Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi
Prime Minister of India
Dear Prime Minister,
I am William Nicholas Gomes, a human rights activist and freelance journalist.
I have been informed by the Observatory has been informed about the ongoing arbitrary detention and criminalisation of Afreen Fatima’s father, Mr. Javed Mohammad, amid acts of repression against the Muslim minority in Uttar Pradesh State. Afreen Fatima is a woman human rights defender and a Muslim activist who has been vocal against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) passed in 2019. She is the former president of the students’ union of Women’s College at the Aligarh Muslim University, and former councilor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union.
On June 21, 2022, Mr Javed Mohammad’s wife, Ms Parveen Fatima, went to visit him at the Naini Central Jail in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh State. Upon her arrival, she was told that Mr Javed Mohammad was not in that jail anymore but was not provided further information. Later on the same day, she and Mr Javed Mohammad’s lawyers learned from media sources that he had been transferred from Prayagraj’s Naini Central Jail to Deoria District Jail, which is 270 kilometres away from Prayagraj. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, neither Mr Javed Mohammad’s lawyers nor his family members had received official confirmation about his place of detention nor the reason for his apparent transfer. Moreover, should the family of Mr Javed Mohammad be allowed to visit him, they will face significant challenges given the time and economic resources needed to travel from the city of Prayagraj to the Deoria District Jail.
I recall that on June 10, 2022, members of Muslim communities across India protested against anti-Islamic public statements made days earlier by two senior members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). According to Uttar Pradesh officials, the separation of more than 300 individuals, who were arrested in the aftermath of the June 10 protests, across several jails in Uttar Pradesh State is a deliberate measure adopted to avoid riots in prison.
On the same day, police officers went to Afreen Fatima’s house and arbitrarily detained her father, Mr Javed Mohammad. The officers did not present an arrest warrant and refused to inform Javed Mohammad and his relatives about the place he was being taken to. It was only on the following morning his relatives learned he was being held at the Crime Branch.
On June 11, 2022, another group of police officers went to Afreen Fatima’s house and arbitrarily detained her mother and younger sister, Mses. Parveen Fatima and Sumaiya Fatima. They were released without charges on June 12, 2022, on the condition that they would not return to their own house. At around midday, two bulldozers reached Afreen Fatima’s house under heavy police presence and demolished it. The family was not allowed to take their personal belongings before the house was bulldozed. On the same day of the demolition, the Prayagraj Senior Superintendent of Police stated in a media interview that Javed Mohammad had been arrested and claimed that Afreen Fatima was involved in “notorious activities” and that the “father duo propagate[d] propaganda”.
I express utmost concern over the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr Javed Mohammad and I urge authorities to grant him immediate access to his family and lawyers and to immediately and unconditionally release him. Moreover, I underline that his transfer to a prison placed 270 km away from his house is inconsistent with Rule 58 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. I urge the competent authorities to take all necessary measures needed to ensure that Mr Javed Mohammad can receive visits from his family.
Furthermore, I urge authorities to end all and any acts of harassment and reprisals against Afreen Fatima and her family and to provide them with adequate housing and comprehensive reparation for the illegal demolition of their house.
I express my concern over Mr Javed Mohammad’s safety and health and stress that his arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention are apparent reprisals against his daughter Afreen Fatima for her legitimate human rights work and advocacy. I recall that the above-mentioned human rights violations and acts of reprisals against Afreen Fatima and her family take place in the context of an ongoing crackdown against the Muslim minority and those who defend their rights in Uttar Pradesh State.
i. Immediately and unconditionally release Javed Mohammad and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Afreen Fatima, her relatives, as well as all other 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. Provide Javed Mohammad unhindered access to his lawyers and family, and comply with Rule 58 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners;
iv. Immediately provide Afreen Fatima and her family members with adequate housing and comprehensive reparation for the illegal demolition of their house;
v. Carry out 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 sanction them as provided by the law.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human rights activist and freelance journalist
York, United Kingdom