Crime & Justice

Pregnant student activist blamed for Delhi riots gets bail

By Iqbal Abhimanyu

New Delhi, June 23 (efe-epa).- An Indian court on Tuesday `granted conditional bail on humanitarian grounds to a 23-week pregnant student activist who was charged under a controversial anti-terror law for allegedly sparking Delhi communal riots in February.

Safoora Zargar, a 27-year-old student of the capital’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, had been in prison since Apr. 10 on conspiracy charges for provoking violence that broke out following widespread street protests in Delhi against a controversial citizenship law.

The arrest and continued detention of the pregnant woman had triggered widespread outrage by global rights groups.

“Safoora has been given bail on three conditions. No act which amounts to an infarction of the law related to the case under investigation. No interference with investigation or witnesses. No leaving Delhi without permission of the court,” the activist’s lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan told EFE.

Ramakrishnan said that the Delhi High Court, which approved bail after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta did not oppose the plea on humanitarian grounds, has asked Zargar to call the investigating officer in the case every 15 days.

The student had approached the high court earlier this month when a lower court denied her bail after she was slapped with the controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for participating in protests against the country’s amended citizenship law.

The controversial act allows arrest for up to 180 days without trial and is often used for terror-related cases -.

The police have arrested several activists and students involved in the protests on charges of conspiring to instigate communal violence in northeast Delhi, in which over 50 people were killed in February.

However, rights groups have alleged that the government was trying to stifle dissent by arresting activists protesting against policies considered discriminatory.

“There are many others who continue to be in jail just because they protested against the government,” nonprofit Amnesty International tweeted on Tuesday.

The group listed detainees such as students Sharjeel Imam, Meeran Haider, and Asif Iqbal Tanha as well as Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, part of a feminist student collective named Pinjra Tod (break the locks).

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch had urged the government to stop arrests and prosecution of activists and alleged that the authorities had failed to act against the real culprits behind the violence, which wad linked to provocative speeches by Hindu right-wing groups, considered close to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Indian authorities should immediately drop politically-motivated charges against those peacefully protesting against citizenship policies that discriminate against Muslims and release them from custody,” the rights group said.

When India went into lockdown in late March to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, the stay-home restrictions brought an end to massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that had rocked the country since December.

For months, large groups of protesters led by women had stood up against the law that grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighboring Muslim majority countries.

The law excludes members of Muslim sects, including Shia and Ahmadiyya, considered persecuted minorities in Muslim majority nations.

Several neighborhoods in Delhi and other cities witnessed round-the-clock sit-ins and blockade of roads for months against the controversial citizenship rule.

Muslims, who form around 14 percent of Hindu-majority India’s 1.3 billion population, fear being reduced to second-class citizens by the CAA along with a proposed nationwide citizenship registry, while other critics have said the law goes against the constitution’s secular ethos. EFE-EPA

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