A large group of feminist activists, including organisations and individuals across the world, issued a statement on Monday against the Delhi Police’s crackdown on students in connection with the protests opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act in North East Delhi in February.
“Police action since then has led to the arrest and incarceration of, among others, a large number of young people, studying in various Delhi colleges and universities,” the signatories said. “Rather than engage in dialogue with the protesters, the authoritarian regime of the BJP-led government has resorted to punitive and repressive measures.”
The signatories include feminist activist V Geetha, social activist-turned-politician Jarjum Ete, Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Janaki Nair, historian Nandini Sundar, among others.
They also referred to the recent arrest of two members of Pinjra Tod, a women’s rights collective. Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, were initially arrested on Saturday, in connection with a first information report registered on February 24 over the sit-in protest at Jafrabad metro station against the amended citizenship law. Minutes after they were granted bail on Sunday, the police re-arrested them in another case of rioting and murder.
“Both are students of JNU and play a leading role in Pinjra Tod,” the signatories said. “They thus join a group of other young women, who have also been arrested in connection with the Delhi violence and have been charged under even more draconian laws.”
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They criticised the arrests and the accusations that the women were responsible for violence and disruption that unfolded on February 23, leaving at least 53 people dead and hundreds injured over the next three days. “Oppose this deliberate targeting of young women who have made a conscious political choice to be part of the democratic life of this country,” the statement added. “We think that this sends out a wrong and malicious signal to other young women that they ought not to step outside the confines of their homes and take to public causes.”
The signatories said Gulfisha, a 25-year-old MBA student who was arrested on April 9, has been languishing in judicial custody under charges of sedition. She had taken part in the Seelampur anti-CAA protests.
The statement also noted the case of Safoora Zargar, a 30-year-old member of the Jamia Coordination Committee, who was arrested for allegedly being the key conspirator of the violence. Zargar is pregnant and stands in danger of being infected with the coronavirus, the statement added. The third case cited was that of Ishrat Jahan, a former municipal councillor, who has been in jail for over a month now.
The signatories said the Arvind Kejriwal-led government in Delhi has maintained a “stony silence” about the arrests. “Since the attacks, hundreds of Muslims are languishing in makeshift camps while protesters continue to be arrested by the Delhi police,” they added. “On the other hand, perpetrators of the Delhi violence are yet to be brought to book. [We] demand an immediate end to the deliberate targeting of students and members of the Muslim communities in the name of prosecuting those who engaged in the violence.”
The police made more than 800 arrests by April 13 in connection with the North East Delhi violence, according to The Indian Express. The Union home ministry has “insisted that police must continue making arrests under any circumstances”, an unidentified police officer was quoted as saying.
Scroll.in examined a few cases closely to find a troubling pattern: often victims of the violence were being prosecuted by the police. Many lawyers and activists say the lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread has reduced scrutiny of the police investigation and impaired access to justice for those arrested.