The Special Cell of the Delhi Police on April 1, arrested Meeran Haider, a students' activist and research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, in connection with the communal violence in North-East Delhi. He has been sent to four-day police custody by a duty magistrate at Patiala House Court.
"He was produced before Duty Magistrate Prabhdeep Kaur, a metropolitan magistrate at Patiala House Court, this morning who remanded him to four-day police custody. My client has nothing to do with the riots. He, in fact, was involved in the relief works. All I can say at this stage is that he is being framed. Several others would also be picked up. The Delhi Police is trying to implicate innocents to give a clean chit to the actual perpetrators of the carnage, wherein over 53 lives were lost and hundreds of people suffered injuries," said Hider's counsel, Advocate Akram Khan.
Meeran, a Ph.D. student of Jamia Millia Islamia, was part of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), which was organising a round the clock sit-in against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) at gate number 7 of the university.
The JCC in a press statement said Meeran was called for interrogation on April 1 by the Special Cell at their office at Lodhi Colony. "He was arrested at around 10 pm," it said adding,"The country is facing a massive health crisis; however, the state machinery is busy harassing and framing student activists in false cases to suppress voices of dissent. In the past few days since the lockdown, our friend Meeran was diligently working to provide ration to the needy. It is shameful that even in circumstances like these, Muslim voices are being targeted and witch-hunted by the state."
The JCC demanded that he must be immediately released as all charges against him are "baseless".
Meeran, who originally belongs to Bihar but stays at Abul Fazal Enclave in Okhla's Jamia Nagar, was actually served a notice by Inspector Pramod Chauhan on March 31 to appear for interrogation in connection with an FIR (number 59/2020) registered by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police on March 6.
The Police Theory
Filed under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly) and 120B (criminal conspiracy)of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the FIR filed based on a complaint of one Sub-Inspector Arvind Kumar of the Crime Branch does not name Meeran. It has been registered against two persons — Umar Khalid, former JNU student and activist, and Danish, a resident of Bhajanpura.
The case registered by the Crime Branch was transferred for investigation by the Special Cell, which has made it more stringent by adding severe sections of the IPC such as 120B read with 124A (sedition), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (assault to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 212 (harbouring offender), 395 (dacoity), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs 50), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage to amount of Rs 100), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 454 (lurking house-trespass), 109 (abetment), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed), 147, 148, 149, 124A, 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language) and 34 (common intention) in addition to 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act and 25 and 27 of the Arms Act.
In the original FIR registered by the Crime Branch, the complainant — Sub-Inspector Arvind Kumar — states, "One of my informers has informed me that the riots, which took place in Delhi on February 23, 24 and 25, was a pre-planned conspiracy, which was hatched by JNU student Umar Khalid and his accomplices — who are associated with two different organisations. Umar Khalid — as part of the conspiracy — made inflammatory speeches at two different places appealed people to hit roads and block it in the wake of US President Donald Trump's proposed visit to India so that a propaganda can be spread internationally that minorities in India are persecuted.
As planned, Umar Khalid and his accomplices brought women and children on roads at several places in Delhi to cause riots. As part of the conspiracy, firearms, petrol bomb, acid bottles, stones, catapults and other lethal weapons were collected at several parts of Delhi such as Maujpur, Kardampuri, Jaffrabad, Chand Bagh, Gokalpuri, Shiv Vihar and surrounding areas. One Danish, S/O Khalid, a resident of Bhajanpura, was tasked with mobilise outsiders from two different places to take part in the riots.
As part of the conspiracy, the road under Jaffrabad Metro Station was got blocked by women and children so that a tension can be aggravated by causing inconvenience to people and the same can lead to riots. It was made sure that the children of the minority community who study in the schools in these areas reach home early as planned. If this conspiracy is probed, it will be possible to identify those who engineered and executed the riots."
Several people, majority of them belonging to the minority — which was primary targetted and made to suffer huge loss of lives and properties in the violence — have been called for questioning.
Notably, the narration in the FIR is in line with the allegation levelled by several members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who were also stressing post violence that it was orchestrated at the time when Trump was visiting the national capital with an aim to show India in bad light to the world and especially the United States.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah had also targetted the United Against Hate (UAH) — a citizens' campaign, the Opposition and named AIMIM leader Waris Pathan for inciting the violence.
"The United Against Hate — the name sounds so pious but look what they advocated. They said, '(Donald) Trump is about to come, we should block the streets'," Shah had told the Lok Sabha on March 11, during a debate of the Delhi violence, insinuating that this led to violence in North-East Delhi.
However, he did not chose to mention Kapil Mishra who was caught on camera, making an incendiary speech and provoking people that by evening led goons gathering at Maujpur Chowk and indulging in violence. A senior police officer was seen standing behind him and silently listening to his threats. He was in fact given Y-level security after the riots by the government.
Speaking before Shah, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi had cited the same comment and attributed it to Umar Khalid, who is associated with the United Against Hate campaign. "They call themselves United Against Hate but they themselves spread hate," she had said.
Tejaswi Surya, BJP MP from Bengaluru South, had also made the same allegation during his address in Parliament.
Govt Tightening Noose Around UAH?
After the Union Home Minister mentioned the UAH in Parliament, the security agencies seem to be tightening noose around the social advocacy group, which was started in July 2017 in response to the series of lynchings that had taken place around that time.
One of its founding members — Khalid Saifi, an activist and businessman — is already in the police custody in connection with the anti-CAA protest at Khureji in East Delhi. The police forcefully cleared the protest site on February 26 in the wake of Delhi riots and arrested five persons, including former Congress Counsellor Ishrat Jahan and Khalid.
He was charged with Section 307 (attempt to murder) without any clarity on whose life he made an attempt. He has allegedly been tortured in the police custody. A video footage of him coming out of a hospital on a wheel chair in police custody shows cast on both of his legs and one fingure, while he can be easily walking on foot in another video seemed to have been shot at the time of his arrest.
Arguing for Saifi's bail, Advocate Rebecca Mamen John — a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, had accused the cops of brutally torturing the applicant inside the police station as a result of which he suffered "fracture on both his legs and injury on his hands". She also drew attention of the court to the photographs of the applicant filed along with the bail application to show plaster on both his legs.
She had submitted that the applicant had been "falsely implicated" in the case (FIR No. 44/20 registered at Jagatpuri Police station). She told the additional session judge that no case under Section 307 of the IPC and Section 25 of the Arms Act was made out against the applicant.
She had further submitted that sections 332 and 353 of the IPC were not serious offence as they were punishable up to three years. The remaining offences such as sections 147, 148 and 186 of the IPC are bailable.
She had told the court that "disclosure statement" of a co-accused — a juvenile, from whose custody the police claimed to have seized a country-made pistol and who had allegedly told investigators that it was given to him by Saifi, is "inadmissible" before a court of law as it had been given to the police under Section 164 of the Cr.P.C.
Relying on the prosecution's arguments, the court denied the bail. "The contention of the learner senior counsel (Advocate Rebecca Mamen John) that the Section 307 IPC has been wrongly invoked by the prosecution cannot be gone into at this stage when there are allegations of use of 'katta' (country-made pistol) and its recovery from JCL 'A' (the juvenile co-accused) who has named the applicant Khalid in his disclosure statement as the one who provided him the loaded 'katta'," said Additional Session Judge Manjusha Wadhwa.
"Allegation against accused Khalid are serious as he had instigated the mob to pelt stone on police party and his name has also emerged in disclosure statement of co-accused JCL as the one who provided him 'katta' to fire at police party. Investigation is not yet complete. The contention of the learned senior counsel that Khalid was beaten by the police party and he sustained injuries has been strongly opposed by the learned additional public prosecutor by submitting that had it been so, said fact would have been mentioned by senior counsel for Khalid before the learned metropolitan magistrate where he is stated to have been beaten by public. Considering the seriousness of the allegations against accused Khalid and the fact that investigation is not yet complete, this court does not deem it fit to grant bail to accused Khalid at this stage. Accordingly, the bail application of accused Khalid is hereby dismissed," said the judge.
The group of lawyers who had gone to Jagatpuri police station after Khalid and others were arrested to meet them and have access to lawyers to the accused alleged that they were mishandled by the police. They, including female lawyers, were allegedly beaten up beaten by police men. A purported video of the incident also surfaced that supported the allegation.
The police were also seen in one more purported video breaking CCTV cameras and tearing down the structures and tents at the protest site. Khureji was the second anti-CAA protest venue which was removed by the police after the one at Jaffrabad.
Protests at Khureji was taking place off the road since January 13. Like the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests, these too were also organised mostly by locals, especially local women.
The defence also alleged that the prosecution's argument that allegation with regard to Khalid's alleged torture by the police party was not brought before the metropolitan magistrate is "false" as he he allegedly produced before the magistrate in parking lot of the court at around 9:00-9:30 pm and he was not accompanied by any lawyer to defend him.
"Injustice has been done to Khalid. He was beaten up black and blue by the police. His legs were broken. He was picked up at around 2:30 pm and as the police claims, he already had an injury, why was not he taken to the hospital instead of police station. The police are harassing everyone who were vocal in their opposition to the CAA, the NPR and the NRC. I reject the entire police FIR as there was no violence when the Khureji protest was cleared. The entire police theory is concocted," Advocate Akram Khan, who was defending other co-accused who got bail, told Newsclick.
As Khalid's bail application was rejected, the Special Cell moved Patiala House Court the same day, seeking his 10-day police custody along with another co-accused Ishrat Jahan, who was earlier granted bail by the Karkardooma Court. But the court sent remanded them for six days that was further extended on April 1 for the next four days (till April 5) by Duty Magistrate Preeti Parewa at Patiala House Court.
The prosecution submitted that "during investigations, names of other suspects have been revealed who are confronted with the used data as well as their sources of complete investigation".
"Further, the accused persons are to be confronted with more social media accounts recently received and found containing incriminating material and custodial interrogation of both accused persons is a must to identify exact particulars of the groups involved in the communal riots incidents and thus it is prayed by the IO that four days PC (police custody) remand of both accused persons be granted," pleaded the Special Cell and the same was accepted by the magistrate.
United Against Hate- A Brief Introduction
The campaign began after the lynching of 15-year-old Mohammad Junaid at Ballabhgarh in Haryana on June 22, 2017. He was lynched to death in a moving train after he was returning home following Eid shopping.
Initially started by activists Nadeem Khan, Khalid Saifi, Umar Khalid and Banojyotsna Lahiri, the campaign was joined by several others from across the country. Kins of the victims of caste violence and hate crimes also joined it. Prominent among them are Radhika Vemula, the mother of Rohit Vemula who had committed suicide following harassment at Hyderabad Central University, and Fatima Nafees, the mother of missing Jawaharlal Nehru University student Najeeb Ahmad.
The UAH has organised several protests against lynchings and other excesses against the marginalised communities. It also documents hate crimes across the country and provides help to victims' families. It is engaged in several other social works as well.
The group made major intervention in the Tabrez Ansari's lynching in Jharkhand on June 17, 2019 and the communal violence in Uttar Pradesh's Kasganj on January 26, 2018. They have also documented people affected by the NRC in Assam. It was also at the fore front to agitate against the alleged police inaction to trace Najeeb.
The UAH had launched a helpline (1800-3133-60000) to try to stop hate crimes from happening and help its victims. The helpline — according to the Mint — was used to prevent a possible communal altercation at Dausa in Rajasthan.
The group had extended its support to the anti-CAA, NRC and NPR protests across the country. They also had organised interfaith Eid and Diwali celebrations.
Asked about financing, Nadeem Khan said, "We don't take funds. Our activities are generally supported by personal contributions. We in fact do not need huge amount of money as we do not organise mega event shows like political parties which need a lot of money."