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Delhi Police presence in Muslim areas as well as targeting of activists and politicians surge

25th Sep 2020
Delhi Police presence in Muslim areas as well as targeting of activists and politicians surge

Family members of Amir, 27, and Hashim, 17, mourn during the funeral procession of the brothers who were murdered during the deadly violence by pro-BJP supporters in Mustafabad, Delhi, India on February 29. (Credit: Javed Sultan/Anadolou Agency)

Mohammad Alamullah: Delhi, India

Almost seven months on from the savage anti-Muslim riots that gripped northeast Delhi police house raids and arrests of activists and politicians remains unabated

In February, 53 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in the week-long anti-Muslim riots — engineered by the ruling BJP politicians to attack those protesting against anti-citizenship laws, CAA.

Muslim houses, businesses and mosques were looted and burnt. While no action has been taken against any pro-BJP rioter, activists and politicians are being harassed and detained. The latest to be arrested is Umar Khalid, 33, a well-known activist and former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Umar has been arrested under the notorious anti-terror law the UAPA.

Delhi’s crime branch grilled Umar for a few hours on September 2 and arrested him on September 14. He is remanded in custody for ten days “considering the nature of the case.” Umar’s father, Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, also a known activist and member of Jamat-e-Islami Hind, told The Muslim News, “Police picked Khalid at 11 pm. They interrogated him for 11 hours, accused him of participating in the Delhi riots. They are implicating him in false cases.”

So far the police have registered 751 cases of rioting and arrested 1,575 people, most well-known among them are anti-CAA protesters Asif Iqbal and Khalid Saifi, who was brutally beaten and injured in police custody. Summonses have also been issued against social activist and documentary filmmakers Rahul Rai and Saba Dewan.

Although cases have also been registered against the General Secretary of Communist Party of India-Marxist Sita Ram Yachuri, academic, activist and leader of Swaraj Abhiyan, Yogendra Yadav, JNU Professor Apoorvananda, etc., police have denied it saying that these names have not been formally included but are being considered.

Delhi police come under the direct control of the central Home Ministry headed by Amit Shah. Some reports suggest that the bases of some of the names on the list of the accused are “confessional statements” of some of the detained students.

Interestingly, the so-called “confessional” statements made by different activists are strikingly similar even with the spelling mistakes.

The accused also include Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, both JNU students and founding members of feminist organisation Pinjra Tod and a student of Jamia Millia Islamia University, Gulfisha Fatima. Kalita and Narwal were arrested in May while Fatima was detained in July. All three women have been charged under UAPA.

Although the police have not formally included the names of Sita Ram Yechuri, Yogendra Yadav and Jayoti Ghosh on the list of the accused, it is reportedly considering doing so because their names have been mentioned in the “confessional statements” of Kalita and Narwal.

Both women activists refusing to sign some pages of the “confessional statements” yet, according to the police, both of them have not only accepted their roles in the riots, but have also named Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Rai as their leaders in the anti-CAA protests.

Sitaram Yechuri lashed out at the centre in a series of tweets. ‘Delhi Police is under the Centre and Home Ministry. Its illegitimate, illegal actions are a direct outcome of the politics of BJP’s top leadership. They are scared of legitimate peaceful protests by mainstream political parties & are misusing state power to target the Opposition,’ he wrote.

Adding, ‘BJP’s illegal intimidation won’t stop people from opposing discriminatory laws like CAA. To assert that all Indians are equal irrespective of their religion, caste, colour, creed, region, gender & political affiliations is not only our right but our duty. We will exercise it.”

In his tweet, Yogendra Yadav wrote, ‘Shocked that an anti-terror law UAPA has been used to arrest a young, thinking, idealist like @UmarKhalidJNU who has always opposed violence and communalism in any form. He is undoubtedly among the leaders that India deserves. @DelhiPolice can’t detain India’s future for long.’ Recalling Delhi police’s crime-blotted history Yadav branded the investigation ‘a conspiracy in itself… In 1984, it stood a mute witness to the massacre, this time it has gone a step further by turning the victims and defenders of peace into the culprits.’

Congressman and former Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the police’s inclusion of Yechury and many other scholars and activists in the charge sheet had ‘brought the criminal justice system to ridicule.’

He asked how ‘if an accused (Gulfisha Fatima) mentions a name in her statement, that person will be named as an accused in the charge sheet.’‘Has the Delhi police forgotten that between the Information and Charge Sheet there are important steps called Investigation and Corroboration?’ He tweeted.

Former Chair of Delhi Minority Commission, Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, told The Muslim News, “The Government is trying to harass and intimidate social activists according to a well-thought-out plan. It wants to stop people from telling the truth and expressing their views. These arrests are aimed at diverting and hiding the truth about the Delhi riots. To protest is citizens’ fundamental right. But to hide its crimes and protect the real rioters, it is resorting to these dirty tactics.”

Referring to the inquiry report on the riots prepared under his chairmanship, Dr Khan said, “Investigations have proved that the Delhi riots were engineered and instigated by a particular party. The proof of is the fact that 90% of losses have been suffered by the Muslims. Despite all this to say that Muslims provoked the riots is sheer nonsense.”

Adding, “Delhi Minority Commission is an important and extensive report but the Government did not take any notice of it. After the publication of an important report by a Governmental organisation, the Government should have immediately acted on its recommendation and should have punished the culprits.”

Another social activist and lawyer, who had also played an important role in the compilation of the Commission’s report, Abu Bakar Sabaq, told The Muslim News, “These purges are aimed at depriving the civil society of its rights and stop people from criticising the Government on its undemocratic and anti-poor, anti-minorities policies. History is a testimony that all the rulers who have crushed public dissent have abused and misused the law to do so. This is exactly what we are witnessing here. The UAPA is being used to target and victimise a particular community [Muslims].”

Dubbing the Delhi riots as a total failure of the government, Sabaq said, “Any riot anywhere is a proof of police’s failure in carrying out its duties. What has been narrated by the victims and eyewitnesses is hair-raising and revolting, the so-called investigation conducted by police is one-sided and biased against one community [Muslims].”

Sabaq added, “To understand the nature of these riots only one point is enough: In these riots, about 22-23 places of worships were targeted and destroyed, and these were mosques, madrasas and shrines. In contrast, there were six [Hindu] temples in Muslim areas that were untouched. This proves that the riot was one-sided and had been engineered with a specific purpose. But, sadly, instead of apprehending the culprits the government is targeting and punishing the victims.”

As these lines are being written reports of increased police presence in Muslim neighbourhoods are coming from various parts of Delhi.


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