Student activist Safoora Zargar, denied bail, judicial custody extended till June 25

Youth leaders across the country come together in a rare live press conference to raise questions on the ongoing ‘witch hunt’ against student activists


Student activist Safoora Zargar, has been denied bail, and her Judicial custody has been extended till June 25. She was produced at the Patiala House Court at 12 noon, today. Soon the news of the extension of her judicial custody got out on social media. 

A scholar in the sociology department of the prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia university Safoora was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi police  on April 10. She is in the second trimester of her first pregnancy, and has been lodged behind prison bars for well over a month, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inmates, and staff, at the overcrowded jails are extremely vulnerable to being exposed to Coronavirus. And pregnant women have been classified as being amongst the most vulnerable. In the current national lockdown it has been repeatedly advised by various experts, even government officials, that pregnant women stay home, and away from crowds. However, that clearly does not seem applicable to those arrested for peacefully protesting against a law many allege to be discriminating  against Muslims in India.

Earlier in the day, a joint press conference was conducted where students leaders from across the country spoke about the system targeting anti CAA protesters, most of them students, 

“The central government’s priority is not the pandemic, nor is it the poor, or feeding the labourers. Their priority is how to ‘expose’ anti-CAA protestors, who were on the streets to save the Constitution,” siad All India Student Association (AISA) leader Sai Balaji, “I don’t understand how reading the Preamble invokes the UAPA?” 

He asked how politicians like Anurag Thakur and Kapil Misra, who have been alleged to have chanted slogans that have called for bullets to be fired at those they consider ‘traitor’s,  is ‘nationalism’ for the forces that be. “I do not understand how spreading hate is nationalism,” he said. These people have not been charged under UAPA, or accused of sedition, he raised the issue that has constantly been under the scanner now. The allegations against and arrests of anti CAA activists, and students leaders, he said are under the Covid-19 lockdown as it is obvious no one will come out in protest.  The media he said, was being distracted by generating ‘Hindu-Muslim’ issues. 

The students were also trying to defend the rights of the Migrants who are now being denied even food, he said. He alleged that the ‘RSS script’ Delhi Police is now using has been politically motivated. 

According to Kanhaiyya Kumar, who rose as a political activist as a student leader from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and was also politically targeted along with his colleague Umer Khalid said these arrests are a “message to other students that they too will be thrown in jail if they ever speak against the government.” 

Other scholars and  human rights defenders currently in jail, and many charged under various IPC provisions, as well as the dreaded Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) include:  Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa ur Rehman and Sharjeel Imam. Delhi Police has also seized the mobile phone of former DU student, human rights defender and lawyer Kawalpreet Kaur.

Delhi Police action against these minority voices of dissent, especially those who participated in the anti-CAA protests, has continued even as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on and a national lockdown is in place.  Safoora has also been a victim of online vilification, character assasination and abuse.

“The lockdown was to prevent the Covid-19 curve, but it is being used to flatten dissent and protest,” said Umer Khalid. “The Delhi Police is damaging its own credibility to satisfy political masters,” he added, “I ask them to tell us clearly what political pressure has prevented them from even filing an FIR against Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra?”

He said he is confident that the students now under arrest, many of whom he knows and can vouch for himself,  have “never mentioned violence, never advocated violence.”

According to a recent report in the BBC, Zargar was taken by officers of the special cell for questioning about her involvement in the  anti CAA protests. “At the police station Ms Zargar was questioned for several hours,” stated the BBC, she was arrested late that night.  Zargar has been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) – a draconian law that makes it nearly impossible for the accused to get bail. Since her arrest, she’s been allowed to make two five-minute calls each to her husband and her lawyer. She has been denied both visits and letters on account of Covid-19 restrictions,” reported the BBC.

Jignesh Mewani, Bahujan leader and an elected legislator  of the Gujarat Assembly:  “This is witch hunting and vendetta politics. The police know people will not come on the streets to protest, and so they are using the lockdown to target student leaders.” These students are fighting for the rights of all the marginalised, they are ideologically anti-RSS and that is what is feeding vendetta politics, he said. “To say that these student leaders were involved in Delhi riots itself is a conspiracy hatched and executed by our government,” he said adding that a similar conspiracy has been seen in the Bhima Koregaon riot case.  “It is nothing short of fascism,” he added, “it is shameful to target them. Delhi riots where more than 50 died, looked like a mass scale bob lynching. Police has even not taken cognisance of the reports that quoted provocative speeches by Kapil Misra and others.”

“All of them were peacefully protesting. Khalid Saifi was allegedly tortured in custody, and Safoora Zargar is in the second trimester of her pregnancy. India is headed down a dangerous path. The arrests, intimidation & harassment of some of its finest minds is cause for alarm,” said youth leader Shehla Rashid.

According to the  BBC report, Safoora, as a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a student group, she had been active in organising peaceful protests against the CAA in north-east Delhi. “Her sister Sameeya describes her as “very gutsy, unapologetically honest and very opinionated”. But police allege she was a “key conspirator” in riots that swept the area in February, in which 53 people, mostly Muslims, died.” “In my view, this is mala fide persecution,” lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan also told the BBC.

As reported by Sabrang, the most recent has been the case of two women activists  Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, leaders of the feminist rights group Pinjra Tod who are  students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who were arrested taking part in anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in the capital, then granted bail but rearrested by the Delhi Crime Branch immediately. This time they have been charged with murder and attempt to murder.





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