Accusing Dr Zafarul Islam Khan of sedition, is an attempt to intimidate: Activists

Dr Khan’s name is the latest, and he is certainly the oldest, and the only one holding a Constitutional post, on the list of Muslims to have been accused of Sedition

zafrul islam

Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, Dr Zafarul Islam Khan (72), is a world renowned scholar, journalist and civil rights activist. He was one of the first Muslim scholars who was the first to speak up againt the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which evolved into the terrorist outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or the Islamic State (IS) . He was also one of the first to speak up against the crimes against humanity committed by ISIS, as well as  Boko Haram.  

As an globally acclaimed expert on Islamic studies and the Arab world, his opinions and analysis of  issues concerning, emanating from the community are much sought after. Dr Khan is known to be vocally opposed to any extremisim,  and is against discrimination of any form. Perhaps some of these credentials are what led to his appointment as chairman of DMC since July 2017. The commission is a  quasi-judicial body,  “set up under the Delhi Minorities Commission Act,1999 passed by the Delhi Legislative Assembly on 24.12.99. The notified Minority Communities, as per the Act, are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. To safeguard the rights and interests, as provided in the Constitution of India of religious minorities in the National Capital Territories of Delhi.Now as per the notification order dated 13/10/2008 by Chief Secretary, GNCT of Delhi “Jain” Community is also treated as Minority Community in the NCT of Delhi.”

Closer home, for hundreds of survirors of the February 2020, anti-Muslim pogrom that raged through Northeast Delhi, Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, and his team of DMC members, and rights activists were the first ever ‘officials’  to come and ask of their well being. His team mapped the violence and carnage, and an extensive report is expected soon. He has continued to monitor the situaiton while also taking up issues of the many cases of violence, social and economic boycot, and  vilification of the Muslim community, specially the economically weaker sections of the conunty, who have been, and contunue to be targetted even as they struggle to survive in the national Covid19 lockdown. 

The news, reported in the Hindustan Times,  that the Delhi Police’s special cell had  booked Dr Khan under sedition charges, after he allegedly made “provocative” remarks in his social media posts,  has been responded to by statements of solidarity from prominent civil rights activists from across the country. 

Dr Khan’s name is the latest, and he is certainly the oldest, and the only one holding a Constitutional post, on the list of Muslims to have been charged under Indian Penal Code sections 124 A (sedition) and other criminal sections. According to the HT report the cases were booked on the basis of a first information report (FIR) filed in delhi. The news report quoted  Joint Commissioner of Police (special cell) Neeraj Thakur as saying that the FIR been registered “under Indian Penal Code sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).

The police action against Dr Khan has been  strongly condemned across the country. Activists have said that Dr Khan is being targeted by  “politicians with ulterior motives and news channel anchors known for spreading bigotry and Islamophobia” who have,  “mischievously sought to misinterpret his statement and ridiculously label him as anti-Hindu and anti-India.”

They reminded the country that Dr Khan has just reiterated what many studies have stated and what rights activists are saying across the world . “European governments, United States of America,  and United Nations human rights mechanisms have repeatedly underlined their  concern at the increasing human rights abuse and violations of religious minorities in India,” the Indian activists stated.

The Delhi Minority Commission (DMC) led by him has assessed  the compensation for the massive damage caused in North-East Delhi too. “The compensation in our view is not adequate. The Central Government, being directly responsible for the law and order in Delhi should have stepped in but it has not.”

Before the Covid 19 lockdown hit  had also put on record the DMC attempts to bring peace between Hindus and Muslims living in the affected areas through “Peace Committees’ and said it was a massive and ongoing process. People who have seen their kin murdered, attacked and their houses and shops burnt will not be reassured by mere talk. I think people from the majority community should come forward to rebuild the burnt bridges. This is all the more important since we are getting reports that majority community people in some affected pockets are preventing the return of victims to their homes. It is a matter of sorrow that both the state and Union governments are not taking initiatives in this direction.”

He said this was a “big challenge not only in the North East district of Delhi but in most parts of the country where Hindutva forces are trying to cause social rupture between the two communities.”

Dr Zafarul Islam Khan’s timely interventions on problems of minorities in Delhi have made him a respectable figure among not only Muslims but Sikh, Christians, Jains and Parsis, say activists.

“The hateful propaganda against Dr Khan is one more illustration of how certain Indians fail to differentiate between Hinduism, a religion and Hindutva which is a supremacist political ideology,” the statement reiterated. According to the civil rights activists an attack and targeting of Dr Khan,  a scholar ambassador who has earned international prestige for India, is “an insult to Indian constitution and ethos.”

They have demanded the “Government of India take strong legal action against those who are distorting Dr Khan’s Facebook post, and spreading vicious false propaganda against him.”

A veteran journalist, and activist who has known Dr Khan for decades said: “it is shameful how the government is targeting Dr Zafarul Islam, the chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission. I have known Zik for thirty years, and his revered father for fifty years. His is a family of scholars whose loyalty to India and its ethos cannot ever be doubted. His statements, his writings bear witness to that. As chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, he had rendered exemplary service to the minorities in the capital city. His is the only voice among those holding any public office, that has dared challenge excesses which happen often in Delhi, where the municipalities and the police are run either by the Union Home Minister or the party overlords, and the streets run by the RSS in many areas.”

Activists say there is a clear pattern of targeting and intimidation in such actions against a public figure like Dr Khan who had spoken out against those who have been targeting Muslims under the garb of the lockdown. The Muslims targeted also include small time vendors, and shop owners who have been stopped on the streets and harassed by Hindutva vigilante groups. Dr Khan, who as DMC chairman, has raised such issues multiple times, and even sent notices to Delhi Police seeking answers.

He had said: “The bigots forgot that Indian Muslims enjoy huge goodwill in the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world for their services over centuries to Islamic causes, excellence in Islamic and Arabic scholarship, cultural and civilisational gifts to world heritage…”

… Mind you, bigots, Indian Muslims have opted until now not to complain to the Arab and Muslim world about your hate campaigns and lynchings and riots. The day they are pushed to do that, bigots will face an avalanche,” he stated.

As  the trolls targetted him online and were amplified by television news channels, with villifying headlines such as: “When Zafarul Islam Khan Shared Post Full Of Religious Hatred Base, Dr Khan had then told Sabrang that his words were distorted by the news channels who spoke to him over the phone. “Many false statements/opinions have been attributed to me.  I will take appropriate legal steps available to me against them,” he had said.

There is a design in targeting him, activists say. Standing in solidarity with him academic, activist and writer Prof Shamsul Islam said,  “there is nothing objectionable in what Dr Khan has said. This is an attempt to intimidate and send a message to those who are speaking  up.”

“We should welcome the world to inspect how we treat our women, our Dalits, our tribals, our poor, our religious minorities, because then it would show that we have nothing to hide, and that we are taking care of all of them to the best of our capability. India should, and does, speak out when Pakistan ill treats its Hindus, Sikhs.It is shameful how childish has been India’s response to the USCIRF report. India is among the few countries in the world – they may include North Korea, perhaps – which fight shy of giving visas to many UN special rapporteurs on human rights, and persecutes human rights groups such as Amnesty,” said Dr John Dayal, an author and civil rights activist.

Others took notice of the speed at which action against Dr Khan has been initiated as the Covid19 lockdown was extended for two more weeks. “If @DelhiPolice hs shown an iota of urgency to file charges under 153A agnst AnuragThakur, ParveshVerma KapilMishra as it has selectively & mischievously shown in filling case against @khan_zafarul, India’s image wld not hav been under attack globally.” said rights activist Navaid Hamid. 



Such an action against a minorities commission chairman is unprecedented, recalled 

AC Michael a former member Delhi Minorities Commission who has raised his voice on many issues during his tenure, “We never faced any political pressure. We never feared any political witch-hunt as commission members we did our Constitutional duty. This is an unprecedented action against a sitting chairman of DMC.” He recalled that there was no ‘fear’ of or interference in the commissions work by either politicians or the Police.

The FIR against Dr Khan was filed on the complaint of a Vasant Kunj resident, said the HT report. The complaint reached the Lodhi Colony office of the anti-terror squad, special cell, through the assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Safdarjung Enclave. 

On Thursday, Dr Khan posted a statement that included this clarification: “I realise that my tweet was ill-timed and insensitive in view of our country facing a medical emergency and fighting an unseen enemy. I apologise to all whose sentiments were hurt.”

“I have not complained against my country to any foreign government or organization nor I intend to do so in future. I am a patriot to the core and I have always defended my country abroad. However, at the same time I have always been vocal about the problems in our country like any other country but, I also believe that we and our political, constitutional and judicial system are capable of tackling them. I have always defended my country.”



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