Close to 30 celebrities, including Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj, Mahesh Bhatt and Ratna Pathak Shah, joined hands to urge “Delhi Police to stop abusing the lockdown” and put an “end to the witch-hunt” against “students and activists protesting against CAA”.
The artists released the statement on April 19 on Twitter.
“To fight this pandemic, the citizens and authorities need to stand by each other. By targeting activists taking advantage of the lockdown, when there is hardly even any media coverage of its actions, the Delhi Police is betraying the civic rights of the citizens. We urge the Delhi Police to stop abusing the lockdown, respect the human rights of our fellow citizens and put an end to this witch-hunt. We demand the release of these students and activists”, the celebrities urged in the joint statement.
The 29 signatories include Mahesh Bhatt, Aparna Sen, Ratna Pathak Shah, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj, Vishal Dadlani, Nandita Das, Konkona Sen Sharma, Hansal Mehta, Onir, Sushant Singh, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Neeraj Ghaywan, Ashwini Chaudhury, Ankur Tewari, Abish Mathew, Sandhya Mridul, Andre Borges, Vinta Nanda, Mallika Dua, Saba Singh Azad, Sohail Tatari, Kushan Nandy, among others.
The statement came as a response to the recent arrest of two students of Jamia Millia Islamia University.
“The country light now is reeling through a grave crisis as a result of the novel coronavirus and nearly a month-long lockdown. We are all being asked to stay home and stay safe in order to break the chain of the deadly virus. We are shocked to know that in this midst of such a grave situation, the Delhi Police has arrested two students of Jamia Millia Islamia and several activists from localities of North-East Delhi who had participated in peaceful protests against the CAA,” the signatories said.
“Even as we write this, more students and activists are being called for questioning and interrogation by the police on a daily basis.”
“In a twisted fairy tale that the Delhi Police is trying to weave, these activists are now being implicated in cases related to the communal violence in Delhi that took place in February. A riot in which the minorities suffered the maximum damage, both in terms of lives and livelihoods, has now become a pretext for the Delhi Police to further witch-hunt activists, most of whom also come from the minority community,” they added.
The personalities stressed that “the lockdown cannot be a lockdown of the rights of citizens, and must not be abused by the authorities in this manner”.
“These actions of the Delhi Police are utterly inhuman and undemocratic. Making several people travel to police stations every day and then throwing some of them to jails also defeats the purpose of the lockdown and makes a mockery of social distancing. At a time when various governments are releasing under-trials from jail to relieve the pressure from the prisons and restrict chances of contamination, the Delhi Police is pushing students and activists into jail,” the statement continued.
It states that “the constitution gives us the right to protest and express our views against the government and its policies”, going on to note that their “opposition to the CAA continues, as we see it as a bigoted law that strikes at the secular fabric of our country”.
“We condemn this witch-hunt of students and activists because they exercised their constitutional right to protest against CAA/NRC/NPR,” the statement concluded.