‘Police Linking Anti-CAA Protests to Riots Fake’: AISA Delhi Head
AISA Delhi head Kawalpreet Kaur’s phone was seized in an FIR which includes the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act
Video Editor: Varun Sharma
Delhi Police Crime Branch seized the mobile phone of Delhi State President of All India Student Association (AISA) Kawalpreet Kaur on 27 April, in their investigation into the communal violence in February 2020 in north east Delhi where 53 died and property worth crores destroyed.
In an interview with The Quint she tells us how her phone was taken and why she feels like the government is labeling anyone who dissents as a terrorist.
When did the Delhi police come to seize your phone and what did they say?
Delhi police special branch policemen came to my home, my official address where my aunt lives, on 27 April (Monday). I asked them what they wanted, at a time when the government was insisting everyone stay home during lockdown due to spread of COVID-19. They said they wanted to seize my phone. When I asked them for a notice and what this was about, they said it was about investigation into the Delhi riots case where I have not been named. They asked me to remove my password and handed it over. I asked them for a seizure report.
What were the various sections of the law which were included in this seizure report?
When I saw this report I saw draconian and terror acts in the case. This include the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Arms Act and charges of murder and rioting. But when I thought there is nothing wrong we have done and there is nothing I have to hide, then it is best to cooperate with the authorities and decided to give my phone. I am however scared that they may implant something in my phone.
During this lockdown, has it been hard for you to get legal aid?
I think this was very inhumane (of Delhi police) that when the Supreme Court is itself saying that empty jails, at that time they are going to the homes of students and catching them and putting them in jail. Access to legal help is hard as it is impossible to go anywhere physically. When the lockdown is happening, when there is a state of emergency, the police is going to people’s homes and investigating. So of course there is some amount of doubt in our minds. I think maybe, that is why they are using this time. So we do not get lawyers and legal help easily.
How much were you involved in Anti-CAA protests?
Being a student of Delhi University, I was active in organising protests in the university. So when it came to the rallies, I was active. At India Gate, several times we organised the reading of the preamble. Where politicians also came. Students were leading these protests. Being a law student, it bothered me that a law now existed that was against the very essence of our constitution. We wanted to tell people and raise our voice on it. All these were on public platforms, the police would know about it and record it. So there is nothing to say we instigated riots. So the fact that the police is trying to link these protests to the riots, is completely fake.
She added: This is a way to suppress the voices of students who were actively leading the movement and asking the government questions. This is a way to harass and scare them so that when we get to the time after the lockdown, the democratic movement that was started by students completely ends.
AISA and Kawalpreet’s Official Statement
“The seizure memo given to her cites an FIR with a slew of charges including the draconian UAPA – a supposed anti-terror law that is basically an excuse to lock up students and activists who are critical of the government — without trial, without bail — and throw away the key,” said AISA in a statement from 28 April night.
In a statement released on 29 April, AISA president Kawalpreet Kaur wrote:
I am writing this to inform you all that on Monday, 27th of April, the Delhi Police Special Branch came to my home to investigate the violence that happened in Delhi in February. To my utter shock, the police seized my phone citing inquiry into the violence. It was really hard to believe that this could happen to me.
As a student activist and a responsible citizen of this country, I have always spoken against all injustices in my full capacity wherever I have been. As a student of Delhi University, I remained active in mobilizing students against the attacks on public funded institutions, movements on social justice and gender equality. Further, as a student of law, I spoke against the attacks on the fundamental values of our constitution through the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) brought by the government.
I, along with my organization All India Students' Association (AISA) participated in peaceful demonstrations against the CAA-NPR-NRC along with thousands of others. We participated in various events where we read out the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. After the North East Delhi violence, we raised voice for peace, democracy and justice. We were active in the relief work for the victims. It is deeply shocking and disturbing to know that the police is trying to intimidate me for my activism, for speaking in defence of the constitution. And last but not the least, practicing what my faith and my parents taught me, which says 'sarbat da bhala',i.e. Welfare to all.
Delhi Police action of seizing my phone is outrageous and is an attempt to instill fear among us all. Worse that all this is happening in a time when the entire world is in lockdown faced with a pandemic and it’s difficult to hold mass protests and access legal help.
Dear fellow citizens of India, let us stand united against the intimidating tactics of Delhi Police amidst lockdown. Our struggle to uphold our constitution and democratic rights must go on despite the government's attempt to intimidate and silence voices of democracy, secularism and justice.
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