Listen to this article:
New Delhi: Five women, all Muslims, have alleged that they were picked up by Delhi Police and illegally kept in custody for 42 hours over what police claim is their connection with the communal violence that took place in the city’s Jahangirpuri area on April 16 this year.
On the day, a Ram Navami procession halted outside a mosque in the C Block area and provocative slogans were raised, reports have said. Amid tensions, violence was seen in the area.
In its charge sheet, Delhi police have identified three main conspirators and has accused them of instigating riots and inciting youth in the region.
The Wire had earlier reported on locals’ allegations on Muslim residents being harassed repeatedly by police investigating the communal violence.
Some of the women The Wire spoke to then are among the five who have alleged that they were illegally picked up and kept in custody.
Jahangirpuri resident Bano* and her daughter had previously told The Wire that they had been receiving threats and were being asked to get the men in their family to surrender. Police, they had said, suspect that Bano’s son had a role in the violence.
Bano says that on July 17, once again, police came to their house. The visit was at around 9 pm.
“They knocked on our doors asking for the whereabouts of my son. When I told him that I didn’t know anything, he asked me and my daughter to go sit in the police van. There were no women police officers with him,” she said.
The mother and daughter were then taken to Jahangirpuri Police Station. Bano’s daughter Salma* is 17 years old. She says that she informed police that she was a minor but that they did not listen to her.
When Salma’s aunt and two female cousins reached the station, they were also detained. One of her cousins is four years old.
“The five of us were first asked to sit. Then they locked us in a room where we stayed for three days [around 42 hours over the course of three days],” Salma says.
The women managed to call their lawyer, who reached the police station. It was only after lawyers intervened that the women were released.
Among the five, only Bano had a phone with her, which she managed to pass to a tea seller whom the police officials had called on July 18. Her lawyers were called early on July 19 and reached the police station immediately. On reaching the police station, the lawyers were told that the women were locked up two nights ago, on July 17.
The women alleged they were verbally abused as well and that police had not allowed them to contact or meet with anyone.
The family, through their lawyer, has filed a petition in the Delhi high court against police, over this ‘illegal’ detentions in the investigation into the case.
“The case of the petitioners concern grave violations of their fundamental right to life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Petitioners before the Hon’ble Court are all women who along with the two minor girls were subjected to illegal detention by the Jahangirpuri Police Station, New Delhi wherein they were kept in continuous Police detention/custody starting from 17.7.222 to 19.7.22,” read the petition.
Speaking to The Wire, Bano’s lawyer Kawalpreet Kaur said they have demanded that the women be compensated for the trouble they were put through.
“This is the case of illegal detention of more than 40 hours. There are various judgements by courts stating that people cannot be kept in illegal detention. There were also two minor girls who were in detention as well. Action must be taken against the police personnel who have done it,” she said.
Further stating that a proper procedure needs to be followed during an arrest, Kaur said, “So many laws were violated in this case. There were no female personnel present during the arrest. The women were arrested after 7 in the evening, which is not allowed. Minor girls were arrested and they were not even given a chair to sit in.”
The provisions of sub-section (4) of Section 46 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 mandates that if the Police want to arrest a woman after sunset, they have to seek prior permission of the Magistrate, and arrest should be made by a female police officer.
The matter will be heard in the high court next week.
Jahangirpuri residents have also termed the probe as “one sided”, portraying the minorities as aggressors. National Security Act was invoked against five accused persons in connection with the case, among those arrested for the violence, majority of the accused were Muslims.
The Wire tried to reach DCP North West Usha Rangnani for her response on these allegations, but calls and emails have not yet been answered. This story will be updated when a response is received.
*Names changed to protect identity