While the whole world, including India, faces the crisis of COVID-19, Delhi Police arrested another anti-CAA activist from Jamia Millia Islamia. This is the second time this month that a student from Jamia was arrested for an alleged role in the Delhi Riots, which broke out in late February this year.
Safoora Zargar, an M.Phil student from Jamia Millia Islamia was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on the night of April 10. Apart from being a scholar, Safoora is also the Media Coordinator of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), and has been actively involved in the anti-CAA protest at Gate No. 7 of the university. According to the sources, Safoora was taken to the Lodhi Colony Police Station by three police vehicles, which came to her residence on at around midnight, her arrest was confirmed by the police. She was presented in front of a judge at Mandauli Jail the next day, but her bail was rejected. Joint CP of Delhi Police, Alok Kumar told ANI that Safoora Zargar is accused of organizing an anti-CAA protest in Jaffrabad in Delhi’s North-East district.
The Special Cell has also issued notices to more than 50 members of the JCC. The notices are issued for an alleged involvement in instigating protests against the Citizenship Amendment (CAA), which also resulted in the Delhi Riots, according to a report by the New Indian Express. A student activist associated with the JCC, told me that 2-3 other student activists from Jamia were also called for investigation by the Delhi Police, related to the Delhi Riots. “The Delhi Police is just using this lockdown time to suppress the Muslim voices who are critical of this current regime,” he said on condition of anonymity. Earlier this month, Meeran Haider, a Ph.D scholar also from Jamia, was arrested in a similar manner. On 15 April, he was sent for 14 days of judiciary custody, after being in police custody for almost two weeks.
Safoora’s sudden arrest came as a big shock to the student fraternity of Jamia Millia Islamia. Scores of solidarity messages flooded on all social media platforms, when the news of her arrest was publicly announced by many activists the next day.
Delhi University Professor and a member of Rajya Sabha, Prof. Manoj Jha condemned the arrest. “Dissent is the biggest crime these times, particularly if it is from young,” he tweeted. Kawalpreet Kaur, All India Students’ Association’s (AISA) Delhi President called these arrests a pure act of vengeance on part of the Modi-Shah Government, and blamed the government for using the pandemic for defaming the Muslim community & simultaneously jailing all vocal democratic voices from the community.
More than thirty civil society organisations and other groups, including the Jamia Teachers’ Association (JTA), Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), condemned the arrests of both, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar. In their joint statement they accused the Delhi Police of taking retaliatory revengeful action against those who were active in the anti-CAA movement. They specially focused on the health condition of Safoora Zargar. “What is particularly worrying in this entire context is that Safoora Zargar is pregnant and in this condition, she requires proper care and medical supervision. This kind of action during the lockdown due to the Coronavirus is a violation of their constitutional rights,” the statement said.
Several other online campaigns started meanwhile, condemning the arrests of Muslim activists. ‘Campaign against witch-hunt of anti-CAA activists,’ is one such online campaign started by several activists, lawyers, academicians, writers and filmmakers including Saeed Mirza and Anand Patwardhan, condemning the unending witch–hunt of Muslim scholar-activists. They have pointed out the arrests of many Muslim activists and scholars including Sharjeel Imam, Dr. Kafeel Khan, Khalid Saifi and several others who have been arrested this year in relation to the anti-CAA protests. Several other prominent people from the film industry have also came out in condemning these arrests and standing in solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia Islamia. A joint statement by Ratna Pathak Shah, Anurag Kashyap, Mahesh Bhatt, Nandita Das and others, has called these actions by Delhi Police as ‘utterly inhuman and undemocratic,’ and has urge the police to stop abusing the lockdown and release the students and activists.
Several other student leaders including former AMUSU President Maskoor Usmani, hit out to the government for the witch-hunting of Muslim youth and activists. He said, “The targeting of random innocent Muslim youth and of activists who have played leading roles in the anti-NRC protests is being carried out openly, while the actual rioters and mobs have been left to return to their routine lives.” Several Muslim activists and students are already in custody in relation to the anti-CAA protests this year. Dr. Kafeel Khan, Khalid Saifi, Ishrat Jahan are a few among them. However, the anti CAA protestors are putting it the other way. They argue that these arrests are being done to divert the attention of the public from the real issues and to protect the real culprits who instigated violence on the Muslim community in North-East Delhi. According to the protestors, all the Muslim students who have been arrested during this lockdown are the ones who were actively involved in the relief work for the workers who were left unattended by the authorities during these crises.
Sahil Kazmi is a student pursuing BBA from Jamia Millia Islamia.