The recent series of detentions and arrests of Muslim youths and clerics from across the country for being “IS sympathisers” is an “organised conspiracy to malign Muslims, suspect their patriotism and derive political benefits by creating hatred between Hindus and Muslims,” feel Muslim leaders. On Monday, they demanded that the “random and arbitrary” arrests must be stopped immediately.
It has already been proved, they argued, that charges against most people tried under draconian laws such as UAPA, MCOCA and TADA to counter so-called terrorism were bogus. “The conviction rate under TADA was just one percent. In 2014, only 18 out of 141 people apprehended under UAPA could be chargesheeted while 123 people were found innocent. It means charges could be proved only against 12% of the accused,” said Naved Hamid, president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM).
He added that while there were arrests of “innocent” Muslim youth on one hand, on the other there were efforts to release those associated with the Hindutva terror network. “This proves that the government is implementing its communal agenda and its slogan ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ is hollow,” he said.
The community leaders said that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh had last year categorically refuted the possibility of Islamic State making inroads in India and claimed it had failed to attract Muslim youth. “But just before this Republic Day, security agencies began arresting Muslims across the country on suspicion of having links with IS and Al-Qaeda. This gave an impression that Muslim youths are not only in contact with IS but are also actively engaged in preparation for terror attacks in the entire country and that they are busy recruiting for the group and and radicalising others. It appears to be an attempt to create a climate of fear and anxiety within the Muslim community. Therefore, the agencies must stop arbitrary arrests immediately,” said Muhammad Salim Engineer, secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH).
He demanded that the police officers who detain innocent youth “deliberately” must be awarded stringent punishment if the accused are acquitted later. The youth must be released within six months if the agencies are unable to prove any allegations against them. He also voiced his apprehension over the central government ‘considering lifting MCOCA’ in the cases of the Hindutva terror accused.
SQR Ilyas of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Welfare Party of India (WPI) described the nationwide crackdown as an attempt to “demoralise and demonise” the community and its youth. At a counter-terror conference held in March 2015, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said that there was no IS presence in India. “How come most educated Muslim men are suspects within one year?” he asked.
The leaders said these youths “will also be acquitted of terror charges in the same manner as those innocent Muslim youths arrested in similar cases in the past. But by the time they get justice, their precious years would be lost and they would face difficulties in restarting their social life”. Therefore, they demanded that the government and its security agencies must withdraw cases and release those against whom no substantial proof was found.
They also demanded that a core group comprising human rights organisations working in terror cases, civil society groups and community organizations should be formed. “Every such case should be referred to the panel. This core group would work as a watchdog. Only this will help establish mutual harmony, contact and cooperation between the police and the public and shut the door of misunderstandings,” they said in a charter of seven demands.