Delhi violence: Pregnant Jamia student Safoora Zargar denied bail for third time’, ‘Pregnant Safoora Zargar denied bail again as judge finds ‘no merit’ in plea’, ‘Inside Safoora Zargar’s failed bail hearing, as she completes five months of pregnancy’.
These are some of the headlines that India’s news outlets have used while reporting on the unjust, cruel, and continued arrest of MPhil student and Jamia Coordination Committee member Safoora Zargar for her participation in the anti-CAA protests.
Safoora’s pregnancy does make her more vulnerable to the Covid-19, and raises questions on the state’s apathy in putting her and her child’s life at risk. But the media has completely reduced the identity of a fierce Muslim woman activist being subjected to oppressive laws by the state to a pregnant, subjugated woman.
Her illicit arrest, which took place while she was three month’s pregnant, is definitely a cause for concern but it shouldn’t be the only cause for concern or comprise her entire case.
Invoking her pregnancy and using it as a shock factor in headlines dilutes the reality of the Narendra Modi government arbitrarily silencing dissenting voices through repressive laws such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA. More often than not, Muslims are at the receiving end of the state’s wrath.
The piousness of pregnancy
Cold-blooded murders of pregnant women, brutal extraction of their foetuses to be flung around in sadistic victory are part of India’s gory history — case in point the Naroda Patiya massacre in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Pregnancy is considered sacred, it is the symbol of new life and growth. Perhaps this is why Safoora’s pregnancy is repeatedly invoked to highlight how cruel the state and the judiciary are for not taking mercy on her, despite the fact that she is now five months pregnant. But using her pregnancy as a tool to appeal for her release from jail reduces her identity simply to her ability to reproduce.
Our anger should instead be channeled at the imposition of the charges under the draconian UAPA on numerous activists who protested against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, earlier this year.
Under the UAPA, an individual can be labelled a terrorist even before the charges framed against them have been proved in court, with no bail granted as long as a prima facie case can be made against the accused.
The Patiala High Court judge, even while accepting that there was no evidence against her, believed her involvement in a “conspiracy to at least block the roads (chakka jam)”.
The pregnancy pathology
Another pregnant being that has been in the news for falling prey to ignorance and apathy was an elephant in Kerala who died after eating an explosive-stuffed pineapple. That pineapple was originally meant for wild boars.
Once again, a public sense of loss was derived greatly from the fact that the elephant was pregnant. For instance, in cartoonist Satish Acharya’s rendering of the tragedy, the focus was on what the unborn child might have said to his mother. I can’t help but think of how people would have reacted if the elephant’s womb was empty.
— Satish Acharya (@satishacharya) June 3, 2020
Many on social media have been invoking the nationwide rage caused by the death of the elephant, especially by the Right-wing, contrasting it with the lack of sympathy for the pain and risk imposed on a pregnant student lodged in Tihar Jail, whose cries of mercy fell upon deaf ears.
Safoora Zargar is 21 weeks pregnant and she has STILL been denied bail by a Delhi court. We spoke up for the heinous act of killing a pregnant elephant. We need to speak up now. She should be trending all over the place.
— Andre Borges (@borges) June 5, 2020
Twisting the narrative in their own interest, the Right-wing first used Zargar’s pregnancy to dehumanise her and slander her reputation. In Indian society, there’s of course no better way to slander a woman than question her character and say abhorring things about her sexual choices.
This is how the disgraceful, deplorable and despicable slut-shaming of Safoora Zargar began on Twitter — and leading from the front was BJP’s Kapil Mishra.
People justified the arrest of a pregnant woman by assassinating her character and falsely alleging that her child was conceived out of wedlock.
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
While Zargar’s pregnancy has been used as a tool to arouse sympathy by some, it has been used to evoke misogynistic contempt by others. Safoora’s identity was undermined by both.
Views are personal.