New Delhi: Family members of arrested Jamia Millia Islamia student Safoora Zargar say they are “appalled and upset” by the attempts made to slander her on social media, but her husband says he is keeping faith in the country’s judicial system.
Zargar, a 27-year-old M.Phil. student from Jamia, is over three months pregnant, and was arrested by the Delhi Police’s special cell on 10 April. She was later denied bail and, on 21 April, charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). She was associated with the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), and was part of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests organised by university students in December and January. She was arrested for allegedly leading the anti-CAA protest at Jaffrabad metro station in February.
On Monday, three weeks after her arrest, her family found a hashtag in her name, #सफूरा_जरगर, trending on Twitter, hours after Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra commented on her pregnancy.
Please don't connect her pregnancy with my speech
It doesn't work that way https://t.co/WtKokksIqR
— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) May 3, 2020
Mishra had quote-tweeted Congress member Salman Nizami’s tweet, which said: “Activist Safoora Zargar (pregnant) is in Jail during Ramadan, hatemongers like Kapil Mishra who incited riots are FREE.”
Mishra is accused of inciting hate through his speeches before violence erupted in Northeast Delhi in February.
Following this, many tweets questioning the nature of Zargar’s pregnancy and her marital status began doing the rounds.
I am short of words to express my disgust. @TwitterSafety @DelhiPolice@DCP_CCC_Delhi if u can't take action against these shameful trends and people then you are complicit. Commenting on a women's modesty in a country where women are worshipped as Devis. SHAME. #सफूरा_जरगर pic.twitter.com/aqKsHpGMZt
— Nabiya Khan | نبیہ خان (@NabiyaKhan11) May 4, 2020
“We are extremely appalled and distraught about this. I am shocked at the lengths people are willing to go to in order to malign her image,” her sister Sameeya Zargar told ThePrint. “This is nothing but character assassination.”
“I don’t even want to dignify these trolls by responding to them, they will do what they have to,” Zargar’s husband said to ThePrint. He requested that his name not be published.
Outrage over continued arrest without bail
Zargar’s continued arrest without bail has received widespread outrage and condemnation, including from Amnesty International. Her arrest, along with that of another Jamia student Meeran Haider, had earlier kicked up a storm of online petitions demanding their release.
At Zargar’s bail hearing on 18 April, the court said the investigating officer had filed a “cryptic and superficial” reply on her role in the case, and told the officer to file a detailed reply for the next hearing. However, her bail was later denied after more stringent charges were added to the FIR.
Amnesty said in a statement: “She is currently imprisoned in Tihar jail, which is one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country, and has not been able to access her lawyer or meet her husband since 14 April. Safoora’s pregnancy is a mitigating factor against her continued detention under UAPA, particularly amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Early Monday morning, her sister Sameeya released an open letter to her, describing the period of Safoora’s arrest as a “slow death”.
“She has had pregnancy related UTI issues. She also has a history of UTI. We were hoping on all these grounds she will be given bail, but hasn’t yet,” Sameeya said.
Safoora’s husband added: “We were hoping she would get bail soon, but because of the lockdown, the entire machinery is moving slowly. But we have hope in our judicial system.”
‘Not an arbitrary arrest’
The Delhi Police maintains that Safoora Zargar’s arrest is not ‘arbitrary’.
“It is not an arbitrary arrest, we have evidence to prove the charges. Rest the judiciary will take a call,” a senior police officer said on the condition of anonymity.
Officials of Tihar jail have said “she is being given proper medical assistance”, and have denied that she has been kept in solitary confinement.
“The new inmates are being kept isolated. As such, she is in a single cell. It is not solitary confinement. She has been allowed to talk to her family also on the phone,” said an officer posted in Tihar.
Her husband, however, said: “I was allowed to speak to her just once for only 5 minutes, over a week ago. There has been no communication permitted since then.”
(With inputs from Ananya Bhardwaj)