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CAA protest: Emergency days were better, says septuagenarian lawyer out of Lucknow jail after a month

Septuagenarian advocate and activist Mohammad Shoaib was released on Sunday, January 18, 2020, after spending almost a month in jail in connection with the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Septuagenarian advocate and activist Mohammad Shoaib was released on Sunday, January 18, 2020, after spending almost a month in jail in connection with the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

‘We were locked up with criminals and they tried to harass us in as many ways as they could,’ says activist Mohammad Shoaib

The situation during the Emergency in 1975 was “better” than it is today, claimed septuagenarian advocate and activist Mohammad Shoaib on Sunday after spending almost a month in jail in connection with the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

After stepping out of the Lucknow district jail, on bail, Mr. Shoaib, who also spent time in jail during the Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was part of the Socialist Party, said the situation today seemed worse for dissenters.

“The situation during the Emergency was better than this. That Emergency was declared but the situation was not as bad. Back then, when we were taken to jail, we were all kept together and provided B-class facilities,” Mr. Shoaib said. “But here we were locked up with criminals and they tried to harass us in as many ways as they could.”

He alleged that during interrogation, a police officer abused him and when he asked him to stop, threatened him that his family “would rot in jail for life.” “Dozagh bana dunga (will make it hell for your family), [he said],” Mr. Shoaib said.

‘Anti-people policies’

While accusing the U.P. police of oppressing the Rihai Manch, an outfit headed by him that provides legal help to victims of hate crimes and those implicated in “false” terror cases, the lawyer said, “We will continue to speak against the oppressive and anti-people policies of the government.”

Mr. Shoaib was granted bail by a Lucknow court last week in connection with the violence in the State capital during the anti-CAA protests on December 19. He was among the more than 1,240 persons arrested by police over the violent protests in Uttar Pradesh.

On police radar many times in the past for his activism, in 2008, he was also brutally assaulted by fellow lawyers in Lucknow and Faizabad, in the court compound as they did not want him appearing for terror accused persons. Over the years, Mr. Shoaib is credited with getting around a dozen persons acquitted of terror cases.

Soon after his release, Mr. Shoaib said his priority would be the release of other protesters still in jail. “We will get them out and then carry forward this movement. This movement won’t stop,” he said.

He urged the Opposition parties to “break their silence” on the issue and stand with the people.

According to the FIR lodged at Hazratganj police station on December 19, Mr. Shoaib faces several serious charges such as rioting, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy, even though his name does not feature in it.

The police, however, had alleged that Rihai Manch instigated the violence and named it in the FIR along with the Popular Front of India, the AISA and the BAMCEF, among others, as conspirators.

In its submission before the Allahabad High Court, which was hearing a habeas corpus writ filed on behalf of Mr. Shoaib, the additional government advocate recently quoted police records to say that he was arrested at 8.45 a.m. on December 20 from the Hotel Clarks Avadh intersection, a couple of km away from the advocate’s residence.

The contention was rubbished by the lawyer’s family. His wife Malka Bi alleged foul play in the police version as her husband did not even attend the protest and was under house arrest.

“When a person was at home, how can he be part of a riot? Police said they found him near Clarks Avadh. If he is in police custody how can he reach Clarks Avadh,” she asked recently while talking to The Hindu.

Teacher and activist Robin Verma, who works with Mr. Shoaib, was released from jail on bail recently.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 5:30:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/caa-protest-emergency-days-were-better-says-septuagenarian-lawyer-out-of-lucknow-jail-after-a-month/article30599235.ece

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