Sadaf Jafar speaks to Sabrang India about her nightmarish experience in jail

The social activist was brutally beaten up and subject to communal abuse by police authorities


“307 laga ke tujhe jail mein sadaunga,” a junior police officer told an injured and bleeding Sadaf Jafar while she was being abused by a Circle Officer (CO) at the Hazratganj police station where she was detained during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Uttar Pradesh.

Speaking to Sabrang India, Sadaf recounted the nightmare she went through in custody.

“We were protesting peacefully at Parivartan Chowk and then the arson and stone-pelting took place. More than anything, it appeared to be very state-sponsored. There were two things that raised eyebrows. One, how is it that you have Section 144 imposed and you have people carrying that quantum of stones and not getting detected by the police when there were so many personnel deputed? And they were all dressed up alike – they were all wearing the topis and the typical keffiyehs. They came forward and sat down and rendering namaaz in the middle of arsoning. We were shocked! This just doesn’t happen – it was very dramatic. I am a Muslim and I know this doesn’t happen. It was very strange. Secondly, as arsoning continued, we remained there. I was unable to move towards my car. We took shelter somewhere and I decided to do a Facebook Live and I could see the police be completely inactive at that moment. That again, was very surprising. The police was going around, talking,” she began narrating.

Aap kuch karte kyun nahi ho? Aap unko pakadte kyun nahi ho?” she says she asked the police while the stone pelting was going on. “When the police car caught fire, that is when the police used tear gas and lathi charged at the people. As things settled, we tried to move towards our vehicles, but we were picked up and I was still continuing with my Facebook Live because I was confident that I was doing nothing wrong.”

Speaking about how the badge-less police officers beat her up she said, “Women police officers dragged me by my hand to the corner of the street and started beating me with a baton on my legs.”

On asking why they were hitting her when she was cooperating with them, they abused her, and Sadaf said that from the corner of her eye, she could see a Dalit activist being badly beaten up and his hair being pulled.

The police officers asked Sadaf to sit on the ground, but she refused, citing a bad knee. She was then slapped, her spectacles fell off her face and her phone fell off her hands. “I went on all fours to pick up my phone and they started hitting me with batons on my back. I tried to save my head with my hands but someone said they would injure my hands and fracture them so I held them under my stomach and they kept hitting me with batons on my backs and shoulders,” she said.

A police officer, Seelam, Sadaf said, was given a baton and a free hand to hit protestors.

“I was taken to a mahila police station without a female police officer. I could hear screams and cries from where the males were detained. They kept bringing them and hitting them and this continued the whole night of December 19th,” Sadaf recounted adding that soon enough the female police officers were back from the demonstration site and started hitting her.

“They called me Pakistani. They kept saying “Oh she’s Muslim.” This was the first time I saw them in their communal color. They kept saying you are reproducing here and you’re having so much fun here and what has the government given you that you are behaving like an ‘ehsaan faramosh’?” she said, stating it was clearly a show of ‘you’ and ‘us’.

Seelam was back, Sadaf recalled, who in a very Meerut accent told her, “Tera main khoon kaadungi (I will draw your blood),” proceeding to scratch her face and palms, pulling her hair and continuing to slap her.

Sadaf was worried that her family would be looking for her. She didn’t remember any of her family member’s mobile numbers and whoever was coming to rescue her, was being detained by the police. When someone called to inquire if Sadaf was at the police station, she said that the police officer categorically mentioned that there was no female detained there.

Answering why the police didn’t allow her to contact her family or allow anyone to rescue her, she said that the police was scared that had that been the case, they could not have charged her under such serious allegations.

The junior police officer who threatened to book her under charges for murder, Sadaf said, first ordered a female police officer to slap her, which she did. On not being satisfied, he walked up to Sadaf, pulled her hair and kicked her in the stomach, due to which she started bleeding profusely. Nobody helped her and even en route to the prison she was made to sit on a newspaper to save the car seat from getting soiled.

At around 2 PM, when Sadaf complained of blood pressure issues, she was taken to a civil hospital where she was administered two injections. She wasn’t allowed to rest there, for the police accused her of pretending to be sick and wanting a comfortable bed and took her back to the police station.  

The abuses continued, and Sadaf kept standing up in the presence of a male police officer because he had ordered her to not sit in a chair. She was denied food and water at the police station, for almost 12 hours, until she reached the prison where she was looked after and given medical attention.

“Deepak Kabir came looking for me at the police station. He was also identified by the police as being present at the demonstration and he was brutally beaten up. I first saw him at the police station and the next time I seen him, he is wide-eyed with hair disheveled, climbing the police van,” Sadaf said about the activist who came to rescue her.

She also mentioned that the CJM was called to the station who signed orders for them to be taken into custody. On being taken to prison, the men were stripped off in front of her and their injuries were counted.

The experience hasn’t made Sadaf bitter though. She says her determination to protest against the fascist policies of the government has only grown stronger. She said, “I was very vocal about my brutality. I got support from across party lines, religions, castes and regions. From Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to Akhilesh Yadav to social activists, filmmakers like Mira Nair, actors like Swara Bhaskar and Anurag Kashyap, everyone came forward for me and my children.”

Before signing off she said, “What Modi and Amit Shah wanted to do was to divide on communal and political lines. My arrest cut across everything. The support that came through all the people has only strengthened my determination. I told Priyanka Gandhi that I am willing to take a bullet to take this movement forward. I know I am not alone.”


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