Members of Indian diaspora and citizens demand unconditional withdrawal of all charges against 18 activists in India
Members of the global Indian diaspora and citizens in many countries have voiced concern over the alleged persecution of 18 students and activists under an anti-terror law for challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) and sought immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all charges against them.
In a statement coinciding with the Republic Day, the wide-ranging global actors said they ''believe the ‘Delhi 18’ are being targeted as reprisal for their democratic dissent against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.'' It further said that their demand is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all charges, including Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), against the Delhi 18 - a reference to 18 students and activists.
The Delhi 18 include Sharjeel Imam, Ishrat Jahan, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain, Saleem Malik, Mohd. Saleem Khan, Meeran Haider, Shadab Ahmed, Gulfisha Fatima, Tasleem Ahmed, Shifa Ur Rehman, Athar Khan, Umar Khalid, Safoora Zargar, Md. Faizan Khan, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita. Of the 18, 13 – all Muslims – have been in jail for over a year as of January 2022.
''Today on India's republic day I with politicians and those concerned with human rights around the globe are raising my voice against the persecution of 18 brave students, activists who are being falsely branded as ‘terrorists’ by the Indian state,” said David Shoebridge, a member of the Australian Parliament.
Representatives of diaspora groups South Africa, Australia, Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands and New Zealand also denounced what they called “unjust prosecution of the Delhi 18.” According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 following religious persecution there will get Indian citizenship.
The Indian government has been emphasising that the new law will not deny any citizenship rights, but has been brought to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries and give them citizenship.
The organisations which signed the statement included Hindus for Human Rights, USA; International Council of Indian Muslims, Worldwide; International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India, Worldwide; People Against Apartheid and Fascism, South Africa; the Humanism Project, Australia; Dalit Solidarity Forum, USA; Chicago Coalition for human rights in India, USA and Scottish Indians for Justice, Scotland among others.
Another joint statement released by the Front Line Defenders, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, FIDH, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), urged authorities in India to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders arrested for protesting against the CAA, dismiss all charges, and cease all forms of harassment against them.
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