Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI
Amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic and a countrywide lockdown, attempts are being made to suppress the anti-CAA protests across the country. In Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood, the months long protest was called off this week, while the graffiti in Jamia Millia Islamia were whitewashed. Both these places had become the epicenters of the opposition to the discriminatory law in the country.
Meanwhile, in Rajasthan’s Baran district, 18 activists are now languishing in jail after their nearly two month long struggle against the CAA, and are allegedly facing serious charges. The protest, inspired by the Shaheen Bagh protest of the national capital, is now under threat.
The arrests are reportedly a result of previous clashes between pro-CAA people on the ground and the protesters. Reportedly, a month ago, the women returning from the protest site in Baran had been involved in a fight with a pro-CAA group and were also allegedly harassed by them. The women were accompanied by a local religious leader, Maulana Imtiaz, as the two sides opposed each other. The police had then arrested some people except Maulana Imtiaz. A few days later, a similar incident was allegedly repeated on March 18, 2020, by CAA-NRC supporters. This time, 54-year-old Liaquat Ali's father Shaukat Ali was reportedly injured in the attack. Police filed a case on his complaint. But no one has been arrested yet.
Also read: We’ll Return After Corona Pandemic Ends, Say Shaheen Bagh Protesters After Forceful Eviction
Following these instances, Maulana Imtiaz was also arrested on March 20. Narrating the instance, advocate Ansar Lone told NewsClick,”There was a significant amount of anger in the people who then reached the police station to protest against his arrest. After that, the police acted against the people injuring many. The local people also allege the use of abusive language by the police.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Waseem Ahmad said, “My brother has been in custody since that day. He had gone over there to speak to the police about the arrest of the Maulana. There were many other activists, who had gone with him. Due to coronavirus threat, we are not even allowed to go to jail and the legal proceedings remain stalled. Multiple charges have been pressed against him, but we aren’t even sure about the nature of the charges. A minor who is currently in 12th grade has also been arrested.”
Many were injured in the police crackdown that followed on the day of the arrests. Rehan, in his 20s, was injured as the police allegedly attempted to drive their vehicle over the protesters. He told NewsClick, “My brother and I were both injured on our arms and legs as the police trying to trample us. We somehow escaped being arrested but two of my uncles have been arrested.”
Lone, who had gone to Baran as a part of a fact finding team, claimed, “Eyewitnesses said that after driving away the people, the police themselves broke the vehicles of the people. In a short time, a crowd of people associated with the RSS gathered on the Kotwali, who shouted slogans in support of the police.” He further alleged, “When the entire country is facing an epidemic like corona, such acts of the police seems to be a conspiracy against a community. There is anger among the people about this case. If further arrests are made in this case, people will lose their trust in the police.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Abdul Mateen, a resident, said, “No medical checks were done after the injuries sustained (by protesters). Many had injuries on their heads and arms. Many of those who have been arrested are civil society activists who had gone to manage the situation. We could see the enquiry of the police has been prejudiced and has been working under pressure from the BJP to discredit the movement and to remove the people.”
Several days have passed since the arrests yet no progress has been made in the case with many not sure of how long the process of enquiry will take.
*This is currently a developing story as NewsClick awaits a response from the Rajasthan police. The story will be updated accordingly.