Arbitrary detention of Afreen Fatima’s family members and demolition of their house
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed of the arbitrary arrest of Afren Fatimaof the father of and the arbitrary detention of his mother and sister, as well as the demolition of their house in the town of Prayagraj, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in the context of acts of repression against the Muslim minority of Uttar Pradesh. On June 10, 2022, members of Muslim communities across India staged protests against public anti-Islamic statements made in early June by two senior officials of the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist political party. in India and the state of Uttar Pradesh. Afreen Fatima is a human rights defender and Muslim activist who spoke out against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed (CAA) in 2019. She is the former President of the Students’ Union at Women’s College of the Aligarh Muslim University, and former student union adviser at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
On June 10, 2022, at around 8:30 p.m., a group of 10 police officers from a Prayagraj police station went to the home of Afreen Fatima, where she lives with her parents and two sisters, and arbitrarily detained her father, Mr. Javed Mohammad. The police did not present an arrest warrant and refused to inform Javed Mohammad and his relatives of where he was being taken. It was only the next morning that his relatives learned that he was being held in the criminal section.
On June 11, 2022, at 12:30 a.m., another group of about ten police officers came to Afreen Fatima’s home and arbitrarily detained her mother and younger sister, Ms. Parveen Fatima and Sumaiya Fatima, respectively, without warrant. They were taken to an undisclosed location and after several hours it was learned that they were being held at the Civil Lines Women’s Police Station.
An hour later, at 1:30 a.m., the police returned to Afreen Fatima’s home and cordoned off the building. Around 3 a.m., a team of police arrived at her home again and attempted to illegally detain her while she was with her sister-in-law. Afreen Fatima resisted the detention attempts, citing the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment Act) 2005, which prohibits the arrest of women after sunset and before sunrise. Following the attempted arrest, Afreen Fatima filed a complaint with the National Women’s Commission.
On the same day, the police hung a notice issued by the Prayagraj Development Authority on the front door of Afreen Fatima’s house. The document warned that the building would be demolished on June 12, 2022, as it was an “illegal structure”. As this action was taken over the weekend and with Afreen Fatima’s mother, father and sister in custody, it prevented them from taking legal action to stop the demolition.
The notice was served in the name of Mr Javed Mohammad, even though he was not the owner of the house, which was registered under his wife’s name. According to the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act 1973, in all cases of illegal construction, demolition is the last resort and provides for measures, such as sealing of unauthorized construction, and appeals by the injured parties. Further, according to Indian criminal jurisprudence, the criminal responsibility rests with the person who commits the crime and no other family member can be punished for the same offence.
On June 12, 2022, in the morning, Ms. Parveen Fatima and Sumaiya Fatima were released without charge and on condition that they not return to their homes. On the same day, around noon, two bulldozers reached Afreen Fatima’s house under heavy police presence and demolished it. The family were not allowed to take their belongings before the house was razed.
On the same day of the demolition, Prayagraj Chief Superintendent of Police said in a media interview that Javed Mohammad had been arrested. Javed Mohammad is accused of being the mastermind of the protests in Prayagraj on June 10, 2022 – and the riots that followed – following public anti-Muslim statements by two BJP members. However, neither he nor Afreen Fatima, his mother or his sister took part in the protests. Furthermore, on June 10, 2022, Javed Mohammad had made a public appeal on social media praying for peace and advocating for dialogues with the government to resolve the issue.
Javed Mohammad was initially arrested under First Information Report (FIR) No. 118 from Khuldabad Police Station in Prayagraj, registered on June 11, 2022, and his name was later added under FIR No. 176 from the station. Kareli police station in Prayagraj, registered on the same day. Both FIRs include sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to “unlawful assembly”, “rioting”, “disturbing community peace and harmony”, “attempted murder”, “deterrence of public officials”, “criminal intimidation and “criminal association”. The FIRs also cite alleged breaches under the provisions of: the Explosive Substances Act 1908; Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015; and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, Javed Mohammad was being held at Naini Central Jail in Prayagraj. He was only allowed to see his lawyers on the evening of June 13, 2022.
In the aforementioned interview, the Chief Superintendent of Police of Prayagraj further claimed that Afreen Fatima was involved in “notorious activities” and that the “father-daughter duo were spreading propaganda” (sic).
The Observatory stresses that the aforementioned human rights violations and acts of reprisal against Afreen Fatima and her family are taking place against the backdrop of continued repression against the Muslim minority and those who defend their rights in Uttar Pradesh. The Observatory expresses concern over allegations that several houses have been bulldozed by the government of Uttar Pradesh in several towns in the state which have witnessed protests and violence.
The Observatory further recalls that on June 10, 2022, following protests against anti-Islamic remarks made by two members of the BJP, the Chief Minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Yogi Adityanath, ordered the police to “take action against the culprits set an example so that no one commits a crime or gets justice in the future”. He further ordered the police to invoke the Criminal Justice Act 1980 National Security and Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities of Uttar Pradesh (Prevention) Act 1986. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, at least 300 people had been arrested in connection with the protests across the country. ‘Uttar Pradesh.
The Observatory notes that Indian authorities in Uttar Pradesh have increasingly abused the provisions of the law to illegally demolish homes and properties of Muslim individuals and families in areas that have witnessed protests. In addition, human rights defenders and activists who speak out against discriminatory policies and laws against Muslims, including the CAA, face criminalization, arbitrary detention and stigmatization.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary demolition of Afreen Fatima’s house, as well as the arbitrary detention of her mother and sister and the ongoing arbitrary detention and criminalization of her father, Javed Mohammad. The Observatory urges the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally and to end all acts of harassment against Afreen Fatima and his family, and to provide them with adequate housing and full reparation for the illegal demolition of their home.
Please write to the Indian authorities urging them to:
I. Immediately and unconditionally release Javed Mohammad and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Afreen Fatima, his relatives, as well as all human rights defenders in India;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Javed Mohammad, Afreen Fatima and their relatives;
iii. Immediately provide Afreen Fatima and her family members with adequate housing and full reparation for the illegal demolition of their home;
iv. Conduct an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the demolition of Afreen Fatima’s house in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal and punish them in accordance with the law.
• Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Email: [email protected], Twitter: @narendramodi
• Mr. Amit Shah, Home Minister of the Union of India, Email: [email protected]
• Mr. Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: [email protected]
• Mr. NV Ramana, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court of India, e-mail: [email protected]
• Honorable Mr. Justice Rajesh Bindal, Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Email: [email protected]
• Mr. Shri Devendra Kumar Singh, IAS, Secretary General Director General
of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: [email protected], Twitter: @India_NHRC
• Mr. Indrajeet Kumar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: [email protected]
• HE Mr. Indra Mani Pandey, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: [email protected]
Please also write to Indian diplomatic representations in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, June 15, 2022
Please let us know of any action taken by quoting the code for this appeal in your response.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union mechanism for human rights defenders set up by international civil society.
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