Arrest of Muslim activists in India is a witch hunt driven by vendetta politics, say Indian Americans

Photo: Sreekanth Sivadasan

Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), an umbrella group of progressive South Asian organizations in the United States, on Tuesday, condemned the Indian Government’s actions in bringing false criminal charges against hundreds of Muslim activists, students, and intellectuals and arresting many of them.

“These individuals are being targeted for challenging the deeply repressive Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) brought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government last December that triggered mass protests and convulsions across Indian society. Activists are also being victimized as for exposing the complicity of Mr. Modi’s Government in the massacre of dozens of Muslims in religious violence against Muslims carried out in the Indian capital, New Delhi, this February,” AJA’s statement reads.

The collective also blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for conducting a campaign of vendetta politics to persecute Muslims who have for months braved police brutalities at their street protests that were demanding a repeal of the CAA, which discriminates against Muslims in the grant of citizenship.

“Their expression of dissent is now being labeled as “anti-national”, and the government’s treatment of Muslims betrays an appalling deterioration in human rights and religious freedom in India today. Mr. Modi’s Government is at the forefront of such human rights violations by providing total impunity to their perpetrators and protecting them from arrests and prosecution while targeting Muslim activists and victims,” it added.

Renowned Muslim intellectual, scholar and activist, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, who is currently the Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, a statutory body, is only the latest name in the long list of those being targeted by the Modi Government.

On April 30, Delhi Police registered an FIR (First Information Report) against Dr. Khan on charges of sedition (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code) and for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (Section 153A)

“Dr. Khan has been charged for exercising his right to free speech in a Facebook post in which he thanked the Government of Kuwait for expressing solidarity with Indian Muslims,” AJA said.

AJA has called for the immediate release of all arrestees include Safoora Zargar, a prominent youth activist and research scholar who is four months’ pregnant, and Gulifsha, also a female student activist, Shafi ur Rehman, Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association president, and Sharjeel Imam, a student activist, has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Meeran Hyder, a student at New Delhi’s Jamia Milia University.

“They were arrested for merely exercising their constitutional right to free speech, and for dissenting peacefully against the CAA and against Hindu nationalism,” AJA’s statement adds.

“Under the Modi administration, criticizing Hindu nationalism is being considered sedition and treason. The ongoing crackdown against Indian Muslims is a textbook case of repression of civil dissenters at the behest of the Hindu nationalist Modi government,” AJA said.

AJA has urged the U.S. Government to accept the recommendations from the USCIRF while calling upon the Government of India to eschew its divisive agenda and to work towards unifying Indian society. 

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