In the light of recent announcements made by Home Minister Amit Shah on the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Citizenship Register, a questioning drive and interrogation across several households in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar has reportedly left several residents in a state of panic and anxiety. For many, the memories of violence following the CAA protests and the attack on students in Jamia Millia Islamia are still fresh.
Residents of the area stated that a team consisting mostly of two men in plain-clothes have been visiting several households, questioning the residents about identification details-- names, age, if they are tenants or not, about where they are from and how long they have been living in the area.
Reportedly, the drive is being carried out by the special cell. Confirming these incidents, poet and activist Nabiya Khan, who is a resident of Jamia Nagar, said, “This happened with many people I know who live here. When we asked them to show their identity proof or any formal order for collecting information they only presented an ID with no photograph. They later threatened us that your family will be marked as suspects if you don't provide the information.”
Another resident, Anida Saifi, a journalist by profession, told Newsclick, “Two people in civil dress who claimed to be official of special cell landed up at my place a few days back and bombarded my landlord with questions. He is a retired IAS officer and practising Supreme Court lawyer. They asked questions like who else lives in the building, where are the tenants from.” She further said that when her landlord asked the officers their identity card, they immediately left the area.
For many residents the drives are not new as the residential complexes and the area surrounding Jamia Nagar have become a centre of stigma and exclusion since the Batla House encounter in 2008.
Nabiya added, “When Muslims are a target of state surveillance and organised violence, such arbitrary actions by the police work as scare tactics for most of the people. Especially when recently the home minister said that we are going to start the procedure of CAA and at the same time there is no clear guideline about NRC and NPR, so you never know how your information is going to be used.”
Also see: Anatomy of Batla House Encounter through Lens of Author Neyaz Farooquee
Talking about the questioning drive, Virender Pal SHO of Shaheen Bagh Police station said, “Yes, there is a questioning drive which is ongoing, however it is very common in the area. It could be because several Rohingya Muslims reside here.”
However, residents state that this reason is not adequate, neither is completely true.
Another resident of Shaheen Bagh, on the condition of anonymity, told NewsClick, “The officers misbehaved while interrogating my wife. Two personnel came to our house, we are not sure whether they were from special or Delhi police as their name plates were not visible due to the jacket. They asked my wife who was present at that time about our names, identities, whether we owned the house or not.”
Speaking with NewsClick, Advocate Abu Bakar Sabbaq said, “While the special cell can conduct these drives, in the present ecosystem they can trigger a variety of emotions in the marginalised residents of the area. Therefore, such drives need to be carried out in accordance with care and legal protocol.”
A shopkeeper in Shaheen Bagh also said that Delhi Police interrogated shop-owners and asked for identity proof with photograph and any document verifying their permanent address. Notably, such address verification drives by officials were held in Shaheen Bagh, Jamia Nagar and Khureji last year too.
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