New Delhi, India – Saima Saleem, 27, has been ready for hours on a bench outdoors a courtroom of regulation in New Delhi, her eyes glued to a hall as she waits for her father, Mohammad Saleem Khan, to seem.
Khan, 49, was arrested three years in the past for rioting and homicide in the course of the spiritual riots within the Indian capital, during which 53 folks – most of them Muslims – had been killed. The courts offered him bail in each the circumstances.
However Khan continues to languish in jail as he has not been in a position to safe bail in a case underneath the Illegal Actions Prevention Act (UAPA), a controversial anti-terror regulation that has been used towards Khan and several other different Muslims accused of allegedly “pre-planning” the riots.
“My father is harmless. He was a distinguished social employee in the neighborhood who helped folks and he was focused for that,” Saima informed Al Jazeera whereas ready for her father to reach on the Karkardooma courtroom.
“Folks now deal with us like terrorists although everybody is aware of all these prices are politically and communally motivated,” she mentioned.
UAPA, termed by critics and rights teams as a draconian laws, was amended in 2019 by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Occasion (BJP) authorities to permit authorities to declare a person a “terrorist” and detain them with out trial for months, generally years. Beforehand, the “terrorist” tag was reserved just for teams or organisations.
The federal government final yr knowledgeable the parliament that almost 4,700 folks had been arrested underneath the regulation between 2018 and 2020, however solely 149 had been discovered responsible – a conviction rate of almost 3 %.
Police booked not less than 18 Muslims, together with scholar leaders and activists resembling Khalid Saifi, Umar Khalid and Miran Haider, underneath the UAPA, alleging a “bigger conspiracy” to create spiritual tensions – a declare rubbished by authorized and rights specialists.
“The rationale why these persons are nonetheless in jail regardless of prices being dismissed on so many grounds is that they’ve been booked underneath a draconian regulation like UAPA which calls itself an anti-terror regulation however has at all times been used to suppress dissent,” rights activist Kavita Krishnan informed Al Jazeera.
“Underneath this regulation, it’s tough to get bail so the police simply must cost folks underneath UAPA and delay the trial by saying that they’re investigating and so you might be prone to stay in jail for a few years,” she mentioned.
Police ‘selectively focusing on’ Muslims
Saleem’s allegation that the police investigation into the Delhi riots is being carried out on spiritual traces will not be an remoted voice.
Critics and several other worldwide rights teams have accused the Indian authorities of framing members of the Muslim group for instigating the violence, which erupted after right-wing Hindu teams focused peaceable sit-in protests towards a recently-introduced citizenship regulation.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) allowed non-Muslims from India’s neighbouring nations to safe Indian citizenship in the event that they arrived in India earlier than December 2014. Critics mentioned the regulation violated India’s secular structure and the United Nations specialists referred to as it “essentially discriminatory”.
The passage of the regulation triggered unprecedented protests by India’s Muslims, with a primarily women-led sit-in at New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh being the epicentre. In the meantime, a number of BJP leaders made inflammatory speeches – even threatening violence – and referred to as to forcefully disperse the protesters.
The riots that adopted – which many authorities critics termed as an anti-Muslim pogrom – led to the widespread destruction of property and displacement of thousands of individuals, principally Muslims, within the northeastern a part of the Indian capital. Mosques, properties and companies had been burned and looted.
“The individuals who really gave hate speeches and instigated the riots, that embody BJP leaders, are nonetheless free. They haven’t spent a single day in jail. These imprisoned are Muslims who had been concerned in peaceable sit-ins towards a regulation which threatened to disenfranchise them,” activist Krishnan informed Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera reached out to BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal, however he refused to touch upon the story.
In a report on the Delhi riots, the United States-based Human Rights Watch mentioned final yr the police investigations into the violence had been “marked by bias, delays, inaccuracy, lack of correct proof, and failure to observe correct procedures”.
Furthermore, the Delhi Police, managed by the federal authorities, had been additionally accused of inaction and selective focusing on of Muslims in the course of the violence. In a single obvious occasion, law enforcement officials had been seen throwing stones in the direction of Muslims together with the Hindu mobs in the course of the riots.
“The police had been main the mobs in throwing stones at Muslims and likewise vandalising properties,” Muslim activist Aasif Mujtaba, who has labored on the rehabilitation of the survivors of the riots, informed Al Jazeera. “Throughout the violence, police had been on the again defending the rioters who had been rampaging on the entrance.”
Many rioters confessed to the media that the police helped them assault Muslims in the course of the violence. “We didn’t have sufficient stones right here, so the police introduced some and informed us to throw them,” a person informed BBC in a recent documentary on the aftermath of the violence.
When requested in regards to the allegations, Suman Nalwa, deputy commissioner of police for public relations in New Delhi, informed Al Jazeera, “I can’t touch upon the difficulty. All the things is in public area. You possibly can examine the information stories.”
However the courts have additionally termed police investigations in lots of Delhi violence cases as “farcical” and “callous”. In September 2021, a Delhi courtroom launched Muslim males in a case of rioting for lack of proof and “failure of the investigating authorities to conduct a correct investigation”. A month later, the decide who gave the decision was transferred for unreported causes.
‘Authorities desires us to be silent’
Syed Tasneef Hussain, 58, is not sure when his 30-year-old daughter Gulfishan Fatima can be out of jail. Following the Delhi riots, Fatima was charged with a number of allegations, together with rioting, homicide and inciting communal violence.
Nonetheless, her mother and father say she was focused for main a peaceable women-led protest towards the CAA in Jaffarabad, a primarily Muslim neighbourhood in northeast Delhi.
“It has been three years since she has not been house. I want she is again quickly,” Hussain informed Al Jazeera at his residence. “They [government] need us to be silent and devoid of any voice. We’re being harassed and intimidated for no cause. What’s our mistake? That we’re Muslims?”
Like Khan, Fatima has additionally obtained bail in a number of circumstances however continues to be in jail underneath the UAPA. Activists say protesters resembling Fatima and Khan are being punished for merely opposing the federal government’s insurance policies.
“We’ve very superb younger folks in prisons underneath UAPA for years with out their trials starting. Individuals who clearly instigated the hate regardless of our intervention within the highest courts of the land haven’t been arrested. However, they created flimsy prices towards individuals who had been distinguished within the anti-CAA protests,” distinguished rights activist Harsh Mander informed Al Jazeera.
MR Shamshad, a lawyer in India’s Supreme Court docket who has taken up a number of Delhi riots circumstances, mentioned many individuals had been charged with out proof.
“To provoke felony trials, you want substantive proof however in most of those circumstances these substantive evidences are lacking,” he informed Al Jazeera.
Shamshad mentioned the UAPA is a “draconian regulation which must be utilized sparingly in very distinctive circumstances”. “However it seems that in Delhi riots circumstances, it has been unreasonably imposed upon many individuals,” he added.