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Student Activists in Kerala Arrested for Pro-Palestine Protest at Starbucks Face ‘Inciting Riots’ Charges

The Fraternity Movement on Sunday, January 7, staged a protest after six student activists were detained for sticking pro-Palestine boycott posters on a Starbucks outlet near Kozhikode beach, Kerala. The protesters along with the six accused were charged with section 153 of Indian Penal Code accusing them of “inciting riots”. The organization accused the Kerala police of “terrorizing their movement”.

Initially the six students — Waseem Payyanat, Hathim Yasar, Fathima Meharin, Rafa Mariyam, Ameena Firose, and Nadhwa Rahman — were charged with sections 448 (punishment for house trespass), 427 (offence of mischief), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), along with 153 (malignantly, or wantonly, giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of IPC.

Condemning the arrest, and the “unnecessary charge of inciting riot” the Fraternity movement Calicut District Committee carried out a protest outside the Starbucks outlet. 

Tashreef KP, state general secretary of Fraternity Movement, told The Observer Post that following the protest, the Kozhikode police filed charges against 40 people including section 153 accusing them of “attempting to incite riots”. The police allegedly told the protestors that the slogans and the contents in placards/posters are provocative.

Thashreef said that anti- zionist and pro-palestnian posters have been used by several other organizations many times before, but the “Police have been suppressing the pro-palestine activities of certain organizations only.” 

Speaking to The Observer Post, Waseem Mansoor, co-accused and Unit President of Fraternity Movement Farook College said, “The charge of inciting riots is an unnecessary allegation on us. We are students and we just conducted a very non-provocative peaceful demonstration.”

Arrest of six students over a pro-palestine demonstration 

As part of a week-long campaign among the college campus units, ‘Palestine will be free’, the students had stuck labels and did a poster demonstration at the Starbucks outlet as part of the global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement showing solidarity with the Palestinians on January 4th.

The posters read, “Free Palestine” and “Caution Contents May Fund Genocide”, as reported in the First Investigation Report accessed by The Observer Post

“The six students from Farook College in Kozhikode district were released on station bail around 2:30 P.M the same day on a condition that they would produce the car to the Police,” Waseem said.

According to Waseem, the students solely intended to make a video of the poster demonstrations outside institutions that are openly supporting and backing the genocidal war on Gaza which included the Multi National Company, Starbucks. After which, the students themselves would take off the sticker with no actions causing any property damage or provocation.

“It was more of an awareness program than a protest, but they charged us with inciting riots. I would say they are trying to terrorize the peaceful demonstration,” he said.

The campaign included a film screening of the movie named Farha (regarding Nakba), discussion on a Malayalam book written by C. Dawood and other competitions for the students, as per Waseem.

“The campaign activities were solely focusing on awareness and educating people, especially the youngsters in Kozhikode,” he said. 

Waseem admitted that the store staff and managers had a dialogue with the students during the demonstration who said “This is unlawful and the Boycott won’t do any good”.

“Responding to which, the students replied that the statistics worldwide says otherwise. But it didn’t escalate, it wasn’t outrageous. Rather, it was a calm exchange of words,” Waseem added.   

Following which, a case was filed by the store manager of Starbucks outlet, Kozhikode, at Kozhikode Town Police Station. The Police have allegedly tracked them down through the number plate of the car in which the students traveled, which is currently seized. Waseem along with the other accused Hathim, reported at around 3:30 P.M on Friday, as asked by the Police. 

Upon learning about the charges that were filed against the accused, the Fraternity movement Kozhikode District Committee carried out a rally towards the Starbucks outlet on Sunday night 7:00 P.M, condemning the arrest and the charge of inciting riots against the six student activists but the Police personnel stationed all around the area stopped them midway. 

Accusing the government and the police of attempting to frame a particular organization as “terrorizing”, Waseem said that various organizations across Kerala have expressed solidarity with Palestine in their own way, including the ruling party.

“However, when the Welfare Party of India or the Fraternity Movement does it, we see an attempt to terrorize the movement,” he added.

Current status

Waseem said that the Police did not present a clear explanation as to the seizing of the vehicle.

“On Monday, we had again visited the station but the circular inspector was not available, and were asked to return on Tuesday,” he said. 

“We will continue this as a Legal fight demanding the reason for charging section 153 against the protesters”, Thashreef said. 

“The Kerala Police is trying to problamtise BDS… which is clearly a democratic and non-provocative movement. If the police don’t know about it, we will teach them what is the power of BDS through our protests,” Tashreef said, adding that the organization is planning to take this campaign to a national level in order to create awareness regarding Palestine and the BDS movement.

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