New Delhi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Monday condemned the arrests of students and activists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in cases related to the communal violence that took place in northeast Delhi in February.
The Left party, in a statement, hit out at the Delhi Police for arresting former Jawaharlal Nehru University student and United Against Hate activist Umar Khalid on Sunday late night. Questioning the authenticity of the Delhi Police’s probe into the Delhi riots, it said, “Top BJP leaders who made hate speeches and incited violence are protected by the Central government, while young peaceful protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act are being targeted and arrested citing the utterly manufactured version of the country’s Home Ministry and the Delhi Police linking anti-CAA protests with communal violence.”
The party also criticised the arrests of activists under stringent charges, even as there has been no action on the part of police against a number of BJP leaders who openly gave provocative speeches in the days preceding the riots between February 23 and 26.
“This (Umar Khalid’s arrest) comes following the detention, under UAPA, of Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita (JNU), Ishrat Jahan, a former Councillor of the Congress Party, Jamia students Meeran Haider also an RJD youth leader, Asif Tanha, Safoora Zagar and Gulfisha Fatima and Shifr-ul-Rehman,” the party said.
The statement came after a supplementary chargesheet in a riots case claimed that one of the arrested students, Gulfisha Fathima, told the Delhi Police that CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, along with Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav and others, gave speeches at one anti-CAA protest site to “provoke and mobilise” the crowd into rioting.
Although the disclosure statements annexed with the chargesheet against FIR 50/20 are inadmissible in a court, the inclusion of names of Yechury and Yadav is being seen by civil society as an attempt by the Delhi Police, which reports to the Union home ministry, to drag opposition leaders in its “riots conspiracy” cases. Moreover, the allegation against Yechury and Yadav have become contentious as the chargesheet clearly shows that Kalita and Narwal had refused to sign the disclosure statements.
On Monday morning, in an interview to The Wire, Yechury said that the probe into riots has unfolded as a blatantly politically-partisan exercise to target opposition leaders and activists who have been peacefully protesting against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. He added that the communal riots in February that shook large parts of northeast Delhi were “targeted violence” against Muslim working class people. Yet, the Delhi police probe has looked the other way by “orchestrating” a conspiracy to implicate peaceful anti-CAA activists in riots cases, he said, adding that charges against him are “absolutely fabricated”.
In a similar vein, the CPI(M) statement said, “The Central government must stop the practice of the Special Branch summoning anti-CAA activists for questioning and trying to coerce them into implicating those targeted by the Home Ministry and the Police.”
Implying that UAPA has been misused in many of these cases, it said, “The use of UAPA is to block the normal processes of justice by which they would have been out on bail since, as many of the lower courts have mentioned, there is not a shred of evidence against any of them for inciting violence. The arrests constitute an assault on the constitutional guarantees of the democratic right to dissent.”
The party made clear that it has been opposing the contentious CAA, National Population Register (NPR) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) in various protests across the country, and said “it reiterates its strong opposition”.
“It expresses its solidarity with all those facing the repression of the Central Government. It demands the release of all those arrested under UAPA in the Delhi communal violence case,” the party said, adding that the “biased investigation” necessitates an independent probe into the causes of violence under a retired judge.