Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

Who Is Afreen Fatima? Support Pours In For Student Activist After UP Govt Demolishes Homes Of 'Rioters'

Who Is Afreen Fatima? Support Pours In For Student Activist After UP Govt Demolishes Homes Of 'Rioters'

Afreen Fatima is a student activist who has been a prominent face in anti-CAA/NRC protests and in protests against hijab bans.

Activist Afreen Fatima attending the Shaheen Bagh Square of Maharajas College
Activist Afreen Fatima attending the Shaheen Bagh Square of Maharajas College Instagram/Afreen Fatima

Following the demolition of the house of activist Afreen Fatima and her father Javed Mohammad over alleged involvement in violent protests in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj on Friday, support has poured in for her on the internet with the hashtag #IStandWithAfreenFatima trending on Twitter.

Fatima's father Javed is accused of being the mastermind of Friday's violence in which people burnt motorcycles and carts and also attempted to set ablaze a police vehicle besides pelting stones at police over former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma's comments on Prophet Muhammad. 

While authorities have said demolition orders were issued last month before the current episode, people as well as government-affiliated persons have linked it with Friday's violence, which is why it's being called unjust on social media. 

Who is Afreen Fatima?

Afreen Fatima is a student activist. She is a student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and a former president of the students union of Women’s College, Aligarh Muslim University.

Fatima was active during anti-CAA/NRC protests in 2019-2020 at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh. She has also organised Muslim women and has held protests against bans on hijab. 

An earlier Outlook story noted, "Last October, Fatima formed a study circle ‘Muslimah Allahabad’ with her younger sister Sumaiya Fatima, an undergrad from Allahabad University. The study circle has 70 girls as members at present. They have held sessions on various topics, including ‘Braving hijab ban and state repression’ and another forthcoming on ‘Curating conversations: Moving forward’ on faith, politics and identity."

It added that she organised a protest against hijab ban with 300 women. 

Besides activism in Delhi, Fatima was also involved in anti-CAA/NRC agitation in Prayagrag, where she gave a speech at the protest in Mansoor Ali Park in Prayagraj's Khuldabad, according to Amar Ujala.

What are the allegations

It is alleged that Fatima's father, Javed, was the mastermind of Friday's violence in Prayagraj. The Indian Express reported that Javed had allegedly called for a 'bandh' and had asked people to reach the spot of the incident through WhatsApp messages, according to the police.

While Javed has been arrested, his wife and daughter were also detained, as per family members, but they were subsequently released, according to The Wire.

Amar Ujala has reported that it is being investigated whether Fatima too was involved in the violence, which her father allegedly planned. It quoted Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Kumar as saying that action would be taken against her too if her involvement in the violence also emerges in the probe.

Family rejects official version on demolition

Mohd. Umam, the brother of Afreen Fatima, told The Wire that they did not receive the notice on time. 

A senior Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) official told PTI, "The house was built without getting its map passed by the PDA. For this, he [Javed] was issued a notice on May 10 and was told to present his point of view on May 24. On the said date, neither Javed nor his lawyer turned up. No document was presented in this regard, and hence on May 25, demolition orders were issued."

Umam told The Wire that the notice is not issued in the name of the actual property owner — their mother. 

He added, "Further, the notice was dated June 10 but pasted only late at night on June 11, a Saturday, even though police has continuously been present at the house since June 10. It seems clear that the notice was hastily issued on a weekend night to ensure that the family has no opportunity for legal recourse."

Support for Afreen Fatima

Well-known persons as well as common users took to Twitter to express their support for Fatima.

Writer and activist Gurmehar Kaur called the razing of Fatima's house "state sponsored attack on its own citizen".

Activist Mohammed Irshad said, "She is the most vocal amongst us. The fear of being exposed has made the government go mad at the dissent voices. How much arrests can you make? How much houses will you raze down? We stand by each other unconditionally, No Matter What!"

JNU Students Union President Aishe also came out in Fatima's support. 

Journalist Fatima Khan said, "The demolition of Afreen Fatima’s home is also a signal to all muslim activists of this country. Your home can be reduced to rubble on absolutely any (or no) pretext. And that will be it. What a sad day in this country. One of many."