rights activists have said that the Delhi Police is falsely implicating “innocent student activists in Delhi riot cases, and booking them under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)”. In a joint statement issued on April 22, eminent activists called this police action a “suppression of civil rights and liberties” and said that targeting these young democratic voices was reprehensible. 

“We find it utterly shameful that Delhi police is using the COVID-19 lockdown, and the enormous humanitarian crisis of hunger confronting our country, as an opportunity to trample on the democratic rights of innocents”. They have called on the people of India to “unite as a nation, not to isolate and target students.” 

They say the Delhi Police has abused its powers, and filed  concocted cases against former JNU scholar, Dr. Umar Khalid, and Jamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar. The activists reject Delhi Police’s allegations that the communal violence in North East Delhi “was a premeditated conspiracy” hatched by the scholars and students. The activists have called the Delhi Police's narrative “absurd”, and said that “citizens of this country will see through these lies being peddled by the police.”

The civil rights activists have asked why the real culprits, who actually incited or took part in the violence, have not been taken to task by the law keepers, and continue to “enjoy impunity despite ample evidence available against them, including on social media?”

They ask, “If Delhi, India’s capital city, whose police force comes directly under the Union Home Ministry, is rapidly becoming a police state, giving the police powers that are unfettered, even by the law of the land?”

The activists have implored all citizens of the country, political parties, the judicial system and media to stand united against this injustice. They have asked people to raise their voices to “oppose this brazen abuse of State power to stifle democratic voices; to pressurize the BJP government to stop this targeting and vilification; demand that these charges be immediately dropped; demand that those arrested under cover of the COVID-19 lockdown be immediately released.”

The statement was signed by Prof. Rampuyani, Writer & Activist, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairman,Delhi Minority Commission, Ravi Nair, Convener, Alliance against CAA, NRC and NPR, Eng. Syed Sadatullah Hussaini, President JIH, Prof Apoorvanand, Delhi Univ, Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist,Harsh Mandar, Ex IAS, Activist, Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, Gen. Sec., AIMC, S. R. Darapuri, IPS(Retd), Spokesperson, AIPF, Syeda Hameed, Ex Member, Planning Commission, Dr. John Dyal, Writer and Activist,Labeed Shafi, President SIO, Tapan Bose, Human Rights Activist, Kavita Srivastava, Human Rights Activist,Prof Ghazala Jameel, JNU, Aishe Ghosh, President JNUSU, Mujtaba Farooq, Asst Convener Alliance Against CAA, NRC, NPR, Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, Dr. S.Q.R. Ilyas, President WPI, Manisha Sethi,Writer,Activist, Nadeem Khan, United Against Hate, Raghvan Srinivasan, President Lokraj Sangathan, Ajit Yadav, Political Activist, Javed Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Mohd Sulaiman, President INL, and others.

Hum Bharat Ke Log, a platform of more than 100 civil society organisations at the forefront of national-wide protests against the Union Govt.’s illegal efforts to implement NPR, NRC and CAA has also denounced and strongly condemned the Union Govt’s move to charge the student and youth leaders who led and participated in the peaceful protests and civil disobedience movements across the country, including Delhi. 

“We must remember that the protesters against NPR, NRC and CAA acted in accordance with their fundamental rights as conferred by the Constitution of India and hence the invocation of UAPA and the colonial Sedition laws are inherently illegal. This amounts to wrongful exercise of authority against lawful acts of citizens,” they said in a statement issued as soon as the news that the student-leaders had been charged under the UAPA.

They say this is an attempt by the Govt. to “intimidate the leading Anti-NPR/NRC/CAA protestors in an attempt to crush the movement,” and added that doing so when the nation was under a lockdown and dealing with a national health emergency showed, the “the anti-democratic character of the Union Govt” . 

“It is shocking to see that while the whole nation has come together to deal with the the health emergency caused by Covid-19 and the consequent nation-wide Lockdown, the Govt., instead of focusing on saving lives and livelihoods of citizens, is conspiring to crush peoples movements by incarcerating activists” they added.

As there is some confusion around the the exact nature of the charges against the activist, especially Dr Umar Khalid, the coalition has demanded that: 

1. Delhi Police clarify whether and on what grounds have these activists been charged under UAPA. 

2. If so, such ridiculous and draconian charges be immediately removed 

3. Those who were actually responsible for issuing communally charged statements, leading to violence and huge loss of human lives must be held accountable and punished as per law.  

The Hindu had reported that  “Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused ‘yet’ and had not been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.”  According to the new report the former former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) scholar was named in an FIR registered by the Delhi police, but “it was not yet clear whether he has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).”

The report quoted a senior police officer as saying that ‘Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused “yet” and had not been charged under the UAPA.’

According to a report by India Today the FIR was registered based on a  complaint filed by “one Arvind Kumar, a member of the Delhi Police crime branch” who claimed that “one of his sources informed him that the communal riots that broke out in Delhi on February 23, 24 and 25 were "pre-planned".”

Investigations into the February 2020 communal violence which exploded in various areas of Northeast Delhi are being carried out by the Delhi Police Special Cell. According to The Hindu’s report the special cell is investigating a “‘conspiracy’ behind the communal violence”.  Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar have already been charged under the UAPA. The report quoted Haider’s lawyer  Akram Khan, saying that “they withdrew his bail application on Monday after police informed the court that Mr. Haider has been charged under IPC Section 302 (murder).”

Haider (35) is a PhD student and the president of RJD youth wing’s Delhi unit, while Zargar is an MPhil student of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university and  the media coordinator of Jamia Coordination Committee.

Related:

Journalists are not terrorists, journalism is not a crime
Gauhati HC denies default bail to Akhil Gogoi

Right to dissent is at the core of democracy

Do not isolate and target students, unite as a nation: Civil society condemns Delhi Police for falsely implicating students and activists in Delhi riot cases

Umar KhalidImage Courtesy: jagranjosh.com

Scores of activists, academics, journalists, teachers, scholars and eminent citizens of India have spoken in one voice to condemn the use of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against those who use their Constitutional right to dissent peacefully. 

Civil rights activists have said that the Delhi Police is falsely implicating “innocent student activists in Delhi riot cases, and booking them under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)”. In a joint statement issued on April 22, eminent activists called this police action a “suppression of civil rights and liberties” and said that targeting these young democratic voices was reprehensible. 

“We find it utterly shameful that Delhi police is using the COVID-19 lockdown, and the enormous humanitarian crisis of hunger confronting our country, as an opportunity to trample on the democratic rights of innocents”. They have called on the people of India to “unite as a nation, not to isolate and target students.” 

They say the Delhi Police has abused its powers, and filed  concocted cases against former JNU scholar, Dr. Umar Khalid, and Jamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar. The activists reject Delhi Police’s allegations that the communal violence in North East Delhi “was a premeditated conspiracy” hatched by the scholars and students. The activists have called the Delhi Police's narrative “absurd”, and said that “citizens of this country will see through these lies being peddled by the police.”

The civil rights activists have asked why the real culprits, who actually incited or took part in the violence, have not been taken to task by the law keepers, and continue to “enjoy impunity despite ample evidence available against them, including on social media?”

They ask, “If Delhi, India’s capital city, whose police force comes directly under the Union Home Ministry, is rapidly becoming a police state, giving the police powers that are unfettered, even by the law of the land?”

The activists have implored all citizens of the country, political parties, the judicial system and media to stand united against this injustice. They have asked people to raise their voices to “oppose this brazen abuse of State power to stifle democratic voices; to pressurize the BJP government to stop this targeting and vilification; demand that these charges be immediately dropped; demand that those arrested under cover of the COVID-19 lockdown be immediately released.”

The statement was signed by Prof. Rampuyani, Writer & Activist, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairman,Delhi Minority Commission, Ravi Nair, Convener, Alliance against CAA, NRC and NPR, Eng. Syed Sadatullah Hussaini, President JIH, Prof Apoorvanand, Delhi Univ, Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist,Harsh Mandar, Ex IAS, Activist, Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, Gen. Sec., AIMC, S. R. Darapuri, IPS(Retd), Spokesperson, AIPF, Syeda Hameed, Ex Member, Planning Commission, Dr. John Dyal, Writer and Activist,Labeed Shafi, President SIO, Tapan Bose, Human Rights Activist, Kavita Srivastava, Human Rights Activist,Prof Ghazala Jameel, JNU, Aishe Ghosh, President JNUSU, Mujtaba Farooq, Asst Convener Alliance Against CAA, NRC, NPR, Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, Dr. S.Q.R. Ilyas, President WPI, Manisha Sethi,Writer,Activist, Nadeem Khan, United Against Hate, Raghvan Srinivasan, President Lokraj Sangathan, Ajit Yadav, Political Activist, Javed Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Mohd Sulaiman, President INL, and others.

Hum Bharat Ke Log, a platform of more than 100 civil society organisations at the forefront of national-wide protests against the Union Govt.’s illegal efforts to implement NPR, NRC and CAA has also denounced and strongly condemned the Union Govt’s move to charge the student and youth leaders who led and participated in the peaceful protests and civil disobedience movements across the country, including Delhi. 

“We must remember that the protesters against NPR, NRC and CAA acted in accordance with their fundamental rights as conferred by the Constitution of India and hence the invocation of UAPA and the colonial Sedition laws are inherently illegal. This amounts to wrongful exercise of authority against lawful acts of citizens,” they said in a statement issued as soon as the news that the student-leaders had been charged under the UAPA.

They say this is an attempt by the Govt. to “intimidate the leading Anti-NPR/NRC/CAA protestors in an attempt to crush the movement,” and added that doing so when the nation was under a lockdown and dealing with a national health emergency showed, the “the anti-democratic character of the Union Govt” . 

“It is shocking to see that while the whole nation has come together to deal with the the health emergency caused by Covid-19 and the consequent nation-wide Lockdown, the Govt., instead of focusing on saving lives and livelihoods of citizens, is conspiring to crush peoples movements by incarcerating activists” they added.

As there is some confusion around the the exact nature of the charges against the activist, especially Dr Umar Khalid, the coalition has demanded that: 

1. Delhi Police clarify whether and on what grounds have these activists been charged under UAPA. 

2. If so, such ridiculous and draconian charges be immediately removed 

3. Those who were actually responsible for issuing communally charged statements, leading to violence and huge loss of human lives must be held accountable and punished as per law.  

The Hindu had reported that  “Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused ‘yet’ and had not been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.”  According to the new report the former former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) scholar was named in an FIR registered by the Delhi police, but “it was not yet clear whether he has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).”

The report quoted a senior police officer as saying that ‘Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused “yet” and had not been charged under the UAPA.’

According to a report by India Today the FIR was registered based on a  complaint filed by “one Arvind Kumar, a member of the Delhi Police crime branch” who claimed that “one of his sources informed him that the communal riots that broke out in Delhi on February 23, 24 and 25 were "pre-planned".”

Investigations into the February 2020 communal violence which exploded in various areas of Northeast Delhi are being carried out by the Delhi Police Special Cell. According to The Hindu’s report the special cell is investigating a “‘conspiracy’ behind the communal violence”.  Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar have already been charged under the UAPA. The report quoted Haider’s lawyer  Akram Khan, saying that “they withdrew his bail application on Monday after police informed the court that Mr. Haider has been charged under IPC Section 302 (murder).”

Haider (35) is a PhD student and the president of RJD youth wing’s Delhi unit, while Zargar is an MPhil student of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university and  the media coordinator of Jamia Coordination Committee.

Related:

Journalists are not terrorists, journalism is not a crime
Gauhati HC denies default bail to Akhil Gogoi

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