Among the various fundamental rights, Article 19(1)a guarantees the right to peaceful protest.
When peaceful protestors are behind the bars, you definitely sense something is wrong with the justice system. Safoora Zargar, a pregnant protestor, is facing imprisonment in relation to the Delhi Riots.. This is just an example of how unruly and a total opposite of the justice system is being followed in the quarters of the Delhi Police.
The Delhi riots, which began on 23rd February, were a string of violent events that took place in the North-eastern territory of the country’s capital. The riots resulted in 53 people losing their lives and several hundred wounded. The riots resulted from the widespread protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.
Delhi Police’s Approach
The angle which the Delhi Police ignores is the involvement of the Hindu nationalist leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) viz. Kapil Mishra who on the 23rd February called Delhi Police to clear the roads. He further added that if the Delhi Police failed to clear the protestors, he alongside his supporters would do so themselves. A day after his statement, the riots broke out and later turned into a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Neither was he arrested nor they took any other action against him.
In one of the most shocking events during the riots, a Hindu rioter supposedly climbed on the top of a Masjid and replaced the existing holy flag with that of the saffron Hindu flag. One of the other violent protestors flanked a gun on open grounds. The police arrested him only to release him later.
Police’s Brutality and Protests in Other States
Protests against CAA broke out in Tamil Nadu. They started as peaceful protests and they filled up streets and caused roadblocks. Police had attempted to control using baton charges but had failed. The increasing numbers came as a surprise and the protest slowly spread throughout the state. They have mauled the peaceful protesters and have dragged them into police vehicles. It included women and students who got several injuries. Apparently most of the students faced an arrest. Several brutal acts by police were reported. Activists representing All Indian Railways Apprentice Association (AIRAA) experienced assault and could not take part in the march against CAA. There were a huge number of students whose participation was restricted as they didn’t get the permission to attend or hold protests.
The Delhi police also received criticism for not taking action against people who held allegedly provocative slogans, which could lead to further chaos. This injustice committed by the authority against innocent civilians is condemnatory and should receive equal treatment before the law.
Safoora Zargar’s Arrest
The imprisonment of 27-year-old Safoora Zargar has left the world in utter astonishment. It showed the judicial capacity and the power of the Delhi police who leave the real predators at bay.
The norm in any war-torn area is not to imprison expectant mothers. At the time of the arrest, she was pregnant and was suffering from PolyCystic Ovarian disorder. Zargar’s family is worried about her health, especially with Covid-19 at the door. The letter from her sister had said, having her arrested during the lockdown is like “slow death”
They justify her arrest on grounds of delivering an inflammatory speech that instigated violence and rioting in Delhi. It’s still not clear how her actions could have led to the chaos. She was arrested soon after she was out on bail in another FIR registered at Jafrabad Police station in relation to the riots. They rejected Safoora Zargar on her bail plea in relation to an FIR registered for north-eastern Delhi riots. She sought bail under 439 CrPC.
Her counsel stated that the Delhi police were coming up with a false narrative regarding students’ disapproval of the Citizenship Amendment Act
It was further claimed that she paid a brief visit to Chand Bagh on February 23 but didn’t call for violence of any kind. There were several other allegations put forward by the Delhi police against her. This must be dealt with fair judgment through the right approach, in order for justice to be served.
Pinjratod Activists’ Arrest
The ‘Pinjra Tod’, a group of women students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi condemned the arrest
of two of their activists, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita for inciting violence in Daryaganj during a protest against the controversial Citizenship law.
Protests against the CAA law took place across the city and one such protest was held in the Daryaganj area. The peaceful protests turned into violent ones when a police car was set on ablaze by some protestors.
Months after the protests at Daryaganj, Natasha and Devangana were arrested only to receive release on bail the very next day. Later, another unit of the crime branch arrested them under charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting, and criminal conspiracy. They were sent to 14-days judicial custody from where Narwhal was arrested by the Special Cell under the rigorous and controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for her alleged conspiracy behind the February riots in North-East Delhi. Later, Kalita too was arrested under the same charges as Narwhal and was charged under the UAPA.
Pinjra Tod condemns the arrest of their activists and stated that
Delhi Police and Crime Branch arrested them only because of their presence in the protests. There is no solid proof against them and this is one of their ways to shoo-off the Anti-CAA protests. The inefficiency of the Delhi Police to lay a hand on the actual culprits like Kapil Mishra reflects their knowledge of justice and truth.
Outrage on Social Media
Umar Khalid, former leader of Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) firmly shared his view on this agonizing topic. In one of his tweets, he wrote,
. @betwasharma takes us into the world of #SafooraZargar. Yes, Safoora is undoubtedly brave who fought for all our rights but she is also like one of us who laughed & loved!— Umar Khalid (@UmarKhalidJNU) June 9, 2020
Each day Safoora spends in jail, democracy dies a slow death in India.https://t.co/T45mdoAjlB
Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) tweeted,
Read @betwasharma ‘s profile of #SafooraZargar. Remember, each of the 1000s of anti CAA activists and students who defended our Constitution and are now being harassed, profiled & jailed, are courageous individuals. India needs 1000s like Safoora! https://t.co/4s4P15EGfg— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) June 10, 2020
Rana Ayub, a journalist and author of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up, targeted the police brutality and tweeted,
Safoora Zargar is in prison while the real intellectual architects of the recent anti-Muslim carnage that rocked Delhi in February, and took more than 50 lives, remain in the highest positions of power under Narendra Modi— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) June 7, 2020