Three Years After Delhi Riots, Several Muslim Activists Still Languish in Jails

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Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – Several Muslim youths are languishing in jail for their alleged role in riots that broke out in the eastern part of the capital city in February 2020.

The violence claimed 53 lives, most of them Muslims, and shattered many families. Besides, properties worth several crores were destroyed.

Many activists and youth were put behind bars on flimsy charges and many of them are still incarcerated fighting their cases in different courts in New Delhi.

Mohammed Salim Khan, an exporter of shawls and scarves, was arrested in FIR number 59 registered by the Delhi Police Special Cell under Sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code in connection with the riots that rocked East Delhi in February 2020. This is the same FIR based on which former JNU student Umar Khalid among others have been lodged in Mandoli jail.

Shavina Khan, Salim Khan’s wife, and her family living in the eastern part of New Delhi start their day by reading their father’s letters, which he writes from jail, pleading his innocence again and again but his suffering continues. For him, there seems to be no light at the end of a long tunnel.

The mother of jailed student and another activist Umar Khalid has repeatedly alleged that Muslims are now being treated like terrorists in their own country. According to press reports, she has claimed that all charges against his son were politically motivated and a deliberate attempt to demonise Muslims. She condemned the UAPA as a draconian legislation (amended in 2019 by the ruling BJP) allowing authorities to declare an individual a terrorist and keep him in detention without trial for months or even years.

She said her son spoke out against the unjust government policies and discriminatory laws such as the new citizenship law, which targets Muslims in particular. He was questioning the government’s approach towards Muslims and their rights, she said.

Umar Khalid and Salim Khan are not the only ones languishing in jails without trial. Critics accuse the authorities of incriminating Muslim community members of a crime they did not commit. A report by human rights groups claims police investigation into these cases have been marked with bias, delays, inaccuracy, lack of proper evidence, and a failure to follow proper procedures.

Reports suggest that the ruling dispensation has adopted various laws and policies that are discriminatory against the country’s minorities. The ruling party is also accused of infiltrating its members into the country’s police and courts, empowering Hindu nationalists to threaten, harass and attack religious minorities with impunity and crack down on any dissent.

Of late, several activists have either been exonerated of the charges against them or granted bail by different courts. But the fate of many activists still hangs in balance even after about three years of their detention.

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