MP: Man spends 5 months in prison for forwarding a WhatsApp post in support of Shaheen Bagh protest

WhatsApp status supporting Shaheen Bagh protest landed a young Muslim in jail for five months. His family had to take Rs one lakh loan to secure bail for him

 MP: Man spends 5 months in prison for forwarding a WhatsApp post in support of Shaheen Bagh protest

Kashif Kakvi

A 25-year-old motorbike mechanic, sole breadwinner for a family of seven, spent five months behind bars for sharing a WhatsApp post in support of Shaheen Bagh in Madhya Pradesh’s Shajapur district.

Anwar was granted bail on November 26 and was finally released on December 1. “Tumne Dilli me ek goli mari, hamne MP me ek aur Shajapur Shaheen Bagh bana diya,” is a message Anwar had received as a ‘forwarded message’ in a WhatsApp group after anti-CAA, NRC protest broke out in the district which is 160-km away from the State capital, Bhopal. Later, he shared this forwarded template in his WhatsApp status.

Two days after he had put up this WhatsApp status, the police booked Anwar upon a complaint made by alleged Karni Sena leader Deelip Singh. Singh, a resident of Bayra of Shajapur district, complained against Anwar for evoking religious sentiments at the city’s Kotwali police station.

Two days after the FIR, Anwar was detained by the police and his cell phone was seized. “The police had released me at the end of the day on a request by my kin, but arrested me on July 27 and sent me to the district jail,” said Anwar.

Anwar, with no criminal background, was booked under section 188 and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code in March 2020 for sharing a template in Hindi on his WhatsApp status against the firings that took place in Jamia Nagar and Shaheen Bagh between January 30 and February 1, 2020 by pro-right wing supporters on the protestors of controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

It took Anwar Khan seven attempts before the court to secure his bail following his arrest on July 27, 2020.

According to Anwar’s advocate, Manish Yadav, his bail plea was rejected four times by a district court and twice before the Indore High Court. “Anwar was granted bail on December 2, 2020 by the Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court. It was his seventh attempt,” said Yadav.

Family took Rs 1 lakh loan for bail

Since Anwar was the sole bread earner for his family, his family was left in financial distress after his arrest.

Now, the biggest challenge before the family was to make a daily living and arrange for Anwar’s release. Hence, his father Abdul Majid, 62, a daily-wage worker, took a loan of Rs 1 lakh from his relatives.

“When police arrested Anwar, we were trying to cope up with the effects of COVID-19-induced lockdown as we were jobless and somehow making ends meet,” said his father Abdul Majid.

Anwar, who is the eldest among Majid’s five children had to give up school at a young age for supporting the family.

“None of my family members has ever been to jail or the court for any charges of crime. He never committed any crime. But, the police framed him for sharing a post in support of Shaheen Bagh. Raising a voice of dissent isn’t a crime in democracy, but it has become now in the current regime,” his father Majid said.

Court ordered counselling of Anwar

While granting bail to Anwar on the third attempt, through video conferencing, a single bench of Justice Virendra Singh of Indore High Court observed that Anwar needs counselling for what he had done to prevent such posts and to maintain peace in society.

In a two-page Hindi order, the court said, “On the first week of every February, March and April, 2021, the bail applicant will visit advocate and social activist Rashmi Pandey for counselling and will follow his instructions. If the counsellor gives any negative feedback against the bail applicant’s behavior, then the court will rethink on his bail application.”

Anwar’s advocate Manish Yadav said, “The court observed that applicant’s current mental status is against the unity and sovereignty of the country hence he needed counselling.”

Anwar got bail after signing a bond of Rs 30,000 in the High Court.

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