Bail for pregnant India student blamed for Delhi riots

Bail for pregnant India student blamed for Delhi riots

An Indian court has granted bail to Safoora Zargar, whose imprisonment on charges of instigating riots had triggered global outrage.

She was more than three months pregnant when she was arrested in April.

Police called her a “key conspirator” in anti-Muslim riots that swept Delhi in February, in which 53 people died.

Ms Zargar’s family denied the allegations, saying that she had only been a part of protests against a controversial citizenship law.

However, Ms Zargar was charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) – a draconian law that makes it nearly impossible for the accused to get bail.

Her incarceration in the overcrowded Tihar jail had caused a lot of concern, especially at a time when India was under a strict lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court granted her bail in response to a plea filed by a fellow student who said that Ms Zargar was suffering from medical complications. The government, which had opposed all her bail pleas so far, said it would not oppose it this time on “humanitarian grounds”.

The court has asked her not to leave the city and also told her not to engage in “any activity which would hamper the progress of the investigation” in her case.

She has been asked to pay a personal bond of 10,000 rupees ($132; £106) before her release.

Her husband – who has declined to be named – told the BBC that they expected her to be released today.

Ms Zargar is among a number of Muslim students and activists who have been jailed since India’s lockdown began on 25 March, leading to accusations that the government is using the pandemic to crack down on free speech and dissent.

As a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a student group at her university, she had been active in organising peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in north-east Delhi. Critics of the law have said that it discriminates against Muslims.

Ms Zargar, now six months pregnant, soon emerged as the face of state repression against students and activists.

“The government of India has been exceedingly intolerant towards free speech and dissent,” Amnesty International India Executive Director Avinash Kumar said in a statement at the time of her arrest.

“But to arrest Safoora who is in the second trimester of her pregnancy and send her to an overcrowded prison during the pandemic highlights how brutal is the ongoing clampdown in the country.”

This led her to be attacked by government supporters on social media, who attempted to slut-shame her, posting vulgar comments suggesting she was unmarried and raising questions over her pregnancy.

source – BBC