Jaipur: “You have come here to incite riots,” is what Uttar Pradesh repeatedly told Mohammad Faizal, a Rajasthan-based 24-year-old Muslim advocate after he was arrested during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest in December.
Faizal had gone to Shamli to offer legal aid to protesters who had been arrested. “I was in court when the Special Operations Group (SOG) team came to arrest me in the evening. I told them that I’m an advocate and also showed them my bar council of Rajasthan’s registration but they didn’t accept it and called it bogus,” said Faizal in a press conference in Jaipur on Monday.
“The police repeatedly told me that I have come from West Bengal to incite riots and kept on torturing me,” he added.
On December 22, an FIR was registered against Faizal (named as lawyer in the FIR), Shadab, Ahmad and 700 unknown person under Sections 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 153A (promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.
The FIR stated that the accused were organising an anti-CAA protest in breach of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) implemented in the area.
“Faizal along with three other men was involved in inciting violence and distributing objectionable pamphlets. We have also recovered data from his phone as proof that he is a Popular Front of India (PFI) member,” Dharmendra Yadav, a police officer at Shamli police station had told The Wire.
Social activists in Jaipur claimed that the UP police is after National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) because it is linked to the PFI, a Muslim organisation that is seen as radical. Its cadres present mostly across Kerala and Karnataka.
Some NCHRO members are associated with PFI. Faizal, an NCHRO member in Rajasthan, had gone to UP on NCHRO’s request to offer legal aid to protestors arrested there.
Faizal’s family had earlier denied any links to PFI.
Faizal received bail on January 2 and was released on January 7. He said that the local newspapers in UP have declared him as the “mastermind” behind the anti-CAA protests in UP.
Condemning Faizal’s unlawful arrest, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) president Kavita Srivastava said the UP police is trying to kill free speech and is threatening citizens’ right to organise.
“First, they isolated Muslims and now they don’t even want them to come out in protest. The protesters were already detained and then the UP police took away their right of defence too. They took away the right to defend as well as defence,” she said.
“We will take his petition to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and demand that CAA/NRC be taken back,” she added.
At the press conference, Chaitanya Khandelwal, a research scholar from Ambedkar University, said, “It is wrongly being portrayed by some media organisations that the anti-CAA protests are led by Muslims only. In reality, people from all the religions are participating in the protest. This law is not just against Muslims, its against the idea of India. It encourages that people can be divided over religion.”
A member of the Bar Council of Rajasthan said that the FIR against Faizal was sketchy and the police had recovered only a pamphlet from Faizal which criticised the Supreme Court decision in the Babri Masjid case.