New Delhi: A civil rights group Monday condemned the arrest of two Jamia Millia Islamia students in connection with the Delhi riots and accused the police of “abusing” the COVID-19 lockdown to silence those who oppose government policies.
In a statement released by ‘Hum Bharat Ke Log’, which has been signed by 26 civil rights activists, the group termed the arrests by Delhi Police “arbitrary”.
Meeran Haider of Chhatra Rashtriya Janata Dal was arrested April 2 while Safoora Zargar of the Jamia Coordination Committee was held April 11.
“This is a time when the nation needs to be focused on the health and hunger crisis across our land; when our priorities need to be to stay united to fight this virus,” the group said in the statement.
“At a time when citizens in lockdown are unable to fully exercise their democratic rights, it is the moral duty of governments to guard against any abuse of power by the state,” it added.
The statement claimed there is “open communalisation” of the pandemic and “targeting of students and activists by agencies of the state”.
“We condemn the witch-hunt by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police against activists and students who were at the forefront of the democratic upsurge against CAA/NRC/NPR,” the statement added.
Several other activists like Gul Inquilabi, many Muslim youth from northeast Delhi and students of Jamia are being called for questioning by the Special Cell every day amid this lockdown, the statement said.
“There is now an attempt to implicate them in false cases related to the Delhi violence… Now, weaving fictitious narratives about the Delhi violence, Delhi Police is abusing the COVID-19 lockdown to silence and arrest those who oppose government policies, hoping that this abuse of state power will go unreported, with neither news coverage nor democratic protest,” the statement said.
Jailing activists and students in false cases amid the pandemic puts their lives in peril and with courts functioning only partially owing to the lockdown, those arrested are being denied proper legal aid, it said.
Calling the arrests “attempts to unleash fear within the large young democratic opposition that had emerged across the country against CAA/NRC/NPR,” the statement demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of the activists.
The signatories include Yogendra Yadav, Anjali Bhardawaj, Annie Raja, Teesta Setalvad, Kavita Krishnan, Medha Patkar and Umar Khalid.