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Arrest of 2 Jamia students during lockdown for February riots in Delhi kicks up a storm

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At least 53 people died in the north-east Delhi riots in February (representational image) | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
At least 53 people died in the north-east Delhi riots in February (representational image) | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint


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New Delhi: The arrests of two Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar over the North-East Delhi riots in February have triggered online petitions demanding their release.

While Haider and Zargar’s colleagues on the Jamia Coordination Committee claim they have also received notices to appear before the Delhi Police Special Cell for questioning, a group of more than 20 scholars and activists have issued a statement, calling their arrests “arbitrary” at a time when the country and the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Teachers’ associations of Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, along with other organisations, have also demanded Haider and Zargar’s release.

Clashes had broken out between groups opposing and supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act in the last week of February, which eventually escalated into full-blown riots across North-East Delhi. At least 53 people lost their lives, and hundreds suffered injuries.


Also read: Minorities panel notice to Delhi Police for ‘random’ arrests of Muslims everyday for riots


Who are the arrested students?

On 2 April, Haider, a 35-year-old PhD student at Jamia and president of the youth wing of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Delhi, was called in for questioning by the Delhi Police Special Cell, for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to incite communal riots. He was subsequently arrested the same day.

After remaining in police custody for over 10 days, Haider was sent to judicial custody for 14 days, starting Wednesday.

“Initially, the FIR only mentioned protest speeches and other bailable offences. But later, they also included very serious charges in connection to the Delhi riots. This has made his release impossible,” Akram Kham, Haider’s lawyer, told ThePrint.

Another student, Safoora Zargar, was arrested last Saturday for allegedly leading the anti-CAA protest at Jaffrabad metro station in February. Zargar was sent to police custody on 13 April.

Both Haider and Zargar are members of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a group of current and former students of the university.

RJD national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha, a Delhi University professor, has taken to social media in support of Haider. “(Haider) had been called for ‘talks’, (and) was supposed to be sent back home. Then an order comes from ‘the top’ and Meeran Haider, who was helping people during the coronavirus pandemic, is placed under arrest,” he posted on Twitter.

The Special Cell of the Delhi Police has said the investigation is still ongoing. ThePrint attempted to contact Special Cell DCP Pramod Kushwaha as well as Joint CP Neeraj Thakur, but neither was available to comment. This report will be updated when they respond.


Also read: Relief camp shut, no home to return to, Delhi’s riot victims shelter with do-gooders


Other JCC members claim they’ve got notices

Meanwhile, more JCC members claim they have been issued notices to appear in front of the Special Cell for questioning.

“They have sent a notice to at least four or five more of us,” said a JCC member, who did not wish to be named.

“It’s scary because they call just for questioning and then arrest the person — like they did in the case of Meeran and Safoora,” the member said.

Activists Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan have been under arrest since February in connection with the Delhi riots. The two were arrested from the Khureji anti-CAA protest site, and have since remained in judicial custody.

Statements opposing the arrests

The scholars and activists’ statement against the Delhi Police action has been signed by the likes of Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, activists Umar Khalid, Anjali Bhardwaj, Kavita Krishnan and Medha Patkar, besides lawyer Teesta Setalvad, among others.

The activists have written that the Delhi Police is “weaving fictitious narratives” about the Delhi violence, and “is abusing the Covid-19 lockdown to silence and arrest those who oppose government policies, hoping that this abuse of state power will go unreported”.

The statement added that the students and activists being arrested in connection with the riots were at the forefront of the anti-CAA protests that swept the national capital in December-January.

Meanwhile, teachers’ associations of Jamia and JNU, along with at least 30 other organisations, have released a joint statement demanding the release of Haider and Zargar.

“What is particularly worrying in this entire context is that Shrimati Safoora Zargar is pregnant and in this condition she requires proper care and medical supervision. This kind of action during the lockdown due to the coronavirus is a violation of their constitutional rights,” their statement read.

ThePrint could not independently verify the claim that Zargar is pregnant, since her family has refused to speak to the media.


Also read: Why Lucknow, Jaipur don’t see communal riots but Delhi and Ahmedabad do


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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