Continued detention of anti-CAA protestors is a blatant violation of democratic rights

The hearing of bail applications of Umar Khalid and other youth in the Special Sessions Courts have completely exposed the fraudulent nature of the charges against them.

Seventeen youth, including four women, were charged under the draconian UAPA. They were charged with having conspired to unleash the communal violence that took place in North East Delhi in February 2020. They were arrested during April to September 2020.  They were accused of a conspiracy to defame India in the international arena by organising communal clashes during the visit of then US President Donald Trump to India.

The fact that these youth were charged under the UAPA makes getting bail extremely difficult. The central government has used every tactic in its arsenal to keep prolonging the hearing on their bail applications.  While four of them have obtained bail after several months of detention, the remaining thirteen are still languishing in jail.  They have been denied bail after more than a year in jail, without any evidence of guilt.

While presenting a great deal of information on how these youth were active in the anti-CAA protests, the 17000-page charge sheet of the Delhi Police provides no concrete evidence linking any of them with the communal violence.  The charge sheet makes no reference to the hate speeches delivered by BJP leaders in February 2020, inciting people to attack Muslims and other anti CAA protestors. It makes no reference to eyewitness accounts of armed gangs unleashing violence targeted at Muslims, while the police stood by silently.

It is clear that the central government has deliberately arrested these youth under the UAPA as punishment for their active participation in the countrywide mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Even the judges hearing the bail applications have been forced to admit as much.

By portraying the anti-CAA protests as being a communal reaction of Muslims, the central government has been turning the truth on its head.  People of all religious beliefs joined hands to protest against a law that discriminates among people on the basis of their religion, in defining eligibility for Indian citizenship. It was an anti-communal protest, in defence of the right of every person to his or her beliefs.

According to the CAA, enacted on 12 December, 2019, all people living in India, who were born in Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan, could apply for and be granted Indian citizenship, provided they were not Muslims. Alongside of this act, the government declared that it will create a National Register of Citizens (NRC). In order to have themselves registered as Citizens, every Indian would have to provide documentary evidence of their place of birth, and of the birth of their parents in many cases. Those who could not provide such documents would be declared “illegal immigrants”, and kept as prisoners in so-called detention centers created for this purpose in every state.

The CAA, taken together with the NRC, posed the threat of escalated persecution of Muslims all over the country, creating widespread fear and insecurity among them.

The arrests of anti-CAA protestors on the concocted charge of being responsible for communal violence is an act of state terrorism.  It is aimed at terrorising people to give up all opposition and submit to whatever the authority decides.

It is not the first or last time that the Government of India has organized a criminal act and blamed it on so-called anti-national elements.  A similar method was adopted on Republic Day, 26th January, 2021.  Anarchy and violence were organized and the tractor rally organized by the Kisan Andolan was blamed.  This false narrative was used as the justification for erecting barbed wires around the protest sites at the Delhi borders, depriving the protestors of internet and water supply, and for arbitrarily arresting and persecuting participants of the movement.

Similar methods have been used repeatedly in the past to turn truth on its head, portray just struggles of the people as being communal and anti-national, in order to justify unleashing state terrorism.  The Army attack on the Golden Temple in June 1984, for instance, was justified by the then Central Government with the lie that a group of Sikhs inside the Golden Temple were planning to organise large scale communal violence all over India. It is by now an accepted fact that the central intelligence agencies organised the killing of innocent Hindus in Punjab, in buses and market places, and blamed it on alleged Sikh terrorists, in order to spread communal poison throughout India. The central state organised the November 1984 genocide of Sikhs in Delhi and other places, after spreading the lie that Sikhs were celebrating the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and had poisoned the wells providing drinking water to the people of the capital.

The struggle against state terrorism, including state organised communal violence, is an entirely just struggle. Blatantly anti-democratic laws such as the UAPA, the Sedition Act and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act must be immediately repealed.  All those who have been unjustly arrested under these laws must be immediately released.  It is essential for all organisations and individuals who uphold democratic rights to wholeheartedly support the struggle for these demands.

The issue is not whether one agrees or disagrees with those who protested against the CAA or with those who are protesting the three farm laws.  The issue is that people have the right to express their opposition to any law enacted by the parliament or any policy adopted by the government.  To deprive people of this right and treat protests against the government as a crime is tantamount to state terrorism.  It cannot and must not be accepted.

An attack on One is an Attack on All!

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