UAPA: Systematic victimization of the Muslim community.

A Delhi court on 24th dismissed the bail plea of Umar Khalid after deferring it for three times. Umar Khalid who was arrested in Delhi pogrom’s “larger conspiracy” case,claims that they’re no sufficient evidences to proof him as a part of the conspiracy. The Delhi Police accuses him of delivering violent-provoking speeches.

Critics say that the one who talked about responding to hate with love, how can he promote violence. Umar’s mother also exclaimed,

The one who never let the people quarrel on street, how can he promote hatred and violence?”

Umar’s arrest has invited criticism from the world, including Amnesty International,who strongly opposed the decision of not granting the bail. Aakar Patel of the organisation said,

“The repeated denial of bail to Umar Khalid is a huge blow to everyone exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country. Umar’s continued detention for over 18 months comes against the backdrop of a rapidly shrinking space for critical voices and sets a chilling precedent for anyone whose views the authorities disagree with,”

Ishrat Jahan, another accused with similar charges was granted bail last week.

“It was very painful for me to not see my family members for such a long time, I missed them alot,”

said Ishrat. She also told that it was even more difficult at the time of Covid pandemic as there were no physical and virtual contacts with her family. The court took two years to declare her innocent. In between she was granted a temporary bail of 10 days to get married.

Her hands were covered with mehndi (henna) when I said goodbye to her at the gate of the jail,” Farhan Hashmi, her husband, told Aljazeera.

Ishrat recalling her spent years in jail claims that she was treated differently. She was several times kept separately from others and was under strict surveillance.

Khalid Saifi has similar claims of being treated differently but it in his case it was worse. Just a day after he was arrested, Saifi attended the court on wheelchair, his both the legs were plastered and his clothes were blood stained.

“This was a clear case of custodial torture. Despite the judicial magistrate asking the ACP to inquire about Khalid Saifi’s injuries, there had been no response from the police,

said Senior Advocate Rebecca John, who is representing Saifi. He has been granted bail in several cases but UAPA is something still keeping him detained.

UAPA, Muslims and Police

systematic victimization

The “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act” was introduced to “prevent terror related activities, unlawful associations, and activities that may endanger the sovereignty and integrity of India.”. It allows the government to jail an individual for six months, without a trial or bail, stonewalling any judicial intervention.

As Sharjeel describes

UAPA was passed in 1967 to ostensibly deal with separatists and secessionists. However, the real teeth were added during the Manmohan Singh rule after the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008, when dark sections of POTA (the Prevention of Terrorism Act) which were repealed in 2004, were inserted in the UAPA, chapters 4, 5, 6.”

Sharjeel Imam

Now for a statement deemed unlawful or separatist, Chapter 3 is invoked, and there is no bail embargo, it would mean at least 6 months of incarceration, but no bail embargo after that. But in a situation like the Delhi riots, where there is death and violence, then the other three chapters can be invoked.UAPA is a reason of keeping many of the prisoners behind the bars.

Sharjeel Imam who was arrested for a speech during Anti-CAA protests is also charged under this law. Sharjeel claims that the speech he gave is being misinterpreted by the authorities to hold him behind bars.. He merely suggested for a chakka jam (road blockade) in order to pressurize the authorities to listen to their demands. The police and the accusers claim that he actually wanted to detach the north-eastern region of India from the rest of the country.

Sharjeel too has been granted bail in several cases but is suffering due to these seditious charges.

UAPA has only 2% conviction rate and has a large number of people being booked under it, especially minorities.

In March 2021, 127 Muslims were granted bail after 19 years. They were arrested in 2002 in a city of Gujarat where they went for educational purposes. The authorities labelled the organisation and the people under it as ‘terrorists’. Many of the accused even died in the process.

This draconian law gives the power to the police to arrest anyone they think to label as terrorist.

Hundreds of Muslim activists including those from Kashmir have been booked under this law. A 2018 study by non-profit organisation Common Cause and Lokniti, a research initiative by the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), found that a sense of being discriminated against by police in India is the strongest among Muslims, reported Aljazeera.

PFI has also accused the authorities of charging Muslims under UAPA while others (Non Muslims) under petty, bailable charges.

Vrinda Grover, a lawyer and an activist told Aljazeera,

UAPA has been a convenient tool to target activists, religious and ethnic minorities and to spawn fear among the people to manufacture a rationale for an authoritarian to act with impunity”.  

Vrinda Grover

According to Humans Rights Watch, many arrests which were made in Delhi pogrom, police failed to follow proper procedure to arrest them such as producing an arrest warrant, informing the person’s family of the arrest, and providing them a copy of the First Information Report (FIR), the official police case, or ensuring that those arrested have access to legal counsel, including during interrogation. In some cases, Muslim families who had succeeded in identifying BJP leaders and police officials when they filed complaints said they faced increasing pressure to withdraw the complaints.

In another report by Lokniti in 2019, titled Status of Policing in India: Police Adequacy and Working Conditions, found that police in India display “significant bias against Muslims”, with half of the police personnel saying Muslims are “naturally prone towards committing crimes.”

In several riot-related bail hearings, courts have raised doubts over police investigations that targeted riot victims; in at least five cases the courts refused or were reluctant to accept eyewitness accounts of police officials. Even a judge was replaced by the Government for continuously questioning the investigations of the Delhi police against the BJP members, against whom there were allegations of violence promotion.

Everything is gone now. What is left for us?”

The process is so cruel that it is making the lives of the accused harder. Highly educated, abled and prominent young figures are rotting in jails while important years of their lives are slipping from their hands like sand.

If this is the condition of the educated, abled and prominent people, one can imagine the plight of the under privileged class of Muslims.

If one looks around, one cannot find little-to-no representations of Muslim in public spheres whether in school, colleges, courts, offices etc but the only place where one can find muslims in majority are the jails.

A statement which doesn’t need any explanation. Many people who were released after years of languishing in jails, have an important question to ask the courts, government and the people,

” Ab kya bacha hai humare liye? Sab toh chala gaya, kya hi reh gaya hai ab? Bada asaan hai kehna “Ba-izzat bari” Ab woh “Ba-izzat bari” ka thappa leke kahan jaaye hum? Kon dega hume yeh saal ab wapas?” ( What is left now? Everything is gone, what is left now? its very easy to say that youre acquitted,do we go now with that stamp? Who will give us our lost years? “

What’s the use of declaring them innocent after such a long time?

In india, a Muslim lives with a constant fear of being targeted, Every day, every second he or she fears that saying something or posting something might invite trouble. This has been the case always, the difference is just that now, ” might” has been removed.

Now, majority of the Muslims are in danger of being at loggerheads with the authorities.

And, well everyone knows, the word “Justice” isn’t there when it comes to Muslims. Especially if it comes to Muslims. This isn’t the story of a person, this is a story about systematic victimization of the whole commuinty.

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