Indian Democracy In Crisis
Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI, MARCH 9—Is it a crime to organise or participate in a peaceful protest to oppose a law which is considered to be harmful to a large section of the population like the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) considered to be hostile to the Muslims? Is holding a democratic protest against a law which is considered to be anti-people a crime? Indian constitution permits peaceful democratic protest and agitation against any policy or law of the government. It is a part of the basic freedom guaranteed to every Indian citizen under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, irrespective of the faith, gender, language or region. This basic freedom was temporarily suspended only during the Emergency in 1975 imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
But from the actions of the Delhi police, it seems it is a crime to mobilise a protest against a law passed by the government and to participate in such a protest. Perhaps based on this premise, Delhi police have begun victimising people simply for participating in anti-CAA protests though the Constitution allows it. In Khureji Khas, the police not only forcibly removed the protesters from a private land where they had begun their agitation against CAA from January 13 but also arrested a number of social activists like Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan, who were on the forefront of the anti-CAA agitation in Khureji Khas. They are reported to have been tortured in judicial custody. Saifi is said to have fractured both his legs in alleged police beating in police custody. All this indicates that democracy is in a crisis in India.
Instead of taking action against BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra and Union Minister Anurag Thakur, who raised provocative slogans inciting the majority populations against Muslims and anti-CAA protesters, the Delhi police have launched a campaign against Muslims who either directly organised the protest or took part in the protest.
The latest example of it is the arrest of one Danish said to be a member of a little known Peoples’ Front of India (PFI) from the national capital on allegations that he had been actively participating in the anti-CAA protests across the city.
A day before, the police arrested a Kashmiri couple identified as Jahanjeb Sami (husband) and Hinda Bashir Beg (wife) from Jamia area of the city. Police say the couple were arrested for their alleged links with Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) and instigating protests against CAA. While anyone having links with IS or terror groups needs to be arrested and punished as per law of the land without casting aspersions on his religion or community, arresting anyone for “instigating against CAA” is not understandable because Indian constitution provides full freedom to organise a peaceful and unarmed protest or agitation against a law or policy of the government considered to be against the interests of a large section of the population.
Moreover, the protesters no where in the country-protests are going against CAA at more than 200 places across the county-have indulged in violence or crime or attacked even CAA supporters who have indulged in provocative acts or behaviour. Even at Jamia or Shaheen Bagh, which is the epicentre of the ongoing anti-CAA movement and became an inspiration for a nationwide protest movement by women against this hostile law-protesters maintained complete peace and harmpony despite grave provocation. Protesters were fired twice at Jamia and once at Shaheen Bagh by pro-CAA supporters and the police also nabbed the two youths in both the incidents but did not slap terror charges against them. They have also got bail from the courts. In both the cases, the youths used unlicensed weapons but police did not even go into the root of the issue as to wherefrom they procured the unlicensed guns. Unlicensed gun in their possession indicated that a large scale gun-running racket was going on in some part of the national capital or in national capital region. The police also did not try to investigate on whose provocation or bidding they came to fire at Jamia and Shaheen Bagh protesters. And who had radicalised them? Was there any fundamentalist or extremist organisation that had brainwashed and trained them and sent them with a gun to terrorise the peaceful protesters so that they wind up the anti-CAA protests.
Similarly, police did nothing against BJP leader Kapil Mishra who on February 23 asked the police to remove anti-CAA protesters from Jafrabad and other places in northeast Delhi and threatened that he would himself take the law in his own hands if the police did not do it by themselves. This resulted in riots, with hundreds of armed people from outside attacking the Muslims and their houses and properties. Instead of taking action against Kapil Mishra, police have now provided him security. Police are also not trying to investigate about who were the outsiders who attacked the Muslims in northeast Delhi resulting into the death of 53 innocent persons so far, a dozen of them Hindus and the rest Muslims. Both the police and the members of the public say that the rioters were outsiders, al beit, helped by the locals in identifying Muslims houses and properties and then torching them, causing huge economic losses. But the police have done nothing so far in this direction. It was for the first time that firearms were used on a large scale in any riot in the country and it is substantiated by the deaths of people from bullet injuries. But police have failed to find out wherefrom the firearms came. Police are, instead, targeting Muslims who defended themselves from the armed rioters and arresting the victims of the riot. Muslim victims say that police were taking videos of the Muslim who were fighting to defend their life and properties from marauders. They are now arresting Muslims after identifying them from these videos and photos as if it is a crime to defend oneself from criminals. But the Criminal Procedure Code permits one to self-defence in case of attack on one’s life and property. Will Delhi police stop implicating victims in false cases and try to identify and arrest real culprits? If they have a will, it is not difficult for them. They can easily find out each and every criminal from outside as also from among the locals who caused such a big mayhem, tarnishing secular and democratic image of the country.