Student Leaders, Activists Condemn Arrest of Anti-CAA Protesters, Term It Witch-Hunt, Diversionary Tactics
NEW DELHI, MAY 27— Several former and sitting student leaders of prominent universities and renowned activists have strongly condemned the chain of arrests of prominent faces of anti-CAA protests in connection with the February-end northeast Delhi violence.
Taking part in a joint press conference online on Tuesday, they termed the arrests as ‘witch-hunt’ of critics of the government and also as a ploy to divert people’s attention from its failures in handling the Coronavirus pandemic.
During the COVID-driven lockdown in the last two months, around one dozen known young figures of the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) have been arrested by the Delhi Police. They include Khalid Saifi, Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Shifaur Rahman. Last week, two students of JNU and members of ‘Pinjda Tod’ group Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal were also arrested.
Those who addressed the online press conference included Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) of India’s national secretary Fawad Shaheen, Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) Students’ Union president Umar Faruq Quadri, former JNUSU presidents Kanhaiya Kumar and N Sai Balaji(currently national president of AISA), AMUSU president Salman Imtiaz, Jamia Millia Islamia student Ayesha Renna, Independent MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mevani and former JNU research scholar Umar Khalid.
Condemning the Delhi police for arresting the student-activists on ground of being a part of the movement against "unconstitutional" CAA, Umar said, “Students are not afraid of the stringent laws like UAPA because we are following in the footsteps of Maulana (Abul Kalam) Azad and ( Mahatma) Gandhi to secure the just rights of the people. We will continue to question the government’s anti-people policies till we are alive. We will continue our fight against the anti-constitutional policies of the government”.
Umar said that the Delhi police was “violating the human rights of the students and activists by arresting them during lockdown when the people all over the country were fighting against coronavirus pandemic”.
Shaheen pointed out that it was very unfortunate that the Delhi police was trying to criminalise the citizen-led protest against CAA and giving the agitation a “terror colour”.
SIO leader said that Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University(AMU) are being targeted by the Central government. “The police are framing the Jamia students in the Delhi riots conspiracy while the real culprits who instigated the riots and asked people to fire on anti-CAA protesters are being allowed to go scot-free. And everyone knows who are the instigators of the Delhi violence. But the police are doing everything at their command to put the entire blame for Delhi riots on Jamia students and overlooking the real culprits involved in planning and execution of the riots”, said Shaheen.
Kanhaiya asked as to why these arrests were made in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic and termed the arrests as attempts to divert people’s attention from the government’s poor handling of the COVID crisis.
“Why these arrests during the lockdown? Shouldn’t their timing be questioned? State governments are releasing accused of heinous crimes and sending them back home but on the other hand students and activists who question the government are being arrested and sent to jails,” Kanhaiya reportedly said at the press conference.
He also charged the government of taking revenge of those who stood up against CAA-NRC-NPR.
N Sai Balaji, national president of AISA and former president of JNUSU, asked the government as to how reading of the Preamble of the Constitution has become a crime worthy of prosecution under stringent anti-terror law UAPA.
Himself answering the question, Balaji echoed Kanhaiya and termed the arrests as “revenge” as well as attempt to hide its failures in handling the Coronavirus crisis.
AMU Students Union president Salman Imtiaz targeted the Opposition parties for maintaining silence on the recent arrest of youths and student leaders and held them equally responsible for it.
Jamia Millia student Ayesha Renna said that the government is arresting youth leaders in order for anti-CAA protests do not start again after the pandemic. She said the protests will continue.
“The protests against CAA are going on and will continue after Corona pandemic. The country will not accept the citizenship amendment law. But with an aim to avert any such protest, the government is arresting students and activists during this crisis under stringent UAPA law,” she reportedly said.
MLA from Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani equated the recent spate of arrests with the arrests post-Bhima Koregaon incident.
Former research scholar of JNU Umar Khalid charged that the government is using the pandemic lockdown as an “opportunity” to achieve the things it can’t in normal days.
“The arrests of activists during the pandemic shows what is the priority of the government and how it is using the lockdown as an opportunity to fulfill the things that it was not able to easily do in normal days,” said Khalid.
Fawaz Shaheen, National Secretary, SIO and Umar Faruq Quadri, president, MANUU Students’ Union also addressed the press conference.
Last week (May 21), a group of eminent rights activists, lawyers and community leaders had held a similar joint press conference through Zoom app and said that the Delhi Police were falsely implicating the young and educated activists, who were spearheading the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests very peacefully and legally earlier this year, in the end-February violence at the behest of a political party.
“Despite the lockdown, whatever police are doing is police raj. They are doing it because people can’t protest now. The attitude of the Delhi Police and Home Ministry in the last 60-70 days is to give a message to the emerging educated leadership of the Muslim community and this is shameful. This is a misuse of COVID-19 situation. We don’t know when the lockdown will be lifted, but people will protest against this,” legal and human rights activist Teesta Setalvad had said.