Tripura: 4 Muslim scholars still in custody and their crime is a fact-finding visit

Tahreek-e-Farogh-e-Islam chief Qamar Usmani Ghani and others speak to reporters in a press conference in New Delhi. File photo. Photo courtesy to The Cognate.

A bail application was filed demanding the release of four Muslim scholars belonging to a Delhi-based group Tahreek-e-Farogh-e-Islam (TFI) who were arrested by Tripura police under draconian law UAPA this week when they carried out a visit to Tripura following the violence unleashed by Hindutva groups against the northeast region’s Muslim minorities.

Mahmood Pracha, who is the legal advisor of TFI, told Maktoob that they have filed a bail application in the case. But it was not heard so far. 18 November has been set for hearing the case in court.

TFI national president and Muslim scholar Qamar Usmani Ghani, national vice-president Qari Asim, national secretary Ihsanul Haque Rezavi, and a member Roshan are the four members who were arrested and sent to jail for 14 days.

Pracha said that they have been arrested because they went to bring out facts related to the anti-Muslim violence and expose the failures of the BJP government in stopping violence carried by the Hindutva groups Vishwa Hindu Parishad and others in Tripura last week of October.

According to Aqeel Faizi, head office in charge of TFI, the four members were detained by the local police claiming that their lives were under threat. When they went to the police station, they were told that their visit had created law and order issues in the area. They would be booked under these sections of IPC, cops said to the Muslim delegation.

“The police have shown them a notice and asked them to accept it. Police officers said then the police will start a probe. But the delegation replied that they had not done any such thing on the basis of which they would be served notice and arrested,” said Aqeel.

The police in the FIR said that it has served the notice to them but they have not accepted it. Therefore, they were arrested, said Aqeel.

The Muslim scholars were arrested on the evening of 3 November and presented in the magistrate court the next day.

The notice which was served to the delegation was issued by Panisagar police station asking them to appear before the police on 5 November. The notice talked about the charges which the police invoked against them. IPC sections 120 (B), 153 A, 153 B, 503, 504, and section 13 of ULA(P) alias UAPA were invoked against them saying there are “grounds to question you to ascertain facts and circumstances” from them.

Aqeel said to Maktoob that they don’t want to make public the details related to this case as they have been fighting the case legally.

The Tripura police have confirmed their arrest to the media. On 4 November, the police tweeted “Yesterday, North Tripura district had arrested four persons finding them involved in spreading malicious propaganda with a view to creating hatred between two religious groups.”

Tripura police have also booked 102 social media account holders (68 Twitter profiles, 32 Facebook profiles, and 2 YouTubers) under draconian UAPA for their posts on the recent anti-Muslim violence unleashed by Hindutva groups in the northeast state.  The 102 include Jamaat-e-Islami Hind vice president Mohammad Salim Engineer, former Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Zafarul Islam Khan, Popular Front of India general secretary Anis Ahmed, Students Islamic Organisation of India national president Salman Ahmad, Maktoob journalist Meer Faisal, activist Sharjeel Usmani, journalist Sartaj Alam and Shyam Meera Singh and scholars outside India, Khaled A. Beydoun and CJ Werleman.

They have challenged Tripura police’s actions against them in the Supreme Court.

In their petition filed through noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, they said “The subsequent efforts by the State of Tripura to monopolise the flow of information and facts emanating from the affected areas by invoking provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (hereinafter, UAPA) against members of civil society including advocates and journalists who have made the effort to bring facts in relation to the targeted violence in the public domain.”

The first of these UAPA cases were filed against two lawyers, Ansar Indori and Mukesh, who were part of a fact-finding team investigating the violence against minorities in the state. Charges were filed against them after the fact-finding team’s report, ‘Humanity under attack in Tripura; #Muslim lives matter’, was published which highlighted the vandalisation of at least 12 mosques, nine shops and three houses belonging to Muslims.

After their members including the chief of the orgainsation were arrested, the TFI had issued a statement terming the police action against them “clear violation of human rights.”

“This is clearly a case of violation of human rights of the Muslim community. On one hand, Tripura police has miserably failed to prevent the communal attacks on Muslims, including torching mosques and shops owned by Muslims, while on the other hand, they have applied brute power to suppress the voice of the victims,” wrote Amir Arfeen Razvi, general secretary of TFI in the name of chief justice of India on 4 November.

Razvi said the delegation of TFI was “sent to the affected areas with the intention of surveying the damage and providing economic and legal assistance to the victims”. But they were shocked when they heard about the arrest of their leaders.

Tripura’s BJP government and state police have been claiming that there was no law and order problem in the state and no mosques were burnt by Hindutva groups despite media including Maktoob reported several anti-Muslim crimes across the northeast state.

Maktoob reported more than two dozen hate crimes against Muslims including mosque vandalisation, attacks against Muslim houses, shops, and hawkers, molesting Muslim women, and anti-Muslim and genocidal slogans during the rallies.