Recently, the United Nations experts urged India to immediately release human rights defenders who have been arrested for protesting against the CAA. It also includes the people held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence. A lot of them are facing charges only because of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the new citizenship law, it added.
In UNHRC’s statement, the experts said that the arrested defenders, many of the students, are in jails simply because they exercised their right to protest against the Act. Their detention seems clearly plotted to send a chilling message to others who want to take a similar step. It gives a message that the administration will not tolerate criticism of government policies.
Many cases against 11 people such as Safoora Zargar, Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi and Natasha Narwal, among others, involve serious non-compliance of human rights. A number of these relate to due process failings during their arrest and detention. There were also allegations of torture and mistreatment.
The Case Of Safoora Zargar
One of the most bizarre cases refers to pregnant Delhi student Zargar, detained for over two months. Claims of keeping her in conditions equating to solitary confinement, denying contact with her family and legal representative have surfaced. Also, they did not provide her with adequate medical care or diet. The Delhi High Court granted Zafar bail on 23 June, while six months pregnant, on humanitarian grounds.
Response By The Authorities
The experts further raised concerns about the government invoking counter-terrorism or national security legislation. Also, using procedural police powers, to deny bail to people who protest and issue charges that carry heavy sentences.
The UN experts also asserted that the Indian authorities’ response to the protests seemed discriminatory. In reference to Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra, they said that it “appears they [the authorities] have not similarly investigated allegations of incitement to hatred and violence made by CAA supporters, some of whom are reported to have chanted ‘shoot the traitors’ at counter-rallies.”