WASHINGTON D.C. — The Association of Indian Muslims of America, in a statement, condemned the harassment of distinguished intellectuals by the police in states ruled by BJP party in the last one year in India.
The conscientious distinguished intellectuals are being harassed because they expressed their opinions in the media on the highhandedness of senior political officials and police on the masses. Or they spoke out against the government’s move to suppress freedom of speech.
Police has filed First Information Report (FIR) with sedition charges or arrested some of India’s very distinguished intellectuals like Siddharta Vardarajan, Gautam Navlakha, Telmude. Ironically, courts including High Courts and Supreme Court have also declined to give them bail or to hear their petition for bail. In many such instances police has conducted aggravated raids on the houses of these distinguished citizens and confiscated computers, books etc from them. In many cases police have failed to bring out any evidence of wrongdoing after prolonged investigations. So, it is just a shakedown intended to muzzle the conscientious thought leaders.
Recently, Delhi police targetted Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, a distinguished intellectual and Chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, a constitutional body. Sedition charges have been imposed on him for his ‘controversial’ Facebook post. He is being punished because in the last six months Dr Khan has made several statements criticizing police for brutalities on the students of Jamia Millia University, and those protesting peacefully against the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Dr Zafarul Islam is a distinguished scholar of Islam and Arabic literature and is the former head of Muslim Majlise Mashawarat and editor of the very popular Milli Gazette newspaper.
On May 4, 2020, a contingent of two dozen policemen raided Dr Khan’s residence in New Delhi at sunset without any advance notice. Without having a court search warrant or any specific allegation against him they tried to search his house and confiscate his laptop and cell phone, and told him to come with them to the police station for further interrogation. A crowd of the local people including current MLA (Amanatullah Khan), former MLA (Dr Asif Khan) and many others came to his house and commotion occurred.
Dr Khan’s lawyer, Vrinda Grover demanded police to show a search warrant and said that the Indian Penal Code mandates that any police interrogation of senior citizens like Dr Khan, be conducted at their home and they be not taken to the police station. With no option left, policemen had to leave Dr Khan’s house.
Kaleem Kawaja, the Executive Director of Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington D.C., condemned the police action against Dr Zafarul Khan and other intellectuals and said in a statement that this is not only a violation of the basic democratic setup in India but unlawful also as it reeks of a police state.
Targetting respectable prominent citizens and intellectuals, who disagree with the BJP government’s policies is all the more deplorable, he said adding how can police raid the houses of peaceful citizens just because they disagree with the policies of the government?
Mr Kawaja further said that thought leaders of the minority communities, particularly Muslims, are facing much police harassment as if they are criminals and many upright Hindu leaders who disagree with the BJP government and chose to speak up are also being trashed by the government and the police.
Mr Kawaja appealed to the Prime Minister and President of India to take cognizance of the situation and take strict measures to stop this trend forthwith and save the democratic and secular ethos of the country.