Arrests Of 2 More Students In Delhi Riots Case Raise Questions

The riots - which took place in February -- had claimed the lives of more than over 50 people, a majority of them Muslims.

The police sought their custody for 14 days, but the judge granted only two days (Representational)

New Delhi:

The investigation into the Delhi riots has led to a series of arrests of people protesting against the CAA or Citizenship Amendment Act. Altogether, the police registered 750 cases and arrested over 1,300 people -- an equal number from both communities.

The riots - which took place in February -- had claimed the lives of more than over 50 people, a majority of them Muslims.

Going by the First Information Reports and arrests, the conspirators are activists or Muslim student leaders linked to the anti-CAA protests. All of them were arrested for allegedly organizing protests. But in most cases, stronger charges -- like murder, sedition, terrorism, conspiring to hold riots - have been filed if the judges grant bail to the accused, calling the evidence against them flimsy.

The latest is the case of two women -- Natasha Narwal, 30, and Devangana Kalita, 32, who were arrested from their homes on May 23.

Both are students of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University and are part of a women's collective called "Pinjra Tod" which works towards the rights of women college students.

The two women have been accused of participating in an anti-CAA protest in Northeast Delhi's Jaffrabad in February.

Initially, they were charged with obstructing public servants in discharge of their duties and using criminal force on them, even though the First Information Report filed in the case did not mention any assault or criminal force against a public servant. The FIR just states that the two activists were among those who led a group of women and children to hold a sit-in protest.

The FIR does say that they blocked traffic and raised slogans against the CAA.

When the case went to court, the judge decided to grant bail to the women, saying the charges of assault against public servant were "not maintainable" and the accused were "merely protesting against the NRC and CAA and they did not indulge in any violence."

As soon as the judge made the oral observation, officers from the Crime Branch moved an application seeking their arrest in a separate case under charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting and criminal conspiracy.

The police sought their custody for 14 days, but the judge granted only two days.

The FIR filed by the Crime Branch also does not specifically provide evidence of the role of the activists but says that the mob at Jaffrabad disobeyed police instructions, used firearms against them and caused damage to public and private property.

Safoora Zargar, a 27-year-old Jamia student, was picked up although at the time of the alleged crime, she was 3 months' pregnant. Safoora too was granted bail in the Jaffrabad protest case, but the police immediately re-arrested her in a riot-conspiracy case.

During the bail hearing of the conspiracy case, the judge called the police responses against her bail as "cryptic and superficial" and pointed out the lack of clarity about her exact role.

A day later, the police filed a case against her under the anti-terror UAPA law.

Along with her, police had arrested Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman and Asif Iqbal Tanha -- all from the Jamia university. Those arrests and cases also followed a similar system.

Sarim Naved, the lawyer for Jamia student Meeran Haider, said: "The police say they got "secret information" seven to 10 days after the riots ended, that some of these organisers of anti-CAA protests incited the riots. They are not revealing what this secret information is. Even in courts they are giving limited information. So far, there has been no evidence that would prove the police theory."

NDTV tried to contact DCP Northeast Ved Prakash Surya and Additional Commissioner of Crime Branch BK Singh, with queries about the investigation. Neither of them responded.