Time and time again women of this country have been a victim of a misogynist and a sexist society. With each case more appalling than the last, we have only achieved new levels of bigotry. In this case however it is safe to say that we as a society and a country have never stooped this low before.
Safoora Zargar, who is in the second trimester of her pregnancy, has been in Tihar jail for almost a month now. Safoora, an M.Phil student from Jamia Milia Islamia was arrested on 10th April for her alleged role in the North-East Delhi riots. She was arrested for organizing a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) near Jaffrabad metro station. Later on, she was charged under the controversial Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act (UAPA).
The Act in question has faced a lot of criticism for its potential abuse by the authorities to silence any kind of opposition. In the last 2 months, this act has been continuously used to book students and activists who were a part of the anti CAA protests. Even with the entire world dealing with a pandemic crisis, a continuous witch hunt of Muslim protesters has been underway in India. Before Safoora, another Jamia student Miran Haider and JNU scholar Umar Khalid had been booked under UAPA. Many activists have condemned these arrests and are of the opinion that the government is trying to crush the movement by arresting the people who were leading the Anti CAA/NRC/NPR protests.
What makes Safoora’s arrest more disturbing, is the fact that she was pregnant at the time of arrest. A move like this, puts a question mark on the humanity of the government and the society. It is not news that women are a victim of chauvinism and oppression but whenever something like this happens, it makes us look through the pretense of a progressive country. It becomes really concerning when a woman cannot speak up against the oppression without her character being maligned.
Since Safoora’s arrest, twitter in India has been constantly attempting to vilify her character. BJP IT cell led by Amit Malviya makes up the majority of the Indian twitter. They are known to use old and fake videos to spread hate among the people by making it viral. They had a huge role in communalizing the spread of corona virus in India. They have once again used their strategies to start an abusive campaign on every social media against Safoora regarding her pregnancy in an effort to stifle her voice.
Safoora is an empowered woman and a Muslim. Two things that our country is finding very revolting nowadays, possibly one more than the other. Our society hates when a woman speaks up and even more so if she is a Muslim. Safoora was a part of the Anti CAA protests that were held in the capital last December. The Citizenship amendment act (CAA) that has been criticized for its discriminatory nature, saw a country wide protest with Shaheen Bagh being the hotspot, where the protests were led by woman. Where the women of Shaheen Bagh were an inspiration for women all over the country, BJP leaders were busy passing malicious comments on them. Their integrity, their dedication, their characters were constantly questioned.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and his party’s silence in this matter is not unexpected. The man who was silent during the communal violence against Muslims of north- east Delhi should not be expected to speak up when a pregnant woman is sent to jail.
What is really concerning is the silence of many notable women and human rights commission. It was days after the online slandering campaign against Safoora, that the Delhi Commission for women (DCW) came forward and issued a notice to the Delhi police seeking an FIR in the matter of online abuse and attacks on her. The notice stated, “Ms. Zargar is facing the court of law and is in jail. The case against her is sub-judice and the law shall take its own course. However, the same does not give anyone the right to outrage her modesty and abuse her and her family.” They have asked the Delhi police for details of the accused identified and arrested in the matter.
This is not the first time that our country has failed its women and sadly this will not be the last. But for now, we as a society deserve to live with guilt and shame for sending a pregnant woman in jail during the outbreak of a pandemic when she should be at home, surrounded by people who admire her for who she is.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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