Over 35 civil society groups and individuals on Thursday issued a statement condemning the arrest of two students of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University in connection with protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in February, following which large-scale communal violence erupted in the North East district of the Capital.
On April 2, the Delhi Police had arrested Meeran Haider, a PhD student of the university for allegedly conspiring to incite violence in Delhi. Haider is also the president of the Rashtriya Janata Dal youth wing’s Delhi unit. Days later, Safoora Zargar, an MPhil student at the university was arrested for allegedly obstructing the road near the Jaffrabad metro station during the anti-CAA protests in February. Zargar is the media coordinator of the Jamia Coordination Committee.
Calling the charges against the students baseless, the statement accused the Delhi Police of beginning “a retaliatory revengeful action” against those who were actively involved in protests against the new citizenship law. “What is particularly worrying in this entire context is that Safoora Zargar is pregnant and in this condition she requires proper care and medical supervision,” the statement said. “This kind of action during the lockdown due to the Coronavirus is a violation of their constitutional rights,” it added.
Demanding that the constitutional rights of the students be respected, the statement called for their immediate release.
Earlier, the Jamia Coordination Committee – a group of students and alumni from the university – had demanded the release of Haider and said the students were being harassed even in the times of a massive health crisis in the country. “The country is facing a massive health crisis, however, the state machinery is busy harassing and framing student activists in false cases to suppress voices of dissent,” they said. The committee said that Haider had been working to provide food and other supplies to the poor amid the lockdown and the charges against him were baseless.
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst Delhi saw since the anti-Sikh violence of 1984.