Mohammad Shoaib, a prominent human rights activist and lawyer associated with a legal aid organization Rihai Manch has been released on Sunday night after 16 hours of interrogation by police and the Uttar Pradesh Anti-terrorism Squad (UPATS) at its headquarters.
He was picked up by UP ATS during the wee hours on Sunday on the pretext of being associated with now banned organization Popular Front of India (PFI).
Explaining his ordeal to Maktoob, the lawyer said, “I was sleeping at my home when the police personnel arrived with ATS at around 7:15 in the morning in a civil dress and asked me to accompany me to the Aminabad police station but instead took me to ATS headquarters and released me at 10 in the night.”
Rihai Manch President, Muhammad Shoaib, asserted that the recent apprehensions were undertaken with the objective of fostering electoral polarization in Karnataka.
He said, “Now that the establishment has tried to scare me with its weapon, all the fear I had, has vanished, now I am fear-immune”, calling it his personal trait as an individual and a lawyer.
According to him, the arrests were intended to instil trepidation in the Muslim community, thus compelling them to believe that no one is immune from arrest, even lawyers.
Being a lawyer, Shoaib has deemed the arrest “a grave affront to the sanctity of the legal profession”.
He said, “I was sleepy they only gave me time to wash my face and didn’t even tell me the reason for taking me to the police station.”
Shoaib alleged that ATS queried about his affiliation with the PFI, and he responded by affirming that his association only lies with the Rihai Manch organization.
He further elaborated that, as a member of the Parliamentary Board of the Socialist Party of India, he only has connections with Rihai Manch.
The lawyer also emphasized that the Rihai Manch is the primary organization and the general secretary of the organization is Rajeev Yadav and “it is in existence for people and their cause.”
He alleged that police repeatedly “tried to associate him with PFI” and kept asking, “How are you connected with PFI?”
Denying his association with PFI Shoaib responded, “I don’t have anything to do with PFI and only went to a public meeting once in 2011 as I was invited to address the meeting.”
He revealed that ATS tried to persuade him to dissolve Rihai Manch, to which he said, “Rihai Manch is the voice of poor, downtrodden, underprivileged and it will run as long as I live, it is up to people who will run it after me, whether to keep it functional or dissolve it, but the organization is to advocate for people’s rights”.
“An additional SP of ATS accused me of ruining the future of the youth, so I said that I have spent my life in the work of the public and this is not a waste but an attempt to make the country better”, he alleged.
During his 16-hour-long interrogation, he was asked about his entire extended family, where they all are based and what they do.
He said, “What do my family and relatives have to do with the work I do?”
He also claims to have been asked about his foreign trips.
“I don’t have a passport, how can I go outside India, this is ridiculous. Surprisingly they had a record of which public movements I am supporting, how many cases I am fighting and even that I went to Nepal once to meet my friend”, he told Maktoob.
“This is a sheer case of intimidating and harassing people who in any way are trying to safeguard the democratic values of this country and they should know and learn that we are not going to go back and see them diffusing the DNA of the nation which is rich in secular values, we will fight till our last breath, at least I will”, he asserted.
According to Rajeev Yadav, the general secretary of Rihai Manch, “The authorities who arrested Advocate Muhammad Shoaib lack the courage to detain BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused of sexual harassment by the female wrestlers who bought laurels to the country, which is very unfortunate.”
Yadav asserted that the authorities are attempting to quell calls for justice by undermining the lawyer’s rights.
Yadav called the arrest of the lawyer an “unlawful move taken in order to create an anti-Muslim climate across the nation and to stir up polarization during the Karnataka elections”.
75-year-old Mohammad Shoaib was arrested in connection with protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December 2019. He was granted bail on January 15, 2020.