On April 17, 2022, the State Investigation Agency (SIA) arrested Abdul Aala Fazili – a senior research fellow at the University of Kashmir who is finishing his PhD thesis in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences there – apparently for an article he wrote in 2011.
In November 2011, Fazili wrote an article titled “The shackles of slavery will break” in a controversial monthly digital magazine The Kashmir Walla. The article condemns Indian authorities’ long-time repression in Kashmir and urges fellow Kashmiris to remember those that have sacrificed in the struggle for Kashmir’s freedom and to continue resisting Indian persecution. The article does not explicitly encourage readers to engage in violence; however, the SIA claimed that it was “highly provocative, seditious and intended to create unrest in Jammu and Kashmir to abet the gullible youth to take the path of violence and create communal unrest.”
The SIA stated that it had conducted searches and seized evidence at Fazili’s residence, as well as other residences and buildings linked to the magazine. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, he is allegedly accused of “violating four sections of the Indian penal code, including criminal conspiracy, waging or attempting to wage war against the Indian government, sedition, and making assertions prejudicial to national integration, and two sections of the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for unlawful activities and terrorism.” Altogether, these charges carry over a life sentence.
On July 15, 2022, a judge in a special National Investigation Agency court denied bail for Fazili and Fahad Shah, the editor of The Kashmir Walla.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and prosecution of a student for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and – conduct which is protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from taking action to chill or punish expressive activity, so long as it is peaceful and responsible. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, detention and prosecution in response to expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.