A court in Delhi on Tuesday dismissed the bail application of Jamia Millia Islamia University student Asif Iqbal Tanha in a case related to the February violence in North East Delhi. He was arrested in May under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. This was the second time his bail plea was rejected.
Tanha is among the 15 people named in FIR 59/2020 filed by the Delhi Police in the riots conspiracy case. Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, said in his order passed on October 26, that there were reasonable grounds for believing that the allegations against Tanha were prima facie true.
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat cited statements given by protected witnesses and said the court finds “sufficient incriminating material” against Tanha. However, he said that their veracity will be checked only during trial.
“Acts which threaten the unity and integrity of India, in as much as causing social disharmony and creating terror in any section the people, by making them feel surrounded resulting in violence is also a terrorist act,” Rawat said. “The vociferous agitation in the guise of Citizenship Amendment Bill coupled with other activities of violence would show it was meant to cause disaffection against India.”
During the hearing, Tanha’s lawyer Siddharth Aggarwal argued that the Delhi Police’s chargesheet and its bare perusal and documents on which they have relied on, show that Tanha had not indulged in any conduct amounting to any offence. “The applicant [Tanha] was not even present in North-East Delhi during the unfortunate events of February 2020 and never visited any of the protest sites where incidents of rioting and violence occurred,” Aggarwal argued.
The advocate added that the invocation of the UAPA against Tanha was being done on “baseless, concocted and false grounds”.
However, Amit Prasad, special public prosecutor, appearing for Delhi Police, said that protected witnesses had categorically highlighted Tanha’s role in the violence. He said that “in a case of conspiracy there are different roles attributed to different accused persons as spelt out in the chargesheet and thus, every accused plays his or her respective role”.
Tanha is a third-year student of BA Persian language. The police claimed that Tanha played an active role in orchestrating the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The police has alleged that he is a close associate of Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Meeran Haider and Safoora [Zargar] who had been the “key members of anti-CAA protests and subsequent riots in the national Capital”.
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 Delhi Police claim the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was hatched by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. They further claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the façade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges.