Student organisations in Delhi University including Fraternity Movement, Campus Front of India, Students Islamic Organisation of India, Democratic Students Union, and Bhagat Singh Chatr Ekta Manch jointly demanded immediate release of Jawaharlal Nehru University research scholar and Muslim student activist Sharjeel Imam and other activists who were arrested and charged under the draconian UAPA.
Thursday marked one year since Sharjeel Imam was arrested for taking part in protests against the proposed NRC and CAA and charged under UAPA and sedition laws.
A joint statement by five student organisations urged the student community in the country and civil society to come forth against “state witch-hunt.”
“The unjust and brutal imprisonment of Sharjeel Imam, a Muslim student activist and research scholar at JNU, turns a year today. Imam was one of the vocal critique of the citizenship law enacted by the central government and he travelled across the country and organized people against it. He played pivotal role in setting up the historic Shaheen Bhagh protest. That is how he became a thorn in the flesh for those in power,” reads the statement.
On 28 January 2020, Imam was charged with sedition and arrested by Delhi police for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches against CAA and NRC. Provisions of draconian UAPA were also imposed on him.
“There are cases against him in multiple states. All he did was call for ‘Chakka Jam’, normal way of protest in India. His words were taken out of context and given an ‘anti-national, interpretation. In fact it is obvious that was not the reason he was sent behind bars on such harsh charges. His arrest was part of a larger conspiracy. Sharjeel Imam is one among many student activists, civil rights activist and leaders who were imprisoned since Modi came to power. Anyone opposed to the policies of the government found themselves a target of political vendetta in one form or other. Umar Khalid, Jaggis johal, Khalid Saifi , Aasif Sultan, Gulfisha Fatima, Asif Tanha, Munawar Faruqui, Devangana Kalitha, Rauf Shareef, Atiqurrahman, Masud Ahmed are a few innocents who were targeted and imprisoned,” the student bodies alleged.
Students also said that the country is witnessing a frightening situation that police forces and investigation agencies are being misused to quell democratic dissent.
“Also, the existence of draconian laws such as UAPA makes these human rights violations easier. A law that empowers the government arrest and incarcerate any citizen without bail, trial, or judicial oversight for long periods, that is what UAPA is. The only way it can be used is by misuse,” they said.
The student organisations went on to say that the vendetta against students shows that authoritarianism in India have reached on whole new level.
“Students should unite against such dangerous laws. The situation casts a shadow on India’s survival a secular democratic society with civil rights and justice. India has history of vibrant student activism that defied brutal state oppression and upheld rights and justice. It is our duty to carry that legacy forward,” the statement said.