An Indian student activist known for protesting against a controversial citizenship law seen as discriminating against Muslims was arrested by authorities on Wednesday evening, according to local media reports.
Sharjeel Usmani, a 23-year-old student activist from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) who has 24,000 followers on Twitter, was arrested by plainclothes police on Wednesday, reported The Wire.
And the Indian state's incarceration of Muslim students continues. #SharjeelUsmani has been arrested from his home in Azamgarh by UP Police Crime Branch. His laptop, books etc have also been confiscated.— Abdy (@ImAbdy) July 8, 2020
Today it's him, tomorrow it could be you..#ReleaseSharjeelUsmani pic.twitter.com/XLa8lt96Fz
Usmani had reportedly taken part in the December 2019 protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which allowed "illegal" migrants from all major religious minorities except for Islam to gain Indian citizenship – sparking protests that it was discriminatory against Muslims and an attempt by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to stoke religious tensions for electoral gain.
Protests against the CAA took place across several Indian states and cities, with over 65 people killed in clashes with security forces.
Usmani was one of the leaders of the anti-CAA protests in his university in the state of Utter Pradesh (UP), where students clashed with police who tried to evict them from campus. An AMU report found that the Utter Pradesh state police had carried out “severe brutality” against the students.
“Based on testimonies of all the people the team spoke to, they say that indiscriminate action by the UP police and the Rapid Action Force left many of them ‘with shattered bones, grave injuries, deep bruises, and severe psychological trauma’,” reported The Wire.
Usmani and other AMU students were accused of a variety of offenses including attempt to murder and rioting.
Social media users called for Usmani’s release on Twitter, with the hashtag #ReleaseSharjeelUsmani trending on Thursday.
Sharjeel usmani is a courageous bright young activist who has kept raising his voice against all injustice. Attack on muslim youth should stop now! Attack on muslim voices should stop now!#ReleaseSharjeelUsmani pic.twitter.com/9fHQ37xgY2— Aamir Aziz (@AamirAzizJmi) July 8, 2020
However, some criticized a post by Usmani that hailed a gun-wielding protester.
I am proud of Shahrukh bhai. He fought for the community when the entire state machinery and Hindutva army was involved in killing and looting our community. He is our hero! 💚https://t.co/yeguArBu5A— Sharjeel Usmani (@SharjeelUsmani) June 25, 2020
The CAA passed into law in December 12, 2019, becoming one of the legacies of BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi.