By SHADAB MOIZEE / The Quint
On 12 December 2019, the president of India gave his assent to the Citizenship Amendment Bill and it became the Citizenship Amendment Act, i.e. CAA. On one hand, it was said that with this law, the rule of citizenship has been made easier for non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan. The law was meant to expedite citizenship process for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians fleeing alleged persecution in India’s neighbouring countries.
On the other hand, lakhs of people started taking to the streets in protest against this law in India, as many feared that the law, coupled with National Register of Citizens (NRC), was meant to strip Muslims of their citizenship. Protest against the discriminatory nature of the new citizenship law spread across the country.
Meanwhile, in February 2020, demonstrations started in Delhi against those opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act. And soon after, Delhi was on fire. Violence broke out in Northeast Delhi and more than 50 people were killed in communal clashes.
Following the riots, Delhi Police arrested many people for allegedly instigating the violence and being involved the “conspiracy” to incite riots. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, was imposed on many, including student activists. But many of the accused were neither in activism nor in politics.
Two years after the February 2020 riots, The Quint tried to find out about the people who have been charged under the UAPA, many of whom remain unknown. We met their families to know their stories.
Salim Khan is in jail since 13 March 2020 on charges of rioting. He has been made an accused under the UAPA for plotting the 2020 Delhi riots. His family maintains that he is innocent.
During his incarceration, Salim Khan has been writing letters, some to the judge presiding over his case and to his family. While in jail, he has inked the pain and suffering of his life on hundreds of pages.
Speaking to The Quint, Salim Khan’s wife Shabina Khan said, “My husband is innocent.”
Khan was named as an accused in three FIRs registered by the Delhi Police on 25 February, 5 March, and 6 March following the Delhi violence. Two of these FIRs carry charges such as criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and voluntarily causing hurt, as well as charges under the Arms Act.
The FIR against Salim Khan includes stringent charges under sections 13, 16, 17, 18 of the UAPA, sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act and sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Public Damage to Property Act, 1984.
Tasleem Ahmed, arrested under the UAPA in connection with the conspiracy for the riots in Northeast Delhi, used to participate in protests against CAA-NRC. Tasleem was first arrested by Delhi Police for allegedly defying the cops by occupying the road in Jaffrabad on the night of 22 February 2020.
However, on 10 June 2020, Ahmed got bail in this case. But after a few days, the police again started calling him for questioning and he was arrested on 23 June. Tasleem was arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi police for conspiracy to riot.
“Is it a crime to participate in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC?” Tasleem’s wife asked, adding, “My husband used to go for his rights in protests. Protesting for your rights is not a wrong thing.”
Athar Khan, 26, Student Activist
When Athar was arrested in July 2020, his family was not even informed and got to know of his arrest through media.
“On 2 July 2020, the Special Cell team of Delhi Police called him for investigation but he did not come back home. The police called, saying that they had stopped Athar. Two days later on 3 July, we saw on the news that Athar was ‘arrested from his house in Chandbagh’,” Athar’s father Afzal Khan said.
Questioning the narrative of the police, the father said that Athar had himself appeared for the investigation. “From whose house did the police then arrest him? Obviously, the police have spread lies,” he said.
Delhi Police registered an FIR under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Indian Penal Code (IPC), Arms Act, and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (PDPP).
In 2020, a 17,500-page chargesheet was filed. In the chargesheet, Athar was accused of conspiring to organise the Delhi riots of February 2020, leading to the death of 53 people.
“Athar was a worker of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and was a partner of Kapil Mishra. Athar had an important role when Kapil Mishra won in the last election. This time when the elections were held, Athar got a call from Kapil Mishra, but Athar refused it,” the father said.
“When the riots broke out, Kapil Mishra tweeted an old photo of Athar and said that this ‘Chandbagh boy is the mastermind’ of the riot. Kapil Mishra has taken revenge on Athar.”
Afzal Khan, Athar’s father
He added, “I have a complaint with the society that after Athar’s arrest, the society has become mute. I think all this has happened because of fear. Our relatives are not ready to come to us, not ready to talk, many relatives blocked our phone number. Maybe because of the fear that they might also get arrested. Everyone knows how riots were organised to end the movement and who all gave provocative speeches.”
Shadab was arrested by the Delhi Police on 6 April 2020 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection the 2020 Delhi Riots case.
Shadab was arrested after an FIR related to the murder of head constable Ratan Lal was registered.
Shadab was accused as a ‘conspirator’ of the Delhi violence. Shadab’s father said, “You can take a look at any video of my son and he has not made any such statement which is inciting anyone. He had spoken only within the ambit of the Constitution.”
This article first appeared on thequint.com