New Delhi: Days after her father Javed Mohammed, a Welfare Party of India (WPI) leader, was detained for last week’s violence in Prayagraj, and her home razed to the ground by city authorities, student activist Afreen Fatima is defiant.
With police and media attention on her too, she believes the allegation that her father was a key conspirator in the violence last Friday is “fabricated”, and the family is being targeted because they have criticised the government and “growing intolerance” in India.
Speaking to ThePrint over the phone Thursday, the 23-year-old reiterated that the demolition of her house Sunday was not justified.
“They realised our house is illegal one fine day. The district officials and the police have shared the stage with my father, and even come to the house for Eid,” she said, adding that the property is in her mother’s name but the notice was issued to her father instead.
The national secretary of the Fraternity Movement, the student wing of the WPI, Afreen has been a vocal critic of the hijab ban in Karnataka as well as government policies like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019. She and her father have both participated in protests over the latter, she said, and “the orchestrated harassment could be due to this”.
On 10 June, a protest in Prayagraj against now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s controversial remarks on Prophet Muhammad turned violent when agitators allegedly started throwing stones and set vehicles on fire.
The next day, Prayagraj Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ajay Kumar said that Javed Mohammed was the “mastermind” of the violence and had been arrested.
On Sunday, JCBs sent by the Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) demolished the family’s house in the city’s Kareli area, claiming that the construction was illegal.
Afreen, who has completed her Master’s in linguistics from Jawaharlal Nehru University and plans to enrol in a PhD programme, was also mentioned by the SSP.
Without naming her, he told mediapersons that Javed’s daughter studies in JNU, is “involved in notorious activities”, and that the “father and daughter together propagate propaganda”.
He also said that 54-year-old Mohammed had admitted during interrogation that he would get “suggestions” from his daughter. However, in the preliminary probe nothing has surfaced against Afreen, a police source told ThePrint.
‘Posters in the homes of activists are objectionable?’
Following the demolition, SSP Ajay Kumar told mediapersons that the police had found “objectionable documents” and “illegal weapons” in the house.
“The recovered weapons include .12 bore and .315 bore pistols and cartridges. Some papers with sharp remarks on court have been taken as evidence,” the officer had added. “A list of such items is being prepared.”
Afreen disputed this.
“The demolition of our house was on live TV. Everyone saw what items were in our house. They realised hours later that ‘illegal’ weapons were found in our house. This is all planned, orchestrated, and fiction to implicate my father,” Afreen alleged.
As for the guns described by the police, she has a theory: “My nephew keeps coming, maybe they found his toy guns? I don’t know… I am waiting to see this list [prepared by the police].”
ThePrint tried to contact SSP Kumar through multiple calls and messages but no response was received till the time of publishing this report. The article will be updated once a response is received.
Among the posters recovered from the house is one that has received plenty of focus from the media. It says: “When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty”.
When asked about this, Afreen sounded incredulous. “So, now, posters in the homes of activists are objectionable?” she asked.
Recalling the day of the violence, Afreen said her father was at home and had not asked anyone to assemble anywhere for the protest. “It was only in the evening when the police came knocking on our doors that we realised that they will now try to implicate us,” she added.
According to Afreen, her father has been an important Muslim voice and has filed several petitions and complaints as part of his efforts to support the community.
Javed Mohammed has also been a member of the Aman Committee — a social outfit that works to ensure religious co-existence — and has called for peace, Afreen said.
“He is in no way involved with the violent protests. We will fight it all in court — against the illegal demolition of our house and his arrest,” she added.
Their home reduced to rubble, Afreen, her sister Sumaiya, and mother Parveen, are currently living with relatives.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)