NEW DELHI - Muslim civil rights activists in India have rallied in a protest against the unfair targeting of Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism.
"We are not saying do not arrest those involved in terror activities. But do not pick up everyone," Protest organizer Shabnam Hashmi told the BBC on Thursday, June 14.
Do not pick up innocents.
Hashmi had gathered with other activists on Thursday in a protest outside Home Minister P Chidambaram's house.
The sit-in was planned by activists to protest arresting scores of Muslim boys and men in jail on false charges.
Protesters say Muslims no longer feel safe even in their homes.
Disappearances and illegal detentions have become rampant in the name of fighting terrorism, Hashmi said.
It is as though a new wave of counter-terrorism has been launched to terrorise the youth belonging to the Muslim community, she added.
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India who have repeatedly complained of being selectively and unfairly targeted by anti-terror police.
They also accuse authorities of feeding stereotypes about their religion.
Indian Muslims complained decades of social and economic neglect and oppression as well as being discriminated against in all walks of life.
Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.
They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3 million-strong military.
A 2006 report, known as the Sachar Committee report, looked into the socio-economic and educational backwardness of Muslims in the country and suggested various remedial measures.
The recommendations included setting up educational facilities, modernization of madrasahs, creation of job opportunities and steps to increase the community's representation in public services.
Activists blame government agencies for the recent disappearance of a Muslim engineer, Fasih Mohammad, in Saudi Arabia.
Fasih was reportedly detained by Saudi police from his home in Al Jubail on 13th May 2012 in the presence of his wife on the request of Indian Government but his whereabouts is still unknown.
In the case of Fasih Mahmood who is supposed to be held in Saudi Arabia as the Indian Government indicated to the Supreme Court, if you say he is not in your custody and you feel he is still in Saudi custody, then what steps have you taken for his recovery, Ravi Nair, Director of South Asia Human Rights Documentation, said while addressing pressmen at Press Club of India, TwoCircles website reported.
The press conference was called by All India Milli Council over the illegal detention, arrest, disappearance of Muslim boys in the name of terrorism.
Fasih Mahmood is a citizen of India. He holds Indian Passport. It is the duty of the Republic of India to protect him, Nair further said.
The eminent law expert strongly criticized the Central Government for its callous approach over the case of missing Bihar engineer Mahmood.
You should have taken a demarche meaning a diplomatic note of protest to the Saudi government. But you have not done it so far, he said.
If the demarche had not worked, then you should have recalled immediately your ambassador for consultation as a mark of protest. Again, you have not done it.
Nair accused intelligence agencies of spreading a climate of fear and suspension against the Muslim minority.
Today there is a climate of fear and suspicion against minorities particularly Muslims. The biggest culprit is intelligence agencies, he said.
You cannot find a democratic country where intelligence agencies have no accountability. Indian Parliament has no oversight on them.
I believe it is not a question of Muslims or minority rights. Today it is young Muslim boys, tomorrow it will be others.
If we do not stand up today, we will not remain a republic, we will be a banana republic, concluded Nair.