Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Student leader Afreen Fatima marks one year since her home bulldozed, father’s arrest

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“Abbu has been in jail for one year. We have been homeless for one year. Navigating life itself has become hard,” summarises Muslim student leader Afreen Fatima, whose life was overturned a year ago, when her father, mother and sister got detained by Uttar Pradesh police.

“We, as a family, want to keep our heads held high. We want to keep on challenging all that has been thrown at us. Especially for Abbu,” Fatima told Maktoob as she marks a year of her father Mohammad Javed‘s imprisonment with the added misery of the passing away of her grandfather on Friday, 9 June 2023.

On the night of 10 June 2022, local police showed up at Javed’s house in the Kareilly area of Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj — formerly called Allahabad — to summon him. Hours later, around midnight, police returned to take away his wife Parveen Fatima and teenage daughter Sumaiyya Fatima. 

Police accused Javed of being the “mastermind” of a protest that broke out in the city during against BJP leaders over derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammed. The mother and sister were allegedly kept in custody until the family vacated the house for the demolition scheduled the very next day.

On 12 June 2022, as the mother and sister were let go, bulldozers, accompanied by dozens of media crew and a large posse of police, razed down Fatima’s house. It was live telecasted on national television.

The ordeal was widely criticised by civil and human rights groups and grabbed international attention. The demolition of the 20-year-old house, with explicit failure of the due procedure, was slammed as a warning to Muslims who were protesting for weeks to arrest BJP leaders for making anti-Muslim comments.

The action is challenged by the family in court. Fatima said the legal proceedings have been slow-paced while the family focus on getting bail for Javed.

The 55-year-old Muslim community leader faced five cases initially and in July 2022, National Security Act (NSA) was imposed against him.

“Around a month ago, he was charged with three new cases. We have procured bail in six of eight cases,” Fatima told Maktoob.

In January this year, while granting bail to Javed in a case, the Allahabad High Court observed that it “can’t say he was instrumental in Prayagraj violence”.

“Two [cases] are pending in Allahabad High Court. We challenged the NSA in Allahabad High Court and the order is reserved. We hope the NSA is quashed,” she said.

Javed, a prominent face in the 2020 anti-CAA protests in Allahabad, is currently under his last extension of NSA that will end on 15 July this year. Three new cases against him accuse him of damaging public property.

“Everyday life, daily chores. Everything has become a punishment. But we are managing,” Afreen, who lives in a rented house less than two kilometres from her previous home, said.

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Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla is the Associate Creative Editor of Maktoob. Shaheen studies convergent journalism in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

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