Feminists, jan sangathans, mass organizations, collectives, students, trade unionists, farm workers, fisher people, members of Adivasi, Dalit and Muslim communities, displaced persons, civil liberties activists, journalists, academics, youth, as well persons facing political persecution joined the events held across States and expressed their solidarity with Gulfisha Fatima. Numerous cities and towns across the country were part of this solidarity action, held at Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Araria, Patna, Lucknow, Faizabad, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Badwani, Baroda, Jaipur, Pune, Bhopal, Bhilai, Kolkata, Sitapur etc.
Gulfisha was arrested on 9th April ’20. Currently, she stands accused in four FIRs, charged under the anti-terror law UAPA and various serious sections of the IPC such as 302, 307, Arms Act etc. Gulfisha has secured bail in all other cases, but she continues to remain in jail in FIR 59/20 which invokes the UAPA – a law infamous for subverting the most basic constitutional and legal rights.
Gulfisha’s imprisonment is not an exception, it is a part of a frightening pattern of repression of all democratic and dissenting voices by the current government. In the same case as hers many like Ishrat Jahan, Tasleem Ahmad, Meeran Haider, Shadab Ahmed, Athar Khan, Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Salim Mallick, Salim Khan, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain and Shifa-ul-Rahman continue to languish in jail.
Several events simultaneously took place across the country, be it a discussion in the park about the imprisonment of all the accused persons in the Delhi riots case, to songs of protest and revolution being sung in solidarity with them. There were vibrant protest marches, where groups of people peacefully took to the streets shouting slogans in solidarity with our comrades. While many cities held public actions like street protests, press interactions, public meetings, candle light vigils, community gatherings and rallies, solidarity from other places was also expressed through online modes of protest, art, twitter engagement, release of posters and statements. We hope the songs of resistance, the slogans of revolution reach Gulfisha and everyone else through the prison walls, and they will, after all the state can imprison people but not their spirit, and not our feelings of solidarity. Hum ladenge saathi udaas mausam ke khilaf.
In the press conference that was held in Delhi, the speakers took this opportunity to not only speak about her but all the other falsely accused imprisoned persons as well. Because there can’t be justice for one, there has to be justice for all.
The session was moderated by Uma Chakravarti, the speakers included:
Nabiya Khan – an activist and poet
Apeksha Priyadarshini – a student activist from BASO
Kavita Krishnan – activist
Nargis Saifi – wife of Khalid Saifi
Arfa Khanum – journalist
Addressing the press conference, Nabiya Khan said, ‘Lets address the title of the event, It’s not a free country for minorities, Muslims, and women. Her imprisonment is an organised attack on Muslims and women. State wants to keep Muslim women in check, Muslim women need saving that is the state narrative, Shaheen Bagh has strongly upturned that narrative. Caa-Npr-Nrc was not just a fight against a law, but to create an equal citizen for Muslims, for Muslim women. Justice is not when anti caa protestors come out, Justice will be when the real perpetrators of Delhi Pogrom are sent to jail’.
The next speaker, Apeksha Priyadarshini of BASO asked, ‘Recently a UAPA accused got bail after 12 yrs, who will be responsible for those two years? Who will take responsibility for Gul’s 18 months?’ She said, ‘our faith in the state and even the judiciary has been weakened. The whole role of the Delhi Police still remains uninvestigated. Those arrested under UAPA are overwhelmingly Muslim, Dalit or Adivasi. If we want real democracy, then the fight for equal citizenship cannot be criminalised. Constitutional morality needs to be cultivated’.
Kavita Krishnan spoke about how the Delhi HC judgement clearly asks pertinent questions like why put UAPA and other terror charges on protests? Citing the additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav who gave honest verdicts in almost 12 cases, she mentioned how he emphasised on the accountability of the police. As a result, he has now been transferred. People who fight for democratic rights are inside prison, those who threaten and kill openly are roaming free outside. But it hasn’t scared us. The struggle that their families are going through and the struggle that they are going through inside is intense but they haven’t given up.
Nargis Saifi spoke about how Khalid saifi was brutally tortured in custody, his limbs and legs were broken, he had to be brought in on a wheelchair. He was the first to be arrested; and when he was almost about to get bail in that case, he was rearrested in FIR 59/20. She said, ‘The only crime of my husband is that he stood for the rights of the oppressed. My husband introduced me to these struggles, I would participate and meet people, and that has given me courage to continue this struggle outside. Khalid saifi’s struggle, the struggle of Gulfisha and all young people gives me hope, gives me strength, to endure incarceration under such harsh circumstances. Those who tried to stop the riots are the ones framed for the riots, his last post on FB was about arranging ambulances for those hurt in the riots.
What is the crime of our children who have been waiting for their father for 20 months? I think that today our children are going through this but maybe if Khalid would not have fought, this would be the fate of many others. If Khalid would not have stood with others, maybe today nobody would stand for Khalid. We have to stand up for one another, we have to raise our voices for everyone, we must stop this repression, we should demand that UAPA is repealed and no-one has to face what my husband and our family is facing.
Arfa Khanum said, ‘I have come here today for Gul because Gul fought for me. I was a witness to the Delhi violence, I am not an activist but a active journalist, who hears the jameer ki awaaz, I want to share my experiences of the caa nrc movement, why gulfisha is so important for us, why is gulfisha so threatening for the the state? Without freedom of expression dies, democracy dies. Today when we gather here, we gather to continue this struggle for democracy. When the state dehumanises them by sending them to jail, our responsibility is to humanise them.. She is paying the cost by her freedom being snatched away, while she is in the process protecting our freedom, our democracy. We are all indebted to Gulfisha.
Gul’s father spoke about how the shock and trauma of her imprisonment has affected him mentally, emotionally and physically, that he feels he won’t live long, unless they release Gul, perhaps then this pain and strain will go away. He really hopes that the day will come soon.
Noor Jahan, Athar Khan’s mother, said, ‘The movement came to a halt because of the pandemic; but once it ends, I will resume this political struggle. There are so many people that we didn’t know like Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi and others, but today we all stand in solidarity with each other. This is very important. She stands with her son, and everyone else, who was a part of the anti-caa movement. That when her son, and all the other children are released from the jail, we should continue to stand by their side and support them.
Together we reaffirmed that we will continue to resist the fascist islamophobic and castiest forces to preserve the democratic spirit of our constitution. Our demands are:
1. Immediate Release of Gulfisha Fatima, Ishrat Jahan, Tasleem Ahmad, Meeran Haider, Shadab Ahmed, Athar Khan, Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Salim Mallick, Salim Khan, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain and Shifa-ul-Rahman.
2. Repeal of CAA-NRC-NPR, UAPA and the other draconian sedition laws.
3. Investigate the real perpetrators who orchestrated the Delhi Riots 2020.
Organisers: AIPWA, SAHELI, NFIW, Satark Nagrik Sangathan, AIDWA, Bebaak Collective, Parcham Collective (Bombay), PUCL (Rajasthan), Forum Against Oppression of Women, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, Habitat And Livelihood Welfare Association, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan(Mumbai), JJSS (Araria, Bihar), Justice Coalitions of Religious(West India), Women and Transgender Organisations (WT-JAC), National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and Narmada Bachao Andolan.