New Delhi, India – A Muslim activist, Javed Mohammad, has reached the one-year mark in jail without a trial after being accused of orchestrating protests against derogatory remarks made by members of India’s ruling party about the Prophet Muhammad.
Javed Mohammad has been in custody since June 11 last year. Although he has been granted bail in six out of the eight cases against him, he remains imprisoned in the Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh state, approximately 260km (160 miles) northeast of his hometown, Prayagraj. His home in Prayagraj was demolished by authorities following nationwide demonstrations.
On June 10 last year, protests erupted in response to derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad made by at least two prominent members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including its national spokeswoman.
Mohammad, a community leader in Prayagraj, was arrested after being labeled the “mastermind” of the protests. The following day, his two-story house was demolished by authorities, deeming it an “illegal structure.”
Despite being granted bail in the majority of the cases against him, Mohammad has not yet been notified of his trial, according to his daughter, Afreen Fatima. She criticizes the flawed criminal justice system in India, which often results in detainees being held in jail for months or even years without a trial.
Fatima, who was previously a student union leader at Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, describes her father’s imprisonment as unjust and wrongful. She insists that there is no evidence to support the allegations against him and highlights the court’s repeated requests for the police to present evidence during the bail hearings.
Mohammad’s lawyer, Farman Naqvi, reveals that some of the charges against his client were filed under the stringent National Security Act (NSA), which permits detention without charges for up to a year. The defense has challenged the use of the NSA against Mohammad in the Allahabad High Court, which recently postponed its ruling on the matter.
Naqvi further states that Mohammad has been granted bail in six of the eight cases, with the defense challenging the rejection of bail in the remaining two.
Activists and human rights defenders in Uttar Pradesh argue that Mohammad has been falsely implicated in these cases as a result of his activism and advocacy for Muslim issues. They condemn the intimidation tactics employed by the state government to silence activists and maintain that Mohammad is being punished for speaking up against the government.