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Protests across India seek release of Gulfisha, others arrested under 'draconian' UAPA

By Our Representative

In a major show of strength across India, feminists, people's movements, students, trade unionists, farm workers, fisher people, members of Adivasi, Dalit and Muslim communities, civil liberty activists, journalists, and academics joined events across India, expressed their solidarity with Gulfisha Fatima, arrested on April 9, 2020.
Accused in four FIRs, and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prohibition Act (UAPA) and various serious sections of the IPC such as 302, 307, Arms Act etc., Gulfisha has secured bail in all other cases, but she continues to remain in jail in FIR 59/20 which invokes the UAPA. An Urdu masters student of Delhi University, an MBA graduate, and a radio jockey, Gulfisha, who belongs to Seelampur area of North East Delhi, was a part of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act-National Population Register-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NPR-NRC) movement.
Numerous cities and towns across the country were part of this solidarity actions which were held at Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Araria, Patna, Lucknow, Faizabad, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Badwani, Baroda, Jaipur, Pune, Bhopal, Bhilai, Kolkata, Sitapur etc.
It was pointed out, Gulfisha's imprisonment is a part of a "frightening pattern" of repression of all democratic and dissenting voices by the current government. In the same case as hers many like Ishrat Jahan, Tasleem Ahmad, Meeran Haider, Shadab Ahmed, Athar Khan, Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Salim Mallick, Salim Khan, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain and Shifa-ul-Rahman continue to languish in jail.
While many cities held public actions like street protests, press interactions, public meetings, candle light vigils, community gatherings and rallies, solidarity from other places was expressed through online modes of protest, art, twitter engagement, release of posters and statements.
At a press conference held in Delhi, speakers, including activist Uma Chakravarti, poet Nabiya Khan, student leader Apeksha Priyadarshini, Kavita Krishnan and journalist Arfa Khanum took the opportunity to not only speak about her but all the other "falsely accused" imprisoned persons as well. Because there can’t be justice for one, there has to be justice for all.
Nabiya Khan said, "It's not a free country for minorities, Muslims, and women. Gulfisha's imprisonment is an organised attack on Muslims and women. State wants to keep Muslim women in check, Muslim women need saving that is the state narrative, Shaheen Bagh has strongly upturned that narrative. Protests against CAA-NPR-NCR were not just a fight against some laws, but to create equal citizenship for Muslims, for Muslim women. Justice will be done when the real perpetrators of Delhi pogrom are sent to jail."
Apeksha Priyadarshini asked, "Recently a UAPA accused got bail after two years, who will be responsible for those years? Who will take responsibility for Gul's 18 months?" She said, "Our faith in the state and even the judiciary has been weakened. The whole role of the Delhi Police remains uninvestigated. Those arrested under UAPA are overwhelmingly Muslim, Dalit or Adivasi. If we want real democracy, then the fight for equal citizenship cannot be criminalised. Constitutional morality needs to be cultivated."
Kavita Krishnan spoke about how the Delhi High Court judgement asked pertinent questions like why put UAPA and other terror charges on protests? Citing additional sessions Judge Vinod Yadav who gave "honest verdicts" in almost 12 cases, she mentioned how he emphasised on the accountability of the police. As a result, he has now been transferred. People who fight for democratic rights are inside prison, those who threaten and kill openly are roaming free outside.
Arfa Khanum said, "I have come here today for Gul because Gul fought for me. I was a witness to the Delhi violence, I am not an activist but a active journalist, who hears the 'zameer ki awaaz', I want to share my experiences of the anti-CAA-NRC movement, why Gulfisha is so important for us, why is she so threatening for the the state?"
She added, "Without freedom of expression democracy dies. Today when we gather here, we gather to continue this struggle for democracy. When the state dehumanises them by sending them to jail, our responsibility is to humanise them. She is paying the cost by her freedom being snatched away, while she is in the process protecting our freedom, our democracy. We are all indebted to Gulfisha."
Nargis Saifi spoke about how how her husband Khalid Saifi was brutally tortured in custody, his limbs and legs were broken
Speaking on the occasion, Nargis Saifi spoke about how how her husband Khalid Saifi was brutally tortured in custody, his limbs and legs were broken, he had to be brought in on a wheelchair. He was the first to be arrested; and when he was almost about to get bail in that case, he was rearrested in FIR 59/20.
She said, "The only crime of my husband is that he stood for the rights of the oppressed. My husband introduced me to these struggles, I would participate and meet people, and that has given me courage to continue this struggle outside."
Wondered Nargis Saifi, "What is the crime of our children who have been waiting for their father for 20 months? I think that today our children are going through this but maybe if Khalid would not have fought, this would be the fate of many others. If Khalid would not have stood with others, maybe today nobody would stand for Khalid."
Gulfisha’s father spoke about how the shock and trauma of her imprisonment has affected him mentally, emotionally and physically, that he feels he won't live long, unless they release Gul, perhaps then this pain and strain will go away.
Noor Jahan, mother of Athar Khan, also arrested like Gul, said, "The movement came to a halt because of the pandemic; but once it ends, I will resume this political struggle. There are so many people that we didn’t know like Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi and others, but today we all stand in solidarity with each other. This is very important."
The organisers, which included several women's organisations and civil liberty groups, demanded Immediate release of Gulfisha Fatima and others, repeal of CAA-NRC-NPR, UAPA and other "draconian" sedition laws, and investigation of the "real perpetrators" who orchestrated the Delhi Riots 2020.

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