Safoora Zargar

Pregnant activist detained in India under draconian UAPA law

Malaika Chishty

Safoora Zargar is a 26-year-old Indian-Muslim student activist from Jammu and Kashmir, widely known for her activism in the Citizenship Amendment Act protests. She is an M.Phil student of Jamia Millia Islamia and media coordinator of the Jamia Coordination Committee. Zargar has shaken the socio-political infrastructure of India, which is designed to crush minorities and establish religious ideologies to run the state. She is an unapologetically opinionated woman who faced derogatory comments and misogynistic campaigns which targeted her pregnancy – that she was pregnant by Hindus at Shaheen Bagh. Delhi Police arrested her because she was a peacefully protesting, but police did not take any action against those who vilified her online.

What is UAPA and why does secular India wants to silence voices under this draconian law?

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 is an Indian law aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India. Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Masrat Zahra, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, Natasha Narwal, are those among many who have been arrested under UAPA. Under this law, protestors of CAA Bill had been labelled as a threat to national integrity and security apparatus of the state.

What is Citizenship Amendment Act and why are activists furious about it?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed by the Parliament of India on December 11, 2019. It amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship for illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities, who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014. Muslims from those countries were not given such eligibility. The act was the first time religion had been overtly used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian law. This bill was introduced by Amit Shah, Minister of Home Affairs.

The enactment of this law prompted a sudden outrage in India. Students who belong to Jawahar laal Nehru University, Jamila Milia Islamia, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, the Indian Institute of Institute of Science (IISc), Aligarh University and political activists organised nationwide rallies and demonstrations.

Safoora Zargar, a prominent activist of Jamia, who roared against enactment of the bill and its associated proposal, was arrested on April 10 and charged under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2019 (UAPA) by Delhi police. She had been labelled as a key conspirator in the violence that happened in northeast Delhi after supporters of the Hindu nationalist government attacked peaceful sit-ins. At least 53 people were killed, mostly Muslims. On April 11, she was brought before the Metropolitan Magistrate and incarcerated in police custody for two days. On April 13, she was granted bail, but immediately rearrested by the police on another charge. Other charges were brought against her on April 20. Since April 15, she has been detained in Tihar Jail in her second trimester. On April 18, her lawyers applied for bail, but it was rejected by the court on April 21. They made another bail application on May 2, but withdrew it in court. On May 26, court remanded her until June 25. On May 30, her lawyers again applied for bail, and it was rejected on June 4 by Delhi’s Patiala House Court.

A woman, who being a citizen of the state used her right to speak to, demonstrate, to live given by the constitution of India, raised using her voice in peaceful sit in protests for the minorities of India, became a threat to the national integrity of the state. She protested against the bill which opposes the principles of “secular India.” UAPA came into enactment to deal with the elements terrorising the state, or for actions that creates danger for the sovereignty of India. How did a sociology research scholar, pregnant woman, peaceful student, an unarmed citizen, became source of danger to the state? That the government and police had no option other than imprisoning her with the charges of 18 crimes including rioting, possession of arms, attempt to murder, incitement of violence, sedition, murder, and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.

The irony is, death of a pregnant elephant makes the whole Indian nation mourn, but detention of an innocent pregnant lady does not!

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