NEW DELHI – Twenty six civil rights activists and political leaders have condemned the recent arbitrary arrests of Jamia students during the Covid-19 lockdown, and said that the police was abusing its powers by arresting those critical of government policies under the “cover” of the lockdown. They also demanded “immediate and unconditional” release of the students.
Two Jamia student activists Meeran Haider from the Student wing of Rashtriya Janata Dal and Safoora Zargar from the Jamia Coordination Committee have been arrested by the Delhi Police.
In a joint statement issued Monday, ‘Hum Bharat Ke Log’ – the umbrella platform to which the signatories belong, said, “This is a time when the nation needs to be focussed on the health & hunger crisis across our land; when our priorities need to be to stay united to fight this virus. 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.”
The signatories to the statement include political leaders Yogendra Yadav from Swaraj India, Annie Raja from CPI and Kavita Krishnan from CPI-ML (Liberation, as well as activists like Medha Patkar, Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander and Umar Khalid.
The signatories said besides Zargar and Haider’s arrest, “several other activists & students of Jamia are being called for questioning by the Special Cell every day amid this lockdown”.
“There is now an attempt to implicate them in false cases related to the Delhi violence. The memories of that violence unleashed in Muslim dominated localities between 23rd February & 26th February are still fresh. The Delhi Police stood mute during the worst of these attacks, actively participated in some and refused to file FIRs against leaders of the ruling party for incitement,” they said.
“Now, weaving fictitious narratives about the Delhi violence, Delhi Police is abusing the COVID-19 lockdown to silence & arrest those who oppose government policies, hoping that this abuse of State power will go unreported, with neither news coverage nor democratic protest,” they added.
They also spoke out against arrest of activists Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan “under ridiculously false charges”.
“Jailing activists & students in false cases amid this pandemic puts their lives in peril & with courts functioning only partially owing to the lockdown, those arrested are being denied proper legal aid.These are attempts to unleash fear within the large young democratic opposition that had emerged across the country against CAA/NRC/NPR, using lockdown as a cover,” the activists said.
“Many of those arrested were coordinating COVID relief work & these arrests damage the morale of all those who stand united today confronting an unprecedented health and hunger crisis. We stand in complete solidarity with activists & students incarcerated by the Delhi Police in the middle of this pandemic. We demand that they be immediately and unconditionally released,” they added.
Other signatories are Anjali Bhardawaj, Annie Raja, Arundhati Dhuru, Ashish Ranjan, Avik Saha, Bilal Khan, Chayanika Shah, Fahad Ahmed, Farah Naqvi, Ganesh Devy, Harsh Mander, Kamayani Swami, Kavita Krishnan, Kiran Vissa, Lara Jesani , Madhuri Krishnaswamy, Medha Patkar, Meera Sangamitra, Nadeem Khan, Sandhya Gokhale, Sandeep Pandey, Teesta Setalvad, Umar Khalid, Yogendra Yadav and Zahid Qadri.