The groups reiterated the demand for the release of Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Sharjeel Imam and hundreds of other incarcerated activists in India.
WASHINGTON, DC – Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group committed to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), an advocate for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, rooted in the values of the Hindu faith, have welcomed the release of renowned Indian human rights defender and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj on December 9 after being incarcerated for more than three years without trial.
Ms Bharadwaj’s release from prison rekindles the ever waning hope in the Indian judiciary’s ability to withstand fascist pressures from the Indian government that has, in recent years, falsely accused and jailed tens of thousands of human rights defenders, students, farmers, lawyers, and journalists, many of whom come from religious minority and caste-oppressed communities such as Muslims, Christians and Dalits, the groups said in a statement.
“The release of Sudha Bharadwaj proves that the charges against her and thousands of others are false and entirely political,” Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director, IAMC, said. Added Sunita Viswanath, Executive Director, HfHR: “It is time that the Indian courts acknowledge the enormity of the crimes against India’s Constitution being committed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government by targeting these communities.”
IAMC and HfHR demanded that the Indian courts should also rule immediately to also release several Muslim political prisoners who have been incarcerated under draconian laws, including Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Ishrat Jahan, Siddique Kappan, and countless others. On November 17, IAMC, HfHR, and 16 other human rights organizations held a Congressional Briefing with family members of political prisoners.
“It is abundantly clear that India’s Hindu extremist government, in collusion with state and local police departments, has falsely implicated Muslims in various cases of terrorism, sedition, and unlawful criminal activity,” Mr Ahmed added. “The slow pace of the cases against them keeps them in prison for years, denying them justice and destroying their lives.”
The arrest of Ms. Bharadwaj was condemned widely internationally, including by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor. Ms Bharadwaj is accused in what has come to be known as the “Bhima-Koregaon” case, named after the township where nearly four years ago Hindu extremists had attacked a gathering of the Dalit community for an annual celebration.
In addition to Ms Bharadwaj, 15 other people, including leading public intellectuals, poets and authors, have been accused and incarcerated in this case. One of these activists, Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, 84, who was a decades-long champion of civil rights and liberties for India’s Adivasi (Indigenous) communities, was denied adequate medical provisions and died while under state custody. In a series of news reports published this year, the Washington Post has exposed that malware had been used to insert fake evidence in the laptop of one of the accused.