Monday, September 8, 2014

Solidarity Statement: Demanding Immediate Release of Salman

On August 20th night 12 pm Salman a student and social activist from Trivandrum was picked up by the police from his home in Peroorkada. The immediate accusation against him was that he had insulted the national anthem while it was being played in a theatre, where he had gone to watch a movie. Later his comments on Facebook where he questions nationalism as a philosophical and political concept were also pointed out as a reason for his arrest. It is also being reported that there was a deliberate attempt to frame him by some right-wing hindutva groups and that they are the ones who are behind his arrest.

There is a clear lack of clarity regarding his arrest and the way it was conducted, late in the midnight hours of August 20th. It is clear, though, that none of the customary norms were followed during his arrest. Even after it was said that Salman was taken to the Thampanoor station, the police themselves later denied this. For a whole night and the next day even Salman’s parents had no access to him. In fact, Salman was taken from prison to prison like it is usually done with so called ‘notorious terrorists’ and the police refused to give out any information about him both to his parents and to the lawyers who had contacted them. It was only on August 21st evening that it was made known that there was an FIR recorded against him and that a case was registered under IPC act 124 A and 66 A charging him of sedition and of sending offensive messages through communicative service. Though there were many other students with him it is surprising that it was only Salman who was picked out and arrested.
The media too automatically reiterated the police version in their reports, without attempting to investigate into the case, in spite of the fact that police injustice towards Muslim youth is growing day by day. Further, we want to bring attention to the fact that vigilante right-wing hindutva groups are at present conducting an extremely abusive hate campaign against Salman on Facebook. The abusive comments on his Facebook wall have become so vicious that some even threaten to rape the women who are in support of him.
We strongly condemn the arrest and inhumane treatment of Salman Zalman at the hands of the Kerala police and call for his immediate release. We consider the charging of IPC 124 A (sedition) on him as a gross over stretching of  the sedition act to encroach into the rights of a citizen to criticize the nation.We also condemn the abusive campaign that is being conducted on Facebook against him and the discriminatory nature of the media reporting, which is aiding such human right abuses.
It must also be noted that whatever the nature of the crime, the withdrawal of constitutionally established human rights is extremely problematic and illegal. We would surely connect the arrest and incarceration of Salman to the way in which Muslim youth in Kerala and elsewhere are being constantly oppressed by the criminal justice system (please remember the case of Muhsin, another trivandramite youth fabricated in a “letter bomb” case from which he was acquitted only after seven years). To avoid such illegal incarceration and delayed justice we demand that he should be allowed to use his fair legal rights as promised by the constitution.
His arrest is all the more troublesome because he was a student who has been a part of many human rights campaigns in the past and was even an artist in the play that was held in protest against UAPA in front of the Secretariat on August 14th. His clandestine arrest and subsequent secret incarceration and denial of legal access for a whole day and night reeks of police impunity, which selectively target the youth who question state ideology. We must remember that, at this moment, it has become a norm to first arrest, torture and incarcerate Muslims before allowing them to seek any kind of justice. This is sheer discrimination and we urge everyone to come together to condemn the arrest of Salman and to demand his immediate release.
Endorsed by: (click link for list of signatories)