What started as peaceful Anti-CAA protests, soon turned into a violent incident that shall remain etched in Delhi's memories forever. There's no way to go back in time and undo the bloodshed in "dilwalon ki Dilli". Clashes erupted between pro and anti CAA protestors in Jafrabad on the dreadful night of February 23, causing a week of damage, destruction and loss of life.
As shops were burnt down, women and men sexually harassed, and innocent men lay murdered on the streets, Delhi Police received flak for being lenient in response. There's no doubt in my mind that justice must be meted out, to give an ounce of peace to those who lost their loved ones.
Cut to April 10- around a month has passed since the Delhi riots, and Safoora Zargar was arrested by Delhi Police's Special Cell, concerning the Jafrabad road-block case (lodged as FIR 48/2020). She was granted bail three days later, after being presented before a Magistrate. However, her name got added to the FIR 59/2020 on the same day, leading to a second arrest.
Today, I bring to you the story, and the facts about Safoora Zargar. I'm tired of the propaganda that attempts to manipulate the masses. Whether it be left-wing or the right-wing, there's hardly any semblance of truth in the content churned out every day to fog our brains with the inability to find the truth for ourselves. I shall give no opinions beyond this point, so you can make your own. Here's the truth about Safoora:-
Disclaimer: The writer went through the government published version of UAPA to analyse verbatim. This article has been written after due diligence on fact-checking and after receiving extensive counsel from the legal expert(s).
FIR 59/2020, under which Safoora was booked for a second time, was initially registered under IPC (Indian Penal Code) provisions for rioting with deadly weapons and unlawful assembly, among other things. However, the case was transferred to the Delhi Police's Special Cell, and other charges were added to the list, including but not limited to promoting communal disharmony and sedition. Then, on April 21, the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967) was added to the same FIR.
Before we proceed, here are several details you must know about the UAPA refer to. The Introduction consists of a section where it states the objective for employing UAPA- "to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, on the- i) Freedom of speech and expression ii)right to assemble peacefully and without arms; and iii)right to form association or unions. But what is "reasonable"?
Chapter III, Section 14 recognizes an offence punishable under this Act as a cognizable offence. A cognizable offence is the kind wherein the police can investigate without a warrant. It is reserved for serious crimes and no prior permission from a Magistrate is required. These offences can be both bailable and non-bailable.
Chapter 4, Section 15 defines a terrorist act as an act carried out "with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people.."
Chapter 7, Section 43(D), clause (5) states that "no person accused of an offence punishable under Chapters IV or VI of this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail.... if the Court.... is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true". Here, prima facie means "based on the first impression; accepted as correct unless proven otherwise".
Chapter 2, Section 3(2) states- "nothing in this subsection shall require the Central Government to disclose any fact which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose."
Now that you're acquainted with legalese that's closely related to Safoora's case, let's go back to her story-
Judge Dharmendra Rana, Additional Sessions Court, Patiala House Court rejected Safoora's plea for bail on June 4, concerning the north-east Delhi riots. Delhi Police believes the Delhi riots to be a part of a bigger conspiracy aimed at using violent methods to cripple the government. As part of their justification for employing UAPA against Safoora, Delhi Police submitted certain WhatsApp chats and statements of witnesses.
The judge made the following statement- “..if there is a prima facie evidence of conspiracy, the evidence of acts and statements made by one of the conspirators in furtherance of the common object is admissible against all..even if no direct evidence of violence is attributable to the applicant/accused, she cannot shy away from her liability under the provisions of the Act. When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind for having carried the spark a bit too far and spread the fire”.
The court was of the opinion that, at first impression, there was enough evidence to show that Safoora was involved in a conspiracy to at least blockade the roads. Thus, the court deemed it fit to follow Section 43 D(5) *refer to the UAPA section above* in Safoora's case, making it next to impossible for her to get bail.
But why didn't the police mention UAPA on the initial FIR? Why did it take time to add UAPA as one of the charges in the final FIR?
The Delhi Police explained that since the incident is part of a larger conspiracy, the FIRs were registered as per the instances of violence that occurred.
How was Safoora a part of the conspiracy?
Irfan Ahmed, the prosecutor for the case, asserted that Safoora, along with other students from Jamia Millia Islamia University planned most of the anti-CAA protests and hatched a plan to instigate the February Delhi riots. The government's statement alleges Safoora of "managing" Chand Bagh (a hotbed during the riots), where meetings were held on 16-17 February to conspire and hatch a plan to instigate violence.
While Safoora was not "physically" present at such meetings in Chand Bagh, the government asserts her involvement by stating that her speeches at Chand Bagh on 23 February incited people to act 24 hours later, causing violence on 24 February afternoon.
Safoora's counsel argues that she had exercised her right to peaceful protest, which is protected under Article 19 (1) (a) and thus, claimed that the invocation of UAPA was unjustified. In response to the statement made by the government, as well as the case built by the Public Prosecutor Mr Irfan Ahmed, Safoora's counsel agreed to the fact that she had delivered a speech at Khureji, not Chand Bagh, on February 23. He claimed that the speech did not incite anybody or provoke them towards violence.
Considering the court believes that enough evidence exists to prove Safoora's involvement in at least causing the blockade of roads, it is, in fact, Section 13 of the UAPA which punishes such 'unlawful activity'. According to Section 13, 'unlawful activity' is defined as that "which disclaims, questions, disrupts or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India".
However, Section 13 doesn't fall under Chapter IV or Chapter VI- which are the only chapters that secure the power to refuse bail without further ado.
The Court's belief of Safoora's involvement in a conspiracy was not followed by the standard test and measures that a plea to bail must go through, before coming to a decision. The Court also noted that prima facie evidence that shows Safoora's conspiracy to block the roads is evidence of an offence that can be charged under Section 339 IPC (wrongful restraint of passage) as well as Section 141 IPC (unlawful assembly).
This raises a basic question - there has to be something bigger and larger at play that would make the court favour the invocation of UAPA concerning Safoora's actions, right?
The Court delivers the following statement as part of its explanation for the same- “When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark a bit too far and spread the fire.”
One must also note that the prosecution building a case against Safoora, submitted evidence(a seizure memo indicating the confiscation of materials like stones, bricks, crates of glass bottles and 3 slingshots) pertaining to another case and another FIR - FIR 101/2020, while Safoora's case is being prosecuted under FIR 59/2020.
Is Safoora guilty or innocent? Despite all my research, this is a question I'm currently incapable of answering. The Delhi riots broke through a facade of secularism to reveal the dark underbelly of communal hatred. Justice must be served. But does justice end with Safoora?
Justice S Muralidhar, former Delhi High Court Judge, condemned the actions of the police and government at a hearing into the riots, on February 26.
Kapil Mishra, the defeated local BJP candidate who labelled the Delhi Assembly elections as "India vs Pakistan" and warned the police to clear Shaheen Bagh of its protestors, led a pro-CAA rally on Maujpur Chowk in Jafrabad area on Sunday, which was soon followed by violent acts between pro and anti groups.
Safoora's colleagues from Pinjra Tod (a community birthed from Jamila Milia), Narwal and Devangana Kalita were sent to Tihar jail for a fortnight, to analyse their contribution in the Delhi riots case. Narwal was re-arrested by the Special Cell and became the 7th person to be charged under UAPA, for the same case that currently holds Tahir Hussain (AAM Aadmi Party councillor), Meeran Haider and Safoora in judicial custody.
According to a police officer(identity undisclosed), there is ample evidence to book Narwal under UAPA, and an investigation is being carried out to check if Kalita was involved in the same capacity or not.
Narwal, Kalita and Safoora, along with other associates, blocked the Maujpur Road from February 21 onwards, allegedly trying to initiate a gathering of supporters coinciding with Donald Trump's visit to India.
Is there enough evidence against Safoora? Was the bail denied on justifiable grounds? Is the Court turning a blind eye to an otherwise lopsided case? Is Safoora a terrorist in disguise? Is there massive unrevealed evidence that proves Safoora to be a hateful and violent instigator, causing loss of lives? Hopefully, time will tell.
However, we must not be blinded by the usage of pathos to instigate ignorant emotions of pity or sadness. We must not be blinded by rage or hatred. In the rightful pursuit of truth, there's no place for biased propaganda that aims to manipulate us.
Media houses, political forums and social media platforms want to either paint Safoora as the pitiable synonym to a pregnant elephant, or the epitome of disgrace. But we must do better than simply eat up the content provided to us like fodder. Thus, I present this article, in utter and absolute pursuit of the truth.
Update: Safoora Zargar Released on Humanitarian Grounds
Safoora Zargar has been granted bail by the Delhi High Court on Tuesday, on humanitarian grounds. Arrested for allegedly inciting the North-East Delhi riots, Safoor Zargar was released after the Solicitor General Tueshar Mehta said that he had no objections. Justice Rajiv Shakdher ordered the release after instructing Safoora to pay bail amount of Rs 10,000. Mr Mehta has laid down conditions for her release, one of which is forbidding her from visiting Delhi.
Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'The Watchdog News')