Amidst the lockdown enforced due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Delhi Police has arrested two Jamia Millia Islamia students, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, in connection with the North-East Delhi riots with took place in February earlier this year, in which at least 53 people lost their lives.
The 35-year-old PhD student, Meeran Haider, was arrested on April 2, for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to incite communal riots. A Delhi court on Wednesday sent him to a judicial custody for 14 days after remaining in police custody for over 10 days.
Another student, Safoora Zargar, was arrested by the local police last Saturday in connection with protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Delhi's Jaffrabad in February and was sent to police custody on April 13.
According to a report in The Print, both Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar are members of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a group of current and former students of the university.
Meanwhile, over 20 film personalities, including Mahesh Bhatt, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj, Ratna Pathak Shah, on Sunday released a statement raising their voice against the arrest of students and activists by Delhi Police. They have urged the Delhi Police "to stop abusing the lockdown, respect the human rights of our fellow citizens and put an end to this witch-hunt."
Mahesh Bhatt, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj, Vishal Dadlani, Ratna Pathak Shah, Sushant Singh, Zeeshan Ayyub, Hansal Mehta, Nandita Das, Ashwin Chaudhary, Onir, Vinta Nanda, Sandhya Mridul, Kundu Choudhary Neeraj Ghaywan, Vinay Shukla, Sohail Tatari, Kushan Nandy, Ankur Tewari Aparna Sen, Shashank Arora. Abish Mathew, Andre Borges, Konkona Sen Sharma Mallika Dua, Saba Singh Azad, Trisha Shetty, Shahana Goswami, and Shruthy Menon are the signatories of the statement.
Here is the full text of the statement:
The country right now is reeling through a grave crisis as a result of novel Corona Virus and nearly a month long lockdown. We are all being asked to stay home and stay safe in order to break the chain of the deady virus. We are shocked to know that in this midst of such a grave situation, the Delhi Police has arrested two students of Jamia Milllia Islamia and several activists from localities of North East Delhi who had participated in peaceful protests against the CAA. Even as we write this, more students and activists are being called for questioning and interrogation by the police on a daily basis.
In a twisted fairy tale that the Delhi Police is trying to weave, these acts are now being implicated in cases related to the communal violence in Delhi. that took place in February. A riot in which the minorities suffered the maximum damage, both in terms of lives and livelihoods, has now become a pretext for the Delhi Police to further witch-huntactivists most of whom also come from the minority community.
The lockdown cannot be a lockdown of the rights of citizens, and must not be abused by the authorities in this manner. These actions of the Delhi Police are utterly inhuman and undemocratic. Making several people travel to police stations every day and the throwing some of them in jails also defeats the purpose of this lockdown and makes a mockery of social distancing. At a time when various governments are releasing under-trials from jail to relieve the pressure and restrict chances of contamination, the Delhi Police is pushing students and activists into jail.
In a democratic country like ours, the constitution gives us the right to protest and express our views against the government and its policies. Many people in the country and the world had condemned the draconian Citizenship Amendement Act. Our opposition to the CAA continues, as we see it as a bigoted law that strikes at the secular fabric of our country. We condemn this witch-hunt of students and activists because they exercised their constitutional rights to protest against CAA/NRC/NPR.
To fight this pandemic the citizens and authorities need to stand by each other. By targeting activists taking advantage of the lockdown, when there is hardly even any media coverage of its actions, the Delhi Police is betraying the civic rights of citizens. We urge the Delhi Police to stop abusing the lockdown, respect the human rights of our fellow citizens and put an end to this witch-hunt. We demand the release of these students and activists.