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MRG condemns Mumbai bombings but warns against arbitrary detentions of Muslims

20 July 2011

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) strongly condemns Wednesday’s fatal bombings in Mumbai, but warns against the possible use of state counter-terrorism measures to arrest and detain Muslims arbitrarily.

The city was struck by three bomb blasts during rush hour, which killed at least 21 people and injured dozens more. No group has claimed responsibility but, according to reports, officials suspect the Indian Mujahideen, a group which has professed to have carried out similar attacks in the past.

Since the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, in which 166 were killed and many left wounded, the Indian government has used counter-terrorism laws to crack down on the Muslim community.

In a further development, Faiz Usmani, the brother of 2008 Ahmedabad blast accused Afzal Usmani, was called to Mumbai's Central Bureau of Investigation on Saturday afternoon for questioning about the July 13 explosions. Police say he fell ill and was shifted to hospital where he later died of a heart attack and brain haemorrhage. Some Muslim leaders, and Usmani's family, suspect that he may have been tortured in police custody and are calling for a judicial enquiry into his death.

MRG's partner organisation in India, whose name is withheld for security reasons, says, ‘Muslims seem to be soft targets as in popular perception all terrorists are Muslims.'

In its 2010 flagship annual report, State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples , which last year focused on religious minorities, MRG said, ‘Across the world, there is a clear trend of counter-terrorism laws and rhetoric used to either carry out attacks against particular religious communities or justify restrictions of freedoms of particular groups.’

In January 2009, thousands of people protested in Uttar Pradesh, accusing police of arresting young Muslim boys on terrorism charges with minimal evidence.

Following blasts from 21 simultaneous bombs in the city of Ahmedabad in July 2008, which killed 53 people and injured 200 more, local human rights activists claimed that about 400 Muslim youths had been rounded up in the aftermath.

In 2009, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged India to counter suspicion against Muslims in the country and warned that anti-terrorism laws threatened human rights.

Following the Mumbai 2008 atrocities, the government rushed through new laws, allowing police to hold suspects for up to 180 days without charge.