It has been alleged that many arrested and slapped with charges under the stringent UAPA over the violence that broke out in northeast Delhi in February 2020 are innocent. Although the faces of a few made it to the headlines, many others have just got lost in the dark, languishing in jails. In our upcoming documentary, which is releasing on 22 June, we bring you stories of at least four such unknown faces. This is the second of a four-part documentary and is a small snippet of one of the stories featured – that of Tasleem Ahmad.
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"I have to lie to my children. They keep asking about their father and I say that he'll return in two to three days," Fahmida said over the phone in a feeble voice.
Fahmida's husband, Tasleem Ahmed, was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the riots that occured in North East Delhi, in the year 2020.
Speaking about her husband who was detained while participating in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), she asked:"My husband took part in the protests for his rights. Was it a crime?"
Tasleem was arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in 2020, in connection with the riots that occurred in North East Delhi in February that year, and has been in prison since then.
Tasleem is one of the scores of student leaders and activists who have been languishing in prison since 2020. Tasleem frequented the anti-CAA protests as an ordinary citizen.
Allegations Against Tasleem
Resident of a congested suburb of Delhi's Sangam Vihar, roughly 35 km from the area where the violence took place, Tasleem, has been accused of inciting riots.
In its 17,000-page chargesheet filed in September, the Delhi police claims that he was a part of a small core group that started the protest in Seelampur, which later became a flashpoint and trigger for the February violence.
However, Tasleem's father Zahid Ali claims that the former was at his house in Sangam Vihar when the riots happened.
"Tasleem was not even there during the riots, how could he be a participant? The riots occurred in Sangam Vihar, which is located in Jaffrabad. It's about 30-40 kilometres away (from the area where the incident took place)," his father said.
Tasleem was first arrested by Delhi Police in a case related to First Information Report (FIR) 48/2020 alleging that the protesters had defied the police by occupying the road in Jaffrabad on the night of 22 February, 2020.
He was granted bail in this matter on 10 June, 2020. However, after a few days, the police started summoning him for interrogation again.
"My son was first arrested from home by the police in the month of Ramadan during the COVID lockdown. He got bail after spending a month in jail and returned home. However, he was summoned by the police again on 22 or 23 June. Later we received a call from Tasleem saying that he had been arrested," says Zahid Ali.
Tasleem was detained by the Special Cell of Delhi Police under FIR No 59/2020 on charges of conspiring to riot.
'We Didn't Even Know What UAPA Was'
"UAPA was not imposed when Tasleem was arrested for the first time. However, it was enforced during the second arrest," Zahid said.
"We didn't even know what UAPA was," he added.
Mehmood Pracha, Tasleem's lawyer, refuted the allegations made by the Delhi police. "If the foundation itself is incorrect, where will you get evidence and witnesses from?" he asks.
"The Special Cell of the Delhi Police has a lot of resources and has spent a lot of money, but couldn't gather any evidence or witness. UAPA is a far cry," the lawyer said.