Amnesty demands India to release pregnant citizenship law activist

Published May 2, 2020
Safoora Zargar, the activitst who has been arrested by Delhi police nd charged under the country's Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2019 (UAPA). — Photo courtesy Twitter
Safoora Zargar, the activitst who has been arrested by Delhi police nd charged under the country's Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2019 (UAPA). — Photo courtesy Twitter

The Indian chapter of Amnesty International on Friday demanded the release of Safoora Zargar, a pregnant activist who was arrested in connection with the communal violence that flared up in Delhi in February over the country's contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

In a tweet, the human rights organisation blasted the Indian government for "ruthlessly arresting a pregnant woman and sending her to an overcrowded prison during Covid-19" and demanded her immediate release.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, the 27-year-old was arrested on April 10 and charged under the country's Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2019 (UAPA). She was three months pregnant at the time of her arrest.

Zargar was a research fellow at the Jamia Millia University in Delhi and the media coordinator for the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) which organised weeks of protests against the citizenship law passed by the government in December of last year.

According to a *Times of India* report, Delhi police say Zargar is being kept at a separate cell in Tihar Jail and has been provided medical supervision and facilities.

They accused Zargar of being a "key conspirator" of the communal violence that erupted in Delhi in February. At least 56 people were killed in clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the country's capital.

The riots in New Delhi began over India's disputed new citizenship law, which led to clashes in which hundreds were injured and houses, shops, mosques, schools and vehicles were set on fire.

Tensions between Hindu hard-liners and Muslims protesting the Hindu-first policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had been building for months when the violence exploded on the eve of US President Donald Trump’s state visit to India.

Read: Indian police deliberately targeted Muslims during Delhi riots: NYT report

The new Indian law grants citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan prior to 2015.

Muslims protested against the law as it does not give them the same rights to citizenship as members of other faiths, a move critics say undermines the secular constitution.

Critics also accused Modi's government of drafting the new rules to favour its hardline Hindu agenda aimed at disturbing permanent settlements belonging to Muslims.

Read: Explainer: What does India's new citizenship law mean?

Thousands, including students at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, also protested against the law in December which ended in clashes between the police and demonstrators.

A march by students from the university descended into chaos on December 16 when Police used rubber bullets and tear gas on protesting students. Video footage showed officers running after unarmed protesters and beating them with wooden sticks.

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