Modi government using lockdown to target dissenting voices

Student leaders, protestors and female activists  arrested and intimidated

The news agency Anadolu has reported that Modi government is using coronavirus lockdown as an opportunity to target student leaders, political activists, human rights campaigners, lawyers, journalists and female activists who were at the forefront of anti-CAA protests. When all the eyes are focused on COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, the Modi government is silently moving against its critics.  
The Modi government is using the pandemic as a pretext to crush dissenting voices and anyone who is taking an anti-establishment stance is being made to face the consequences. Activists, student leaders and others have been arrested in the last two months for protesting against a new citizenship law which critics say is discriminatory against the minority Muslim community.

The Modi government is going after the young Muslim activists and especially female Muslim activists. The message is clear for other activists that if they dare to challenge the extreme right wing communal agenda of Modi government, they will face the same fate.
The Modi government has practically made the dissent and criticism as a serious crime. Peaceful protest and political dissent is no more a democratic right under Modi government. Modi government is clearly showing that how the coronavirus crisis can be used to erode the democratic and constitutional rights.
The Modi government is punishing everybody who was active in the protests and become prominent as the result of protests. The anti-Citizen Amendment Act protests becomes serious challenge for Modi government as use of force failed to stop the movement. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown cut across this protest movement. The protests were stopped by the restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus.
According to some New Delhi-based activists, more than 800 people have been arrested in connection with violence, including students and activists. But the exact figures have not been provided by officials. Most are Muslim students or activists who were arrested for allegedly organising protests.
Human rights activist Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association said a lot of student activists have been arrested and many have been intimidated and threatened with arrest. “It is extremely shocking that those who are actually involved in openly instigating such riots and indulged in hate speech — they are untouched,”
According to Indian media, two women Natasha Narwal, 30, and Devangana Kalita, 32, were recently arrested at their homes on May 23. The students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are part of the Pinjra Tod women’s collective that works for the rights of female college students.
New Delhi police made the arrests because they allegedly took part in anti-CAA protests that led to communal riots in North-East Delhi in February. However, they were granted bail on May 24.
But within minutes of the bail order, they were re-arrested when the New Delhi Police Crime Branch furnished another complaint, which carried charges under the Arms Act as well as a charge of murder.
The same pattern of filing additional more serious charges was witnessed in previous arrests connected to the New Delhi violence, such as that of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) student Safoora Zargar.
A number of student activists now have been booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA, making bail more difficult. Safoora Zargar, a Jamia student, was picked up April 13 although, at the time of the arrest, she was three months pregnant.
In a joint May 26 online news conference, student leaders and leftist leaders said the government was attacking and arresting university students and activists while the country and the world was battling coronavirus pandemic.
“The arrests are being made when people cannot go out, and there is no judicial help available due to lockdown,” said AISA national president N Sai Balaji at the conference. Balaji said the government was shielding the real culprits and instigators of riots while the victims were being targeted.
President of Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union Aishe Ghosh said since the lockdown, “The Delhi crime branch has been systematically engaged in arresting anti CAA activists, conducting intimidating interrogation sessions and seizing phones of students. It is clear that the police are using the lockdown instituted to prevent the spread of Covid-19 as a shield against dissent.”
Earlier this month, 1,100 women social workers across the country demanded from the government that “activists and students opposing CAA and NRC should not be targeted during the lockdown.”
                                                           Khalid Bhatti

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