TDN World Desk: A group of United Nations experts on Friday has asked India to “immediately” release people who were arrested for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA-2019).
The UN experts said, “These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA [the Citizenship (Amendment) Act], and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated,”
The experts cited the arrest of Jamia Millia Islamia student Safoora Zargar as being one of the “most alarming cases”.
The experts also commented, “Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA.”
The UN experts said the authorities did not investigate the allegations of hate speech and violence by supporters of the CAA, “some of whom are reported to have chanted ‘shoot the traitors’ at counter-rallies”.

“Although demonstrations ended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and India’s Supreme Court issued a recent order to de-congest jails because of health concerns related to the pandemic, protest leaders continue to be detained. The reported spread of the virus in Indian prisons makes their immediate release all the more urgent,” the experts said.
The experts statement said they are in contact with government of India on the matter.
Referring to the detention of 11 individual cases of Meeran Haider, Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, 
Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Khalid Saifi,Shifa Ur Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Sharjeel Imam and Akhil Gogoi.
The experts statement said, “These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated.”
The United Nations experts also highlighted that state response to the protests seemed “discriminatory” and that “allegations of incitement to hatred and violence made by CAA supporters” had not been “similarly investigated”.
In a statement published by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, they said that these defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested “simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA”.