Condemning the arrests of students and activists amid the lockdown, Hum Bharat Ke Log called for a stop to “arbitrary” arrests of those who had protested against the CAA-NRC-NPR, and asked the Delhi Police to “stop abusing your powers under cover of darkness”.
In a statement issued on Monday, April 13, Hum Bharat Ke Log, an alliance which comprises citizen groups, NGOs and opposition parties, also asked for a stop to “hate-mongering and communalisation of a pandemic.”
The group write that at a time when “the nation needs to be focussed on the health and hunger crisis” and when citizens in lockdown are unable to exercise their democratic rights fully, “we see open communalisation of this pandemic and targeting of students and activists by agencies of the State.”
They mention the case of Safoora Zargar, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia, who was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi Police after being called in for questioning on April 10. Zargar’s arrest came after Meeran Haider, a PhD scholar, also from Jamia, had also been arrested.
“Several other activists like Gul Inquilabi, many Muslim youth from North-East Delhi and 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 statement said.
The 25 signatories to the statement include CPI leader Annie Raja, Swaraj India’s National President Yogendra Yadav and activist Harsh Mander. They write that the Delhi Police, which stood “mute” during the “worst” of the violence in the national capital between February 23 and February 26 and “actively participated in some and refused to file FIRs against leaders of the ruling party for incitement” is now “weaving fictitious narratives” about the violence. The statement added that the Delhi Police is “abusing” the lockdown to “silence and arrest those who oppose government policies, hoping that this abuse of State power will go unreported...”
Citing the example of activists like Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan – the former was allegedly tortured in custody and implicated in another case when he was about to get bail – they wrote that jailing students and activists during a pandemic when courts are functioning partially “puts their lives in peril.”
Expressing solidarity with the activists and students arrested during the lockdown, they mention that many of those who have been arrested were coordinating COVID-19 relief work. “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,” their statement added.