Statement protesting arrest of Shirin Dalvi, Editor, Awadhnama

We, members of the Mumbai based human rights group Hum Azaadiyon Ke Haq Mein are disturbed at reports of the multiple cases lodged against Shirin Dalvi, the editor of Awadhnama, Mumbai, and her arrest by Thane district police on January 28, for publishing a news-item on the Charlie Hebdo issue and one of the covers of the magazine on January 17, 2015. We are also shocked at the reports of the continual harassment of Shirin Dalvi.

Responding to readers’ views, she issued a clarification denying any intention to hurt religious sentiments and tendered a public clarification the very next day. However, cases have been registered against her in different police stations in Mumbra and Rabodi (Thane district), Malegaon and Mumbai on charges of violating Sec 295 of the Indian Penal Code (outraging religious feelings by insulting a religion with malicious intent).

While she has sought, and obtained, anticipatory bail in one set of cases from Mumbai Additional Sessions Court judge S D Tekale on January 23, she was arrested in Mumbra, Thane district, and granted bail the same day on Jan 28.

The Mumbai based human rights group Hum Azaadiyon Ke Haq Mein is disturbed at the attempts made to defame her character. Baseless statements appeared in several Urdu newspapers that a colleague had tried to dissuade her from using the Charlie Hebdo cover but the colleague identified was actually not even in office on that day and had resigned a few days ago. Other attempts to defame her included statements that she had joined the RSS women’s wing and was a ‘follower’ of Bangladeshi writer in exile Taslima Nasreen!

Shirin Dalvi is a respected journalist with more than 20 years of experience in Urdu journalism. She is perhaps the only woman editor in Urdu journalism in India, has written on issues concerning women’s rights and politics and is well-known for her literary skill and learning.

The manner in which she is being hounded bodes ill for free debate and discussion and for peaceful resolution of controversy. Besides, the incident is also being used as a pretext to ratchet up polarized public opinion, which is a dangerous game and detrimental to freedom of speech and expression in a democratic society, besides causing immense personal harm and a threat to her life and safety.

We request those who have filed cases against her to accept her clarification in the right spirit with which it has been given and to withdraw all the cases against her.

We also demand that Shirin Dalvi be provided necessary protection forthwith.

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Hasina Khan
Dr. Ram Puniyani
Adv.Irfan Engineer – Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
Javed Anand – General Secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy
Sukla Sen
Ammu Abraham
Sameera Khan
Nasreen Fazalbhoy
Mario D’Penha
Divya Taneja
Kamayani Mahabal
Geeta Seshu
Brinelle D’souza – Tata Institute of Social Science
Teesta Setalvad, Editor, Communalism Combat
Rukmini Sen, Hillele Combat TV
Veena Gowda
Anjali Kanitkar
Saaz Shaikh
Rohini Hensman
Chhaya Datar
Susan Abraham
and members and organisations of Hum Azaadiyon ke Haq Mein