Muslim scholars walk out of Tripura jail 20 days after arrest under UAPA

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After 20 days of imprisonment under draconian UAPA, a court in Tripura granted bail to four Muslim scholars belonging to a Delhi-based group Tahreek-e-Farogh-e-Islam (TFI) who were arrested 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, said that the four of them have been granted bail and walked out of prison on Tuesday.

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 earlier said to Maktoob 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 the Muslim NGO, 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.

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

Day 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.”

“A false FIR has been registered against the delegation members to pressurize them for withdrawal of the fact-finding report,” the Muslim group alleged.

“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,” said Amir Arfeen Razvi, general secretary of the organisation.

Razvi had sent letters to the President of India and the Chief Justice of India, to seek the country’s tall offices’ intervention in the case.

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.

UAPAs over reports, social media posts

More than 100 people including journalists, lawyers, Muslim scholars, politicians, and rights activists have been booked under draconian UAPA and several sections of IPC so far after they carried out fact-finding visits to violence-hit areas and shared the news on social media regarding Tripura violence against Muslims.

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.

In another complaint filed on 3 November, Tripura police had claimed 102 social media accounts were responsible for spreading “objectionable news items/statements,” and the account holders were charged under draconian UAPA.

The 102 social media account holders (68 Twitter profiles, 32 Facebook profiles, and 2 YouTubers) 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 and activist Sharjeel Usmani.

The list also includes 5 journalists. The journalists are Maktoob’s Meer Faisal, freelance journalist Sartaj Alam, Newsclick’s senior editor Shyam Meera Singh, freelance journalist Arif Shah and London-based monthly newspaper Byline Times’s global correspondent C.J. Werleman.

On 17 November, the Supreme Court ordered that no coercive steps should be taken against lawyers Mukesh and Ansar Indori and journalist Shyam Meera Singh. The writ petition was filed by the trio seeking to quash the UAPA FIR.

International journalist unions like CPJ, several press clubs in the country, and many politicians including key Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi condemned Tripura police actions and urged the BJP government to immediately drop the terror investigation into journalists, activists, and Muslim leaders for their social media posts and fact-finding visits.

 

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