Pregnant Student Arrested During Lockdown, Denied Bail

by Anjali Ojha 11 months ago Views 2756

Pregnant Student Arrested During Lockdown, Denied
As India remains shut in a lockdown for over a month, Jamia Millia Islamia university student Safoora Zargar, who is in the second trimester of her pregnancy, was arrested and sent to jail amid the coronavirus pandemic, raising concerns over her health and safety.

Zargar has been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The lockdown, which brought to an end over three-month-long sit-in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), brought Delhi to a standstill. Interrogations and arrests pertaining to the riots in North-East Delhi, however, have continued and many involved in protests at different spots in Delhi have been arrested and accused of being involved in riots.

The UAPA is a law that restricts fundamental rights like freedom to speech and expression, right to assembly and peaceful protest and right to form unions if it is against the "interests of sovereignty and integrity of India". Zargar emerged as one of the faces of the anti-CAA-NRC protests at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) over the  last few months and is a part of the Jamia Coordination Committee, a group formed by students, alumni and others from the university. The protests at Jamia, which were finally ended as the coronavirus pandemic pushed India into a lockdown, also came against the backdrop of the university campus witnessing use of force by the Delhi police on December 15.

Another Ph.D student, Meeran Haidar, and Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association president Shafi-Ur-Rehman, have also been arrested under the UAPA.

Zargar is the media coordinator of Jamia Coordination Committee, while Haider, who is also the president of the Delhi unit of the youth wing of Bihar-based Rashtriya Janata Dal, is a member of the committee.

The Delhi Police has claimed that the communal violence in northeast Delhi was a "premeditated conspiracy" which was allegedly hatched by former JNU student leader Umar Khalid and two others. They have been booked under offences of sedition, murder, attempt to murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and rioting.

An advocate handling one of the cases told GoNews the initial FIR, under which Zargar and Haidar were arrested, included section 146, 147, 148 of the Indian Penal Code which are related to rioting, section 149, which pertains to unlawful assembly, and section 120B, which pertains to criminal conspiracy. All these are bailable offences. 

"Safoora was first taken into police custody in an FIR related to the Jaffrabad incident. Those were all bailable charges and only a formal arrest is done in such cases. There were around 400 FIRs, and this was one of them," the lawyer told GoNews. 

Formal arrest means the accused gets bail immediately after arrest. 

"At that time three suspects were arrested, Safoora was also taken in police custody. But then the investigation was transferred to the Special Cell (of Delhi Police). Non-bailable sections like section 302, 307 (relating to murder), sedition and other sections were included," the lawyer said. 

"She is pregnant, and was first taken into police custody for two days, before that ended, they added UAPA charges. Now the matter can only be heard by a Sessions Court," he added. 

The FIR on the basis of which Zargar was arrested also named Umar Khalid, a former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), but he has not been arrested so far.

"They can add UAPA charges only after they arrest someone. The FIR also names Umar Khalid who was not even in Delhi at the time," he added. 

A member of the Jamia Coordination Committee, which is an informal group set up during the anti-CAA protests, called it a 'witch hunt'.

"They have all been framed in the North-East Delhi riots. Police can add whatever sections they want," the member said. 

Meanwhile, Zargar's own lawyer refused to comment on the case. 

"The matter is sub-judice, I cannot comment," the lawyer said. 

Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act  and NRC had been continuing in Delhi since the law was passed by Parliament on December 11.

Riots erupted in North-East Delhi on February 23 in which at least 53 people were killed. 

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