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Family kept in the dark about UP activist’s ‘arrest’ over protest call against French prez

Police take away Naeem Siddiqui from his Lucknow house for circulating messages on WhatsApp

Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow

NEW DELHI—The family members of 52-year-old activist Naeem Siddiqui have been kept in the dark about his purported arrest for giving a protest call against French President Emmanuel Macron.

Lucknow police and UP Anti-Terrorism Squad(ATS) have told mediapersons that the activist has been arrested in connection with WhatsApp messages he circulated asking people to observe special prayers on Friday and put up black flags on their homes and shops in protest against Macron’s controversial remarks on Islam and the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

The activist’s daughter Zainab Siddiqui told India Tomorrow that neither the police nor the ATS had notified them about his arrest or location.

“My father was picked up from our residence on Thursday evening. But till now, we don’t know who took him and where he has been kept. I am asking the police to tell us about it. But the police are refusing to give any information,” Zainab, who works for the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) and is also a member of the Mahila Yuva Adhikar Manch, said over phone from Lucknow while she was on her way to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Shalini.

“They should tell us who arrested my father and where was he taken? What are the charges against him? Whether he was produced before the magistrate or not and what happened after he was produced in the magistrate’s court? Nobody is telling us anything. We are very worried,” Zainab narrated.

Zainab had earlier told this portal that police had barged into their house and manhandled her sisters, brother and father when they resisted the police who were forcibly trying to take her father away without explaining the charges against him and where he was being taken.

Her father’s advocate Asma Izzat said that she submitted an application to the Hasanganj police station and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Lucknow-North) at around  12.30 am, requesting them to find out the whereabouts of Naeem Siddiqui. But nothing has been done so far by the police.

“I also approached the judicial magistrate with an application under Section 97 of the Criminal Procedure Code, beseeching him to issue a search warrant to the appropriate authorities to find out the location of my client but the magistrate said that he was not sure if he could issue such an order. The magistrate said that he will take action after consulting his seniors,” Asma told this news portal over phone. She said that what had happened with Naeem Siddiqui amounted to wrongful confinement and a judicial magistrate had full powers to issue a search warrant in such cases.

When contacted, Hasanganj Station House Officer (SHO) Amar Nath Verma told this news portal that Naeem Siddiqui was picked by the ATS. “I am not aware where the activist (Naeem Siddiqui) was taken and where he is being kept. I am also not aware of the charges under which he has been picked up,” said the SHO. Naeem runs the NGO, Bhartiya Awami Morcha.

Retired IPS officer S R Darapuri, in response to a question, said that while the police might consider the activist’s WhatsApp message objectionable, what they did to him and his family members on Thursday night was “illegal”.

Darapuri, who was himself arrested in December last year on charges of provoking the anti-CAA activists, said the police must follow the due process of law while arresting a suspect. “The police must inform the person the grounds for seeking his arrest and where he is being taken. They must also tell the family members the reasons for the arrest. Otherwise, it will be an illegal action on the part of the police,” said Darapuri. He said that the accused person must also be allowed to contact his lawyer even before the arrest.

He also objected to plainclothesmen coming to arrest the activist. Darapuri said, “There should be uniformed policemen accompanied with plainclothesmen while going for the arrest of a person. Otherwise, anti-social elements could resort to kidnapping people, saying they are policemen in plainclothes. This is very serious,” he said.

“If the police personnel are in proper uniforms but don’t tell the person the reason for the arrest and don’t disclose their proper identity, the person concerned and his or her family members have every reason to resist such an arrest,” the former IPS officer stated.

Darapuri said, “The police action against the family members of Naeem Siddiqui, such as manhandling them when they resisted the arrest, is against the due procedure of law.”

“What the police have done in the case of activist Naeem Siddiqui is illegal,” he said.

Rajeev Yadav, General Secretary of NGO, Rihai Manch, questioned the role of the ATS in arresting the activist for sending the WhatsApp messages, which have nothing to do with terrorism. “The ATS has been formed by police to tackle terror-related cases but the ATS in this case is trying to spread terror,” he alleged.

Alleging that BJP leaders believed in double standards, he said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah compared the arrest of Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami with the “days of Emergency” but “he is silent on the misuse of powers by police in Uttar Pradesh”.

Yadav said, “If giving a call to protest Macron’s comments on offensive caricatures amounts to terrorism, then conducting “Havan” by some people in UP for the victory of President Donald in US elections is also a terrorism because it amounts to public mischief and promoting enmity among pro- and anti-Trump groups and criminal conspiracy. But neither the UP police nor the ATS took any action against the Havan organisers.”

He also said that hate speeches and messages against Muslims on social media, including by people holding ministerial positions, had become very common but these were ignored by the police, the ATS and every other wing of the police and administration.

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