Days after arresting Jamia student and Chhatra Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) member Meeran Haider and media coordinator of the Jamia Coordination Committee Safoora Zargar on charges of conspiracy in connection with the February Northeast Delhi riots, the Delhi Police’s Special Cell has booked them under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid and a local resident of Northeast Delhi’s Bhajanpura, Danish, have also been booked under the same Act.
Haider’s counsel Akram Khan confirmed that police have added the UAPA against his client and others named in the FIR. He said the accused were initially booked under Sections 147, 148, 149 and 120B of the IPC. Later, police had added Sections 124A (sedition), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc.).
Zargar had been arrested on April 13, with police claiming she was among those who organised an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act 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 Kapil Mishra and his supporters, following which riots broke out in the district.
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Akram said he had filed a bail application for Haider, which was listed for hearing on Monday. “But after we were informed that UAPA charges have been slapped against Haider, we withdrew the bail application and will file it at a later stage, once written communication is received from police,” he said, adding that Haider is currently in judicial custody. Zargar, too, is in judicial custody.
Sources told The Indian Express that one of the reasons police invoked the UAPA against the two is “alleged links with the Popular Front of India (PFI)”. “More arrests are likely in the coming days,” an officer said. Sections 13, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the UAPA (dealing with terrorist acts or funding) have been invoked against them.
According to police, the initial FIR was registered on March 6 based on information provided by an informer to sub-inspector Arvind Kumar of the narcotics unit of the Crime Branch. As per the FIR, Kumar said the informer told him that the February 23-25 communal violence in Northeast Delhi was a “premeditated conspiracy”, allegedly hatched by Khalid, Danish and two others associated with different organisations.
“Khalid allegedly gave provocative speeches at two different places and appealed to the citizens to come out on streets and block the roads during the visit of US President Donald Trump to spread propaganda at the international level about how minorities in India are being persecuted,” the FIR states.
Kumar has alleged in the FIR that as part of the conspiracy, firearms, petrol bombs, acid bottles and stones were stored at homes in Kardampuri, Jafrabad, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Shiv Vihar and nearby areas. “The co-accused, Danish, was given the responsibility to gather people from different places to take part in the violence… Women and children were made to block the roads under the Jafrabad Metro Station on February 23 to create tension amidst the neighbourhood people. On the same day, schools of minority children (were) vacated under their premeditated conspiracy,” the FIR states.
After the Special Investigation Team of the Special Cell took over the probe to look into the alleged conspiracy, Zargar and Haider too were booked.
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.
In a tweet on April 20, the Delhi Police wrote: “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.”
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