Stop persecution and harassment of social activists and minority youth by the Delhi Police

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Even as the entire country is under lockdown and people are inside their homes to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Delhi Police is taking advantage of the situation to carry out raids and arrest people in the name of investigating the recent riots in North-East Delhi and protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).

At a time when the masses are facing a severe health and hunger crisis across the country, the Modi-Shah government's distorted priorities include turning India into a police state and silence their opponents. At a time when citizens in lockdown are unable to fully exercise their democratic rights, it should be the duty of any government to guard against any abuse of power by the state. On the contrary, the police have been given a free rein to arrest, kidnap and harass social activists and youth from the minority community. With no one to check and report on their activities under the lockdown, the police are having a free hand to weave fictitious narratives about the Delhi violence and abuse the COVID-19 lockdown to harass, arrest and silence those who oppose divisive government policies.

According to a report by the daily 'The Hindu' more than 800 persons have been arrested in this matter. More than 25 persons have been arrested since March 22, when the first, one-day lockdown was enforced. These include Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar—research scholars at Jamia Millia Islamia and members of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), activist Khalid Saifi, ex-city counsellor Ishrat Jahan, among others. The JCC was formed by students and alumni of Jamia after cops launched a brutal crackdown on the campus in December last year during anti-CAA protests.

Several others—around 50—have been served notices to appear before investigators for questioning by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. These include students of Jamia, activists of various student and youth groups. Several activists like Yogesh Swamy, the National Vice-president of youth organization Naujawan Bharat Sabha were illegally picked up by the Delhi Police. The policemen neither showed any IDs, nor did they produce any notice for questioning, nor any warrant or other such documents. When asked, they said that "the relevant documents will be sent on WhatsApp!" This was a clear-cut abduction by the police force. Later, after pressure by lawyers, the Delhi Police hastily sent Yogesh Swamy a legal notice. Yogesh was also a part of the anti NRC-CAA protest in Shriram Colony, Khajuri and was actively working to distribute food and ration to those in need since the last fortnight.

On the other hand, BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Pravesh Verma, Ragini Tiwari, Abhay Verma have not been arrested or even interrogated despite clear video evidence of inflammatory speeches and statements being made by them which are clearly linked to the riots. Some of these are even seen instigating the crowd for violence. On many occasions, officials of the Delhi Police themselves were standing witness when these statements were made. After Kapil Mishra made a provocative speech on February 23, armed groups attacked the CAA-NRC protesters on the same day, which later turned into full-blown riots across North-East Delhi that continued till February 27. There are numerous videos supporting the fact that the violence was well-planned and state-sponsored, with armed groups attacking Muslim localities with police supporting them or standing by doing nothing. At least 53 people lost their lives and hundreds suffered injuries. The Muslim community was the worst sufferer with thousands still displaced from their homes.

The police have registered 2 FIRs after the riots - FIR No. 59/20 and FIR No. 49/20, filed under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case registered by the Crime Branch was transferred for investigation by the Special Cell, which has made it even more stringent by adding severe sections of the IPC such as 120B read with 124A (sedition), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (assault to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 212 (harbouring offender), 395 (dacoity), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs 50), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage to amount of Rs 100), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 454 (lurking house-trespass), 109 (abetment), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed), 147, 148, 149, 124A, 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language) and 34 (common intention) in addition to 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act and 25 and 27 of the Arms Act.

However, the police, on the basis of these FIRs have neither called for inquiry, nor taken into custody, nor arrested any of the leaders of BJP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini, VHP, who actually gave inflammatory and incendiary communal speeches and statements right before the riots. In fact, a petition to book BJP leader Kapil Mishra for inciting violence in North-East Delhi is sub judice in the Delhi High Court, and the government and Delhi police are defending him.

More importantly, the police do not have any evidence or witnesses against those social activists who have been taken into custody, or arrested, or being picked up for interrogation and intimidation by the police.

No one is opposed to an impartial inquiry into the riots, and if the Delhi Police needs anybody’s cooperation for this inquiry, then such cooperation must be sought through due legal procedure. But what sort of an inquiry is this, in which those who have strong video evidence against them, who gave communal statements even during interviews on news channels, who instigated communal mobs for rioting and violence, are roaming free under police protection, whereas those against whom no such evidence exists are being jailed or detained. Only because they opposed divisive policies of the government. This is no inquiry, it is a persecution and a witch hunt, so that the fascist Modi-Shah Government can crush every kind of political resistance.

Let us look at some representative examples of these riot mongers, against whom there is clear evidence, and who will be sent to jail straight away if at all an impartial investigation is done by the police.

1. Kapil Mishra - The whole country saw the video of the inflammatory speech that Mishra gave at Maujpur Chowk, Delhi on 22 April. The Assistant Commissioner of Police of East Delhi can also be seen standing with Kapil Mishra. Some local persons have filed a complaint with the Seelampur DCP against Kapil Mishra for his inflammatory speech after the video was released. But even after two months, no action has been taken on it.
2. Ragini Tiwari - This self-proclaimed BJP member blatantly instigated violence through her speeches and live videos on Facebook at Ghonda Chowk, Maujpur. The Delhi Police continue to turn a blind eye to this riot mongering woman. Although the IT Cell of the Delhi Police must definitely have seen her video, which went viral in those days.
3. Pravesh Verma - This BJP MP was at the forefront in spreading religious hatred against the Shaheen Bagh protest. He openly called the protesters thieves and rapists, and tried to instigate the people against them.
4. Anurag Thakur - In the Delhi Election campaign, during a rally in Rithala, BJP MP and minister of state, Anurag Thakur raised provocative slogans, which referred to protestors and those opposed to CAA-NRC as ‘traitors of the country’ and called on the people to ‘shoot them dead’. It was after this inflammatory slogan that two youths Kapil Gurjar and Gopal Sharma carried out the shootings at Shaheen Bagh and Jamia. This time too, the Police were mute spectators.
5. Abhay Varma - The BJP MLA from Lakshmi Nagar, used the same slogan of ‘shoot the traitors of the country’ in a rally of more than 100 people.

And who will investigate the violence perpetrated by the Delhi Police itself? When the police themselves become rioters, how can we hope of an impartial investigation of the riots? There are several videos in which the Delhi Police can be seen leading the riotous mobs, breaking CCTV cameras to prevent their rioting from being exposed and unleashing brutal violence on people, mostly Muslims.

We ask the following questions:

1. Despite clear evidence, why has the Delhi Police, in its so called “impartial investigation”, neither arrested, nor detained, not even called for enquiry, leaders like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Pravesh Verma, Ragini Tiwari, and Abhay Varma?
2. Why has not the police identified and arrested those rioters whose faces are clearly visible in the videos of the riots, or in the videos made by the rioters themselves, to display their “machismo”?
3. Why have not the rioting police officers been dismissed, and why are there no cases filed against them?
4. Instead of taking these primary steps, why is the Delhi Police harassing and persecuting social activists and Muslim youth under the pretext of investigation?

If the Delhi Police cannot answer these questions, they should not call their investigation of the riots neutral or impartial, instead they should openly declare it as a campaign to persecute and crush all political opponents, being carried out under the orders of the Modi-Shah Government.

We demand that the Delhi Police must immediately stop the harassment and persecution of activists and Muslim youths, suspend all arrests, detentions and picking up people for interrogation until the lockdown ends, follow due process of law for its investigations and immediately take actions against the BJP leaders having clear evidence of instigating and fanning the communal violence.

Links to videos implicating BJP leaders and Delhi police: