Thousands condemn Delhi Police interrogation of Prof. Apoorvanand

The noted DU professor and activist was questioned by Special Branch as a part of investigations into the NE Delhi riots


Keeping its focus on Delhi’s eminent educationists, writers and activists, and of course the students activists from prominent universities of the city, the Special Branch of the Delhi Police called Prof. Apoorvanand for questioning, on August 3, 2020. Prof. Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi University and is a known writer, and activist. He was with the Police for around five hours, and was questioned in connection with the North East Delhi riots. He later issued a detailed statement about it.

The professor raised concerns about the ‘investigation’ of peaceful protesters even as the alleged perpetrators of the actual violence actually go scot free. He hoped that the probe focussed on the real instigators and perpetrators of the violence against a peaceful citizens’ protest and the people of Northeast Delhi. “It should not lead to further harassment and victimization of the protestors and their supporters, who asserted their democratic rights through constitutional means, while stating their dissent to the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) and the decision of the GOI to operationalise the National Population Register (NPR) and the National register of Citizens (NRC), all over the country,” he had stated. The police had also seized his phone that day. 

His interrogation was close on the heels of the interrogation of many other activists, including DU teachers, journalists, students. Many voices have been rising in support of the citizens who are being called in for ‘questioning’ and joining investigations. 

Over 1,300 activists, writers, journalists, senior bureaucrats, and other eminent citizens have released a statement condemning the interrogation of Prof. Apoorvanand by the Special Branch. They state that, everyone should be  deeply concerned when the “authorities feel free to haul in the nation’s leading public voices to police stations, merely because they speak against the policies and ideology of the ruling government.” 

However, it should also be a reason to “overcome all fear, to stand up for each individual’s right to disagree, dissent, and thereby deepen our democracy. For this democracy today faces its most serious crisis since independence, far more critical than Indira Gandhi’s Emergency 45 years ago. As concerned citizens who love and value our democracy, and our country, we must speak out before it is too late and all voices of freedom are silenced forever.” 

Prof. Apoorvanand had stated that he was asked by the Special Cell, Delhi Police “to appear before it in the investigation into FIR no 59/20 related to the violence that happened in NE Delhi in February, 2020. I spent five hours there. The Delhi Police also considered it necessary to seize my phone for the purpose of investigation.”

The professor raised concerns about the investigation vis-à-vis harassment of peaceful protesters even as the alleged perpetrators of the actual violence actually go scot free. He said, “While cooperating and respecting the right of police authorities to conduct a full, fair and thorough investigation, one can only hope that the probe would focus on the real instigators and perpetrators of the violence against a peaceful citizens’ protest and the people of Northeast Delhi.”

According to the statement issued in his support by the concerned citizens from across the country, while it is not unusual, “or even improper, for the police to ask citizens to cooperate in the crime they are investigating. What matters is the context and manner in which this is happening. Like dozens of others in the past two months, Prof. Apoorvanand has been summoned under section 43F of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA. This is not all – the summons mentions 19 sections of the IPC; two sections each of the Prevention of Damage of Public Property (PDPP) Act; two sections of the Arms Act; and, finally, four different sections of the UAPA. This is not a normal enquiry or police business as usual. It is part of a clear strategy by the Delhi Police to present protests against the CAA as a conspiracy to plan and stage the communal riots that shook Delhi in late February.”

This summoning, they state, is a “part of the larger design to shut down all dissent in the country so that no one dares question authority. Over the past several months, students, activists, writers, artists, journalists and other public persons who participated in the anti-CAA protests have been targeted for repeated inquiries, and many have been arrested.” It is known that in the case of FIR 59 of 2020 alone, more than 17 arrests have been made already under the UAPA, and over two hundred have been arrested under other sections of the IPC. “The intense activity of the Delhi Police in pursuing this line of inquiry is in marked contrast to their inaction in investigating leaders associated with the BJP who were seen inciting violence on public television. This pattern is identical to that in the Bhima-Koregaon case, launching a nationwide hunt against alleged ‘Urban Naxals’, while those who were so clearly responsible for instigating riots after the Elgar Parishad meeting in January 2017 are being allowed to go scot-free,” stated the activists adding that this “crusade to silence all of us has been gathering momentum over the past two years. And today, public figures like Prof. Apoorvanand, and many others, known for their unwavering stand against violence and the politics of hate, are being targeted for their dissenting views.”

They have appealed to “all citizens committed to the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution – freedom of speech, equality before the law, secularism – to resist this attempt to turn  India into a police state where all dissent is criminalized under the most draconian laws.” The activists have demanded that the “systematic harassment of voices critical of the government and the blatant misuse of the law and the state apparatus,” be stopped immediately, adding “If we fail to protest the muzzling of our democracy today, there may be no democracy left tomorrow.”

The signed statement may be viewed here:  [pls EMBED]


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