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Khalid Saifi, Kafeel Khan, Meeran Haider, Asif Iqbal, Sharjeel Imam & Others Are Still Languishing In Jail

Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA.

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Safoora Zargar, an anti-CAA activist was granted bail on 23 june, 2019 on humanitarian grounds. But the others arrested including Gulfisha Fatima, Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Dr. Kafeel Khan, Khalid Saifi, Umar Khalid, Shifa ur Rehman, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Akhil Gogoi are yet to be granted bail as demanded by the experts of UN Human Rights Commission. All these people are either arrested through FIR 44/2020 or FIR 59/2020 (conspiracy FIR) or both, with charges of inciting mob, provoking violence and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The experts said, “These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act was first published officially on 9th December, 2019, which immediately caused a disturbance among the people. It being passed on 12th December further escalated the issue and more people came on streets to demonstrate their disapprobation. People denounced the CAA as it was against the secular nature of the Constitution of India and also discriminatory towards Muslims. Some protest sites like Shaheen Bagh, Bab-e-Syed, JNU campus became hotspots that police tried to suppress with violence on 15th December and the following days. Many universities and organisation came in solidarity with them. On 23rd February Kapil Mishra, a local BJP politician gave a fiery speech in which he asked the police to rid Shaheen Bagh of the protestors or ‘he would have to do it’. Hours later, a riot broke in the north east part of Delhi, destroying several Muslim houses, shops and taking innocent lives of mostly Muslims and a Hindu officer. These riots lasted for about a week.

And in April, amidst the fast spreading coronavirus and the nationwide lockdown police starts arresting students and activists involved in organising and participating in the anti-CAA movement one after the other. Khalid Saifi, who has been arrested through FIR 44/2020 was “tortured and brutally beaten a day into the arrest” according to an interview his wife gave to HuffPost India. His investigation which was to be done within 90 days from the day he was arrested(26th Feb) was further extended till 14th August by Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendar Rana, the same judge who ordered a stay at the execution of the accused of Nirbhaya rape case and denied bail to Safoora Zargar on June 4.

Though Safoora has been granted bail by Judge Rajiv Shakdher, he made it clear that it was on ‘humanitarian ground’ and not on the merit of the case. He also specified that it won’t be precedent in the future. But many others are still in the jail suffering and their families outside are left struggling emotionally and financially.

Gulfisha Fatima was denied bail the same week that Safoora made bail. Khalid Saifi’s investigation time has been extended two weeks. Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, who were granted bail in the Delhi violence case, were rearrested by the Delhi Police with charges of UAPA. Sharjeel Imam, still in jail was granted bail by Guwahati High Court but was not released as many other states had filed FIRs against him. Similar is the case with the others who are still in Police custody and trying to bail out.

“Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA.” stated the UNHRC experts asking the authorities to bail out the activists. But the families and friends are hopeful of good news and trust the judiciary.

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