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Arrest of 2 Jamia students during lockdown for February riots in Delhi kicks up a storm

Activists call the arrest of Jamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar ‘arbitrary’. Online petitions demand their release.

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New Delhi: The arrests of two Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar over the North-East Delhi riots in February have triggered online petitions demanding their release.

While Haider and Zargar’s colleagues on the Jamia Coordination Committee claim they have also received notices to appear before the Delhi Police Special Cell for questioning, a group of more than 20 scholars and activists have issued a statement, calling their arrests “arbitrary” at a time when the country and the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Teachers’ associations of Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, along with other organisations, have also demanded Haider and Zargar’s release.

Clashes had broken out between groups opposing and supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act in the last week of February, which eventually escalated into full-blown riots across North-East Delhi. At least 53 people lost their lives, and hundreds suffered injuries.

Also read: Minorities panel notice to Delhi Police for ‘random’ arrests of Muslims everyday for riots

Who are the arrested students?

On 2 April, Haider, a 35-year-old PhD student at Jamia and president of the youth wing of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Delhi, was called in for questioning by the Delhi Police Special Cell, for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to incite communal riots. He was subsequently arrested the same day.

After remaining in police custody for over 10 days, Haider was sent to judicial custody for 14 days, starting Wednesday.

“Initially, the FIR only mentioned protest speeches and other bailable offences. But later, they also included very serious charges in connection to the Delhi riots. This has made his release impossible,” Akram Kham, Haider’s lawyer, told ThePrint.

Another student, Safoora Zargar, was arrested last Saturday for allegedly leading the anti-CAA protest at Jaffrabad metro station in February. Zargar was sent to police custody on 13 April.

Both Haider and Zargar are members of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a group of current and former students of the university.

RJD national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha, a Delhi University professor, has taken to social media in support of Haider. “(Haider) had been called for ‘talks’, (and) was supposed to be sent back home. Then an order comes from ‘the top’ and Meeran Haider, who was helping people during the coronavirus pandemic, is placed under arrest,” he posted on Twitter.

The Special Cell of the Delhi Police has said the investigation is still ongoing. ThePrint attempted to contact Special Cell DCP Pramod Kushwaha as well as Joint CP Neeraj Thakur, but neither was available to comment. This report will be updated when they respond.

Also read: Relief camp shut, no home to return to, Delhi’s riot victims shelter with do-gooders

Other JCC members claim they’ve got notices

Meanwhile, more JCC members claim they have been issued notices to appear in front of the Special Cell for questioning.

“They have sent a notice to at least four or five more of us,” said a JCC member, who did not wish to be named.

“It’s scary because they call just for questioning and then arrest the person — like they did in the case of Meeran and Safoora,” the member said.

Activists Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan have been under arrest since February in connection with the Delhi riots. The two were arrested from the Khureji anti-CAA protest site, and have since remained in judicial custody.

Statements opposing the arrests

The scholars and activists’ statement against the Delhi Police action has been signed by the likes of Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, activists Umar Khalid, Anjali Bhardwaj, Kavita Krishnan and Medha Patkar, besides lawyer Teesta Setalvad, among others.

The activists have written that the Delhi Police is “weaving fictitious narratives” about the Delhi violence, and “is abusing the Covid-19 lockdown to silence and arrest those who oppose government policies, hoping that this abuse of state power will go unreported”.

The statement added that the students and activists being arrested in connection with the riots were at the forefront of the anti-CAA protests that swept the national capital in December-January.

Meanwhile, teachers’ associations of Jamia and JNU, along with at least 30 other organisations, have released a joint statement demanding the release of Haider and Zargar.

“What is particularly worrying in this entire context is that Shrimati Safoora Zargar is pregnant and in this condition she requires proper care and medical supervision. This kind of action during the lockdown due to the coronavirus is a violation of their constitutional rights,” their statement read.

ThePrint could not independently verify the claim that Zargar is pregnant, since her family has refused to speak to the media.

Also read: Why Lucknow, Jaipur don’t see communal riots but Delhi and Ahmedabad do


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  1. As per the law take swift action against all antinationals, don’t spare anyone and teach them the best possible lesson.

  2. Online petition against arrest? Is this how the law works in India?? With BS online petitions and riot factories like JNU and JMI issuing firmans?

    If the arrest is arbitrary go to the court! What is this circus of online petition? Law is not a matter of petitons – it is about truth.

  3. Why they should be released?
    If they are innocent, court will release them.
    Why this pressure on police?
    These kind of pressures result in riots.

  4. Good. Let the police do their job and let the law take its course. Lockdown does not mean that the society ceased to exist.

  5. All have seen the visuals of black burkha clad women and children attack the police with stones and brickbats, seriously injuring some. That it was a well planned attack with stockpiled stones and rocks is a foregone conclusion, beyond the keen of illiterate and dumb Muslim women. The terrorists of Jamia Millia and the Aligarh Muslim University are behind this is a well known fact. In the past Members of Aligarh Muslim University came together and ultimately succeeded in the division of the country. History repeats itself and these modern avatars of the old groups are actively working towards another division. Hindustanis beware of these sinister designs and be prepared for a bloody fight.

  6. Lol …When verbose articles are written on constitution of india by you ,don’t you know a small legal step , this is simple and standard procedure for arrest .

    • 35 year old student and another one pregnant, is she married? If Manoj jha is very much interested, you go inside time being and release your freedom fighter. Police knows who is to be arrested? Actually law should be made for jha kind of people.

  7. This seems to be the only action the govt is taking in a hurry.. arresting non violent activists while the real perpetrators of the violence like Kapil Mishra are free!

    Wish they would show the same urgency in announcing relief measures for the poor and small businesses!!

  8. Some of the Indian activists know their rights very well, but they do often forget their responsibilities.

  9. Delhi Police must act swiftly against these trouble makers and put all of them behind bars.
    They pledged their devotion to the Indian Constitution publicly during the “protests”. Now that the lockdown has been imposed due to the corona scare, every single day we are treated to visuals of the community pelting stones on doctors and police and passing lewd comments on nurses. So much for their commitment to the Indian Constitution.

    • your comment is irrelevant you don’t know what you are commenting . The subject here is caa protest activist’s arrest . govt is using this lockdown period to put all the actvists to into jail so that the protest does not resume after the lockdown is lifted

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