Special Reports

Denying Kashmiris Equal Rights is Discriminatory, Unconstitutional, says Sajid Bin Sayed

Sajid bin Sayed

JNU scholar Sajid Bin Sayed, who is facing a Delhi police FIR for a tweet on human rights abuses in Kashmir, says neither RSS nor Army is above criticism

A few days back, Delhi Police registered an FIR against M.S. Sajid (Sajid Bin Sayed), a PhD scholar at JNU, for a tweet on Kashmir.

On July 8, a police complaint was filed against Sajid at a police station in Delhi. The complaint, filed by one Tajinder Yadav, a member of BJP's Yuva Morcha, reportedly sought legal action against Sajid, who is the national president of Campus Front India, for allegedly ‘offending’ the Indian Army and RSS.

In the tweet in question, Sajid wrote: “Indian Military execute systematic genocide of Kashmiris which is devised by RSS. The BJP govt should stop their territorial greed and be ready to accept Kashmiris’ right to self determination guaranteed by UN. It’s high time to intervene in the issue by international bodies. #Kashmir”.

The tweet, however, was later deleted.

The FIR against Sajid was registered under the Indian Penal Code Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and Section 153 (persons who indulge in wanton vilification or attacks upon religion, race, place of birth, residence, language).

Sajid immediately responded to the FIR against him, and said that “Constitution grants freedom of expression to everyone”. He also said “speaking for the rights of Kashmiris is not a crime to be booked under Sections 154 and 504. I believe every Kashmir citizen has equal rights like any other citizen in India, because Kashmir and Kashmiris are part of our country”.

In this exclusive interview for The Milli Gazette, Sajid speaks about Kashmir, Modi government and his idea of India.

Q.: Media reports say that an FIR has been filed by Delhi Police against you for a tweet critical of Indian Army’s actions in Kashmir and RSS. In your response to the reports, you saidThe FIR is an attempt to suppress the voice of dissent”. Can you elaborate on how do you see this FIR..? Why do you think this is an attempt to suppress the voice of dissent?

A.: The FIR was filed for a tweet on human rights violations in Kashmir. I criticised the role of BJP government, backed by the RSS and its functionaries, in the issue.

FIR on a social media critique is both undemocratic and anti-constitutional. The right to express one’s views is a fundamental right. However, the government targets students and activists critical of its actions.

This FIR, we believe, is not an isolated case. There are many people who are vocal for the rights of people and who have been targeted. Anyone who is critical of BJP has been hounded even during the current pandemic situation. It is aimed against the voices that dissent.

The allegation is that the tweet was critical of RSS and Indian army. I don't believe that these two can't be criticised. It's clear that BJP wants to suppress people speaking on Kashmir.

Q.: The FIR has been filed on a tweet that does not appear in your Twitter time line now. Did you delete it? If yes, why?

A.: The tweet has been removed. It is a technical matter. However, I stand by the views that I expressed on Kashmir.

Kashmiris have equal rights like any other Indian citizen. Those rights should be delivered fully, failing which is discriminatory and anti-constitutional.

Q.: How do you and your organisation, Campus Front of India, plan to challenge this FIR?

A.: Since the FIR is against a voice of dissent, like many previous examples, political fronts should be strengthened against these authoritarian moves. We will take legal and all other constitutional means against this kind of moves and for protecting the rights.

Q.: You are a student leader who raises the issue human rights violations in the country. You also talk about Kashmir and BJP government’s Kashmir policy critically. For example, you recently tweeted that “Kashmir is the most militarised place in the globe where human rights violations mountain every other day”. You also said that “the government plots ethnic cleansing in Kashmir like illegal state Zionist Israel executes in Palestine.” Can you elaborate your views on Kashmir issue and Narendra Modi government’s Kashmir policy?

A.: The Kashmir issue is an old one. We miserably failed to find a solution on this. It is due to the lack of our political will.

BJP's approach is that Kashmiri land is ours but not Kashmiri people. This won't work. Both the people and the land of Kashmir are part of the Indian state. Indian government strengthens our military base there instead of making democratic interventions. Abrogation of Article 370 was an undemocratic move. Recently the government imposed domicile law there which is also controversial. By these steps, we are not gaining Kashmiris' trust. Hence, we lost our face even on international platforms.

Q.: Do you think that the Narendra Modi government is guided by the RSS, and its Hindutva ideology, especially in its militaristic approach in Kashmir?

A.: RSS' influence over the Modi government is indisputably evident. CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) was an idea first proposed by RSS. If we analyse the government properly, we will find many instances of this kind. Regarding Kashmir also, the removal of the special status of Kashmir was earlier demanded by RSS.

Q.: In your response to the FIR, you wrote that you’re not the first person being “targeted for criticising the govt.”. Of course, there has been an alarming trend that you may be targeted if you are opposing the government or its policies. We have several student and youth activists who were recently arrested and imprisoned for taking part in anti-CAA protests. For example, we have Safoora Zargar, Sharjeel Imam, Sharjeel Usmani, Khalid Saifi, Ishrat Jehan and many more. Recently, SQR Ilyas, a prominent Muslim political activist and the national president of Welfare Party of India, said that his name has appeared in an FIR filed by the Delhi Police in connection with the Delhi riots. So, as a research scholar and student leader, how do you see this alarming and growing trend?

Answer: What they are expecting from a scholar or student or an activist? We are in a democracy where people are targeted for questioning government's action and inactions. RSS wants Hindutva ‘Manuvadi’ state where whatever rights violations happen, nobody can question the authoritarian regime.

There are enough signs that India is moving towards a fascist authoritarian state. Hounding the dissent, assimilation of constitutional and non-constitutional bodies, hijacking elections and purchasing elected representatives are some of these signs.

RSS is taking India towards a Hindutva state; we must resist it at any cost to preserve democracy and differences in opinion.

Q.: As a Muslim activist, how do you think that the minorities, and other social groups like Dalits who are targeted by the Hindutva forces, can overcome the challenges they face today? Is a better, inclusive India possible in the near future?

A.: They have been targeted not only by arrests and draconian laws, but the Hindutva camp designed systematic exclusion of these sections from every public sphere. Indian minorities and Dalits are the real majority in India. Joint resistance is the only way forward. A broader alliance against Hindutva fascism which focuses on the assertion of rights from the bottom level, should be developed.

There are many examples in the recent history on how such joint efforts succeeded, as dictatorships were replaced by democracy through joint actions. We believe that no society will tolerate oppression beyond a limit. RSS will be contained, for sure, through democratic ways, even if it takes time.

Q.: Finally, can you briefly explain the core ideas and objectives of Campus Front of India which you are heading at present?

Answer: Campus Front is a student's organization that believes that students and youth can bring social change and that they have responsibilities to uphold the Indian constitution and society. It aims to develop students as socially responsible people against Hindutva thoughts which are creeping into young minds. We strive to cut down discrimination based on social identities faced by the minorities and weaker sections. We foresee an India where everyone will enjoy equal rights and opportunities, hence we build future leaders instilled with constitutional and moral values.

—Muhammed Sabith is an independent journalist currently based in Kozhikode, Kerala