New Delhi: The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah terming the detentions of several Indian human rights activists ‘arbitrary’. The IFHR has raised concerns, saying the activists have been arrested for “their participation in peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA)” in the last few months.
The letter highlights the cases of Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, student activists who have been associated with the anti-CAA protests in Delhi and were arrested recently by the Delhi police.
“The Observatory firmly condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Devangana Kalita and Ms. Natasha Narwal, as they seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. Their detention takes place after the arrest of other human rights defenders earlier this year for protesting against the CAA,” the letter read.
In addition to Kalita and Narwal, the IFHR has also expressed concerns over the arrests of and charges against Meeran Haider, Gulfisha Fatima, Safoora Zargar, Shifa-ur-Rehman, Asif Iqbal, Akhil Gogoi, Khafeel Khan and Umar Khalid. All of them have been detained or charged in 2020 for their role in the anti-CAA protests that broke out in December across the country.
The IFHR has also pointed out that due process was not followed in the arrests of these activists – many of whom are women. Zargar was arrested and kept in solitary confinement despite being pregnant.
The letter also says that the international body is “concerned about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment under the UAPA of several other human rights defenders, including Mr. Sharjeel Imam, Mr. Khalid Saifi and Ms. Ishrat Jehan, which is seemingly in retaliation to their opposition to the CAA.”
The IFHR has ‘urged’ India to release ‘immediately and unconditionally’ all the activists mentioned in the letter. It has urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene in the cases. It has also said that ‘all acts of harassment’ against activists must end.
“Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India,” the letter said.