By Sukanya Roy,

Jarwal: In the dead of the night on India’s Independence day, Uttar Pradesh police picked up a journalism student Misbah Zafar from his home for posting a status about an Independence day event tagged with #RSSseAzaadi.

Misbah, who is a first-year journalism student at Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad, had shared the poster for an Independence Day Facebook live event, organised by the Campus Front of India, as his WhatsApp status on August 14.

After being released from custody on August 15 afternoon, he told, “At 2 am last night, a team of police including the SO and SI arrived at my house. They banged the door loudly and my family woke up, flustered. They demanded to question me, and took me to the Jarwal PS right then, without informing my family of the reasons for detaining me.”

Misbah said that all along the way, the police officers verbally abused him. “They asked me these things: You want Azaadi from RSS now, will you want Azaadi from India later? Are you trying to make Pakistan here? Why are you ungrateful to the Indian government for giving you food and shelter? Do you want to apply Imran Khan’s laws to India?”

Misbah said that he was kept in police custody. “They started shaming me, saying that I am a disgrace to my family, and the abuses continued,” he said.

When Misbah’s father and elder brother, Soaib came to the police station in the morning, they were asked to come again in the afternoon.

“When they left, I was forced to write a mafinama (letter of apology) for posting the status. The SO threatened that if I didn’t comply, they would register a case of sedition (Sec. 196) against me,” he said, and adds, “The SO said that if I didn’t write the apology, the government would take away my father’s property.”

The officer dictated the letter out to Misbah, who was made to write it down and sign it.

When the family visited the police station, they were again sent away.

“All this has left a huge mental strain on me”, says Misbah. “Only after I gave a challan to the magistrate, did they release me at 3 pm.”

Misbah said he is at loss to understand what his offence was, that necessitated detention for over twelve hours. “But I have received no copy of the challan myself,” Misbah said. “They averted my question saying it has been forwarded on WhatsApp or some such excuse,” he adds.

The Campus Front of India has put out a public statement strongly condemning Misbah’s arbitrary detention. “Yogi police suppress(ed) the constitutional rights of citizens and proved their servitude to RSS masters. The police failed to understand that speaking against RSS is not a crime. It is a shame that he was arrested on this auspicious day,” the statement said.

The SO of Jarwal Road Police Station told that they had received a complaint against Misbah. “We received a complaint against him and had to arrest him for posting provocative material that might hurt the sentiments of a certain section of the population in U.P,” he said. The SO didn’t disclose the source of such a complaint.

Misbah says that such instances of arrest by the Jarwal police were not uncommon. Just ten days ago, on 5 August, the police arrested a group of people from his locality for posting against the Ram Mandir celebrations. “They did not feel like celebrating the temple being built on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid and criticised it on Facebook. Police arrested six people on that day itself. The reasons given were the same: they were doing it to protect the interests of a particular community”, Misbah said.

This story  first appeared in ‘Two Circles’ here.