On International Day of Democracy, we ask ourselves, is India truly in a position to celebrate the day? In this series, we take a look at some of the political prisoners who have been unlawfully imprisoned for raising their voice against the state and demanding an explanation.
1. Devangana Kalita & Natasha Narwal
Kalita and Narwal are founding members of a women student collective called Pinjratod. Pinjratod remained at the forefront of peaceful protests that were held across the nation against the removal of legal and social safeguards for Muslims. The Delhi Police accused them of 33 offences, and they are still in prison.
2. Professor Hany Babu
Hany Babu, a professor of language and linguistics in Delhi University, was arrested on July 28 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case and has been in jail since then. He reports being harassed by the police as they raided his residence and seized several books and electronics.
3. Gulfisha Fatima
Gulfisha, an MBA graduate, was arrested on April 9th and booked under four First Information Reports (FIRs) for charges of terrorism and murder. She, along with Safoora Zargar and many others, was booked under India’s draconian anti-terror law for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (now an Act).
4. Anand Teltumbde
Anand Teltumbde, an eminent Dalit scholar and academician remains in jail for his reported links with the Bhima Koregaon violence. Like many Dalit scholars, he represents a collective of intellectuals who have advocated for the annihilation of caste through Babasaheb’s vision of anti-caste socialism.
5. Meeran Haidar
Meeran Haider is a human rights defender and a Ph.D. student at Jamia Millia Islamia University. He was also a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee, organizing the anti-CAA protests across Delhi. The police have failed to show any nexus between his speech and the riots that broke out.
6. Akhil Gogoi
Akhil Gogoi, a peasant leader from Assam was jailed in December 2019 when anti-CAB protests broke out. He has been charged under the UAPA with allegations of criminal conspiracy, sedition, and making assertions prejudicial to national‐integration in his speech. Gogoi reportedly informed journalists that he is being subjected to “prochondo atyachar” (extreme torture).
7. Umar Khalid
Umar Khalid, former JNU student, and activist has been arrested under the UAPA by the Delhi Police after 11 hours of interrogation for his alleged role in the North East Delhi riots. Academicians and human rights activists have condemned Khalid’s arrest and called this witch hunt on him a “brazen attempt to try to suppress his voice of dissent” under the garb of a health emergency.