The Delhi Police, which recently invoked the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against four people — including two Jamia students and former JNU student Umar Khalid — in connection with the February Northeast Delhi riots, are exploring action against several members of the Popular Front of India (PFI), the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), Pinjra Tod, All India Students’ Association (AISA) as well as former and current students of Delhi University and JNU under the same Act. A professor is also on the police radar, sources said.
Earlier this week, UAPA was invoked against Khalid, Jamia student and RJD’s youth wing president Meeran Haider, JCC media coordinator Safoora Zargar, and Danish, a resident of Northeast Delhi’s Bhajanpura.
Police sources said they have scanned WhatsApp chats of nine people arrested in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots, and have concluded that these outfits were in touch with each other. “There is a common thread connecting them; they were communicating with each other and discussing arrangements and plans for the protests. In some conversations, they were discussing police security arrangements at the protest site and asking local leaders to mobilise more people, especially women and children,” a police source claimed.
Police sources also said they are tracking the money trail between bank accounts of members of these outfits, and believe some of them received money from PFI as well as abroad. They also claimed speeches these people gave at various fora had a role to play in “inciting” the riots.
Since the lockdown was announced, four people have been arrested by the SIT for the February riots — Zargar, Haider, former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan and activist Khalid Saifi. Following Zargar’s arrest earlier this month, 26 civil rights activists and political leaders had condemned the “arbitrary arrests” of the Jamia students, and alleged that the police were “abusing” their powers by arresting those critical of government policies under the “cover” of the lockdown.
The Delhi Police, on the other hand, tweeted on April 20: “While investigating Jamia and NE riot cases, Delhi Police has done its job sincerely and impartially. All arrests have been made based on scientific and forensic evidence.”
Zargar had been arrested on April 13, with police claiming she was among those who organised an anti-CAA protest and road blockade under the Jafrabad Metro Station in Delhi on February 22-23. The protest had led to a pro-CAA rally by BJP’s Kapil Mishra and his supporters, following which riots broke out in the district. There are no charges against Mishra.
While Pinjra Tod is a student collective, AISA is a left-wing student outfit. The JCC was formed by some students after the December 15 violence outside Jamia, following which police barged inside the campus.
When contacted, JCC member Al-Ameen Kabeer said, “Delhi Police is trying to build false allegations against JCC members, especially during this pandemic. The Centre and Delhi Police know we can’t do anything except a social media campaign. We want the Vice-Chancellor to address the issue and demand the immediate release of Jamia students.”
PFI chairman O M A Salam said: “Witch hunt of student activists who took part in anti-CAA protests by using draconian laws is nothing but communal and political vendetta.”
In a Facebook post on April 15, Pinjra Tod wrote: “We have categorically said and maintained that we are committed to peaceful and democratic modes of protest and have no role in any violence whatsoever.”
AISA National President N Sai Balaji said, “It is highly condemnable that Delhi Police is going after students who were defending the Constitution and standing tall against a law that discriminates and takes away citizenship of the poor and minorities. It is unfortunate that during a pandemic when people are suffering due to hunger, doctors with lack of PPE kits and the poor without income support, the government, through Delhi Police, is witch hunting students with UAPA and false cases.”
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