Gujarat Police has issued a notice to an Ahmedabad based anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) activist Kaleem Siddiqui asking him to explain why he should not be externed from Ahmedabad and three neighbouring districts – Gandhinagar, Kheda and Mehsana -- for two years.
The notice states that Siddique is, “short tempered, obsessive in nature, is in possession of illegal deadly weapons and involves himself in anti-social activities and is a threat to the society.”
Kaleem Siddique was one of the organisers of the two-month-long anti-CAA protest, on the line of Shaheen Bagh protest, in Ahmedabad that witnessed local Muslim women join in huge numbers. The notice, however, doesn’t mention his role in organising the protest that began on January 14 and was called off on March 14 this year due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noticeably, the protest that saw the presence of many activists, lawyers and writers, including renowned people like author Ramachandra Guha, Professor Ram Puniyani, was organised on a private compound - Ajit Mill -- after permission for any kind of protest were denied by Gujarat Police in December last year.
“I got a call from Rakhiyal Police Station informing me about the externment notice. The notice came as a shock not only because it was unexpected but the charges against me are far from the truth. The notice claims that I am involved in criminal activities and have a criminal mindset. It also says that I am in possession of illegal arms and that people in Rakhiyal area are so scared of me that no one has yet filed an FIR against me,” Siddique, a resident of Bapunagar area, told NewsClick.
“Interestingly, to back up such serious claims, the police say that they have 10 anonymous FIRs against me alleging criminal intimidation. This is apart from the notice mentioning two FIRs, one of which was slapped against me along with many others on December 19 last year under Rakhiyal Police Station during anti- CAA protest. Another FIR that the police mentions is from the year 2018 when MLA Jignesh Mevani and I had organised an anti-liquor drive and had gheraod Gomtipur police station. A case of rioting was lodged against me then which went for trial and the court acquitted me in a judgement in January this year,” added 39-year-old Siddiqui, who identifies himself as an activist and freelance journalist.
Also read: 64 Arrested, FIR Against More Than 5000 Across Gujarat After Anti-CAA Protests
A businessman by profession, Siddiqui is a contractor of Gypsum Plaster of Paris and is currently working on a government project in Gandhinagar. Besides his business, he has been an activist for more than six years and writes for Down to Earth, a magazine that covers environmental issues and for Janchowk, an online news portal covering issues in Gujarat. He has been active in writing and protesting against environmental issues like cleaning of Pirana, a waste dumpsite spread in about 84-acre area outside Ahmedabad that has three garbage mountains about 75 feet high.
Talking about Siddiqui, Kausar Ali Saiyed, an Ahmedabad-based minority rights activist, told NewsClick, “I have known Kaleem Siddiqui since 2014 and we have been working for various issues together. He has been an active voice against a number of issues both through his writings and by protesting on ground. Anyone who knows him will not believe the charges against him. Painting him as violent or aggressive is bizarre, he is not even a short-tempered person.”
“Earlier it was people from minority community or lower castes who were targeted but of late anybody who is raising a voice against this government is being targeted. The civil society of Ahmedabad stands with Kaleem Siddiqui. Hopefully, he will fight the frivolous charges against him till the end,” added Saiyed, who accompanied Siddiqui to the police station.
Siddiqui was summoned to the office of Assistant Police Commissioner of ‘A’ division police station, AM Patel, on July 30 where he submitted a written response denying all allegations.
“I believe the charges against me are politically motivated and that Gujarat is now targeting anti-CAA protesters on the lines of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh,” he said, adding, “As far as the anonymous FIRs are concerned, it speaks more about the Ahmedabad Police that, it has not been able file a single FIR against me.”
Siddique has been called again for a second hearing by the Ahmedabad Police.
In another case, Satish Vansola, another anti-CAA protester,has been accused of dacoity for allegedly stealing the keys of a state transport bus that was plying on the route of the protest site at Chhapi, Banaskantha on December 19 last year.
Vansola had moved the Gujarat High Court requesting to set aside section 395 of the IPC that deals with dacoity but the court refused to drop charges in a hearing on July 6 this year.
Also read: Anti-CAA Protests: Gujarat Resists Despite Sec 144, Notice to Suspend Telecom Services
A bench led by Justice Gita Gopi rejected Vansola’s petition that had challenged the charges of dacoity on the grounds that he was not present at the location of protest on the day of incident. Vansola had claimed that the Chhapi Police had detained him a day before the protest was scheduled after authorities withdrew permission to hold the protests. The dacoity charges were added to the FIR after a request was made to the Deputy Superintendent of Police, the petition said.
Vansola, a resident of Palanpur Banaskantha, was one of the organisers of anti-CAA protests at Chhapi, Banaskantha, that had later turned violent. FIR was filed against 3,022 protesters of whom 22 have been identified. He was arrested from Gandhinagar in February this year.
It should be noted that, in the peak of anti-CAA protests across the nation, Section 144 was imposed in many parts of Gujarat barring gathering of more than three people at a place. Despite the imposition of Section 144, multiple protests were organised across the state that saw massive participation of people. Following which, 64 people including a Congress corporator were arrested and were released on bail later. FIRs were filed against about 5,000 protesters across the state.