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UN experts urge India to release anti-CAA protesters

Photo used for representational purpose.

Photo used for representational purpose.   | Photo Credit: PTI

‘Their arrest seems a message that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated’

A group of United Nations experts on Friday issued a statement in Geneva, urging India to release the “human rights defenders who have been arrested for protesting against changes to the nation’s citizenship laws”.

“These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA [the Citizenship (Amendment) Act], and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated,” the experts said.

They cited the arrest of Jamia Millia Islamia student Safoora Zargar as being one of the “most alarming cases”. Ms. Zargar, who is six months pregnant, was detained for over two months and allegedly not given adequate medical attention. She was granted bail earlier this week on humanitarian grounds.

“Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA,” they said.

The statement said there were allegations of human rights violations and failure of due process in the cases of many of the 11 individuals named — Meeran Haider, Gulfisha Fatima, Ms. Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Khalid Saifi, Shifa Ur Rehman, Dr. Kafeel Khan, Sharjeel Imam and Akhil Gogoi.

The experts said the authorities did not investigate the allegations of hate speech and violence by supporters of the CAA, “some of whom are reported to have chanted ‘shoot the traitors’ at counter-rallies”.

“Although demonstrations ended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and India’s Supreme Court issued a recent order to de-congest jails because of health concerns related to the pandemic, protest leaders continue to be detained. The reported spread of the virus in Indian prisons makes their immediate release all the more urgent,” the experts said.

The statement said the experts were in contact with the government over the issue. The experts who issued the statement included several special rapporteurs on human rights issues.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 6:07:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/un-experts-urge-india-to-release-anti-caa-protesters/article31935297.ece

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