When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark a bit too far and spread the fire. These were the words of Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana who denied scholar and activist Safoora Zargar bail yesterday. The 27-year-old stands charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for the alleged conspiracy behind the February riots that rocked the national capital. Zargar is five months pregnant. It has also been argued previously in the court that she is at risk of miscarriage, owing to a history of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOD).
Also Read: Judge dismisses Safoora Zargar’s bail plea
According to a news report by HuffPost, during the bail hearing that happened yesterday, Zargar’s lawyer Trideep Pais argued that Zargar suffers from health complications that could increase her chances of miscarriage. “It’s not her life alone that we are concerned with today,” he said referring to her 21-week pregnancy. One has to also consider the larger threat of coronavirus which further puts Zargar’s health and that of her unborn child at grave risk.
Zargar is five months pregnant. It has also been argued previously in the court that she is at risk of miscarriage, owing to a history of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOD).
However, the right-wing on social media is busy drawing comparisons between Zargar’s arrest and that of MP Sadhvi Pragya, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, who reportedly had suffered from breast cancer while in jail. “After the 2017 bail (of Pragya Thakur), we did a preventive prophylactic bilateral mastectomy at the Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow,” Dr S.S. Rajput, the surgeon who performed these procedures, revealed to The Print, last year.
“Sadhvi Pragya was also suffering from cancer. This guys didn’t ask for her bail on medical condition and today they want bail for safoora…Hypocrisy at its best,” wrote one Twitter user, while another pointed out, “She is not the first pregnant criminal obviously.”
It is alarming how the conversation is completely devoid of empathy for a life that has nothing do with CAA-NRC protest, or Delhi riots- Zargar’s unborn child. In times of coronavirus, this baby, whose mother has pre-existing health conditions, why does her/his well-being matter so little to us? Yes, Zargar isn’t the only pregnant woman in jail, but shouldn’t this also trigger questions on healthcare being provided expecting mothers behind the bars?
If the Sadhvi indeed struggled with critical health complications while in jail, how can those moved by her plight approve of other women enduring similar fate?
This is a situation none of us have experienced before. Then why are concerns over Zargar’s health amidst an all-consuming pandemic? Also, unfair treatment or hardships faced by one woman in jail shouldn’t be used as a parameter to justify the internment of another woman. That is is just yet another form of whataboutery. If anything it should be used to address the health risks women face while in jail.
According to A Study of condition of Women Prisoners & Their Children in Eastern U.P. Jails only 24.13 percent of pregnant women got immunized within the prison during their pregnancy. The study further suggested that all jail pregnant women got the same food as other fellow inmates. Only in Lucknow and Azamgarh jail where women get milk, no other nutrition diet is provided to pregnant women specifically. This gives us a peek into the state of affairs for women’s wellbeing in prisons while being pregnant.
If the Sadhvi indeed struggled with critical health complications while in jail, how can those moved by her plight approve of other women enduring similar fate? The entire debate of women convicts’ safety, arrest and detention of people with health issues or women expecting a baby, while the charges against them are yet to be proved, has taken a backseat for the sake of political vengeance.
We are missing the bigger picture here. We are steering away from the conversation of pregnancy, motherhood and health issues among prisoners. The cost of this politically charged debate devoid of humanity could be paid by innocent individuals, or unborn children and newborns. In this case we can very much control in what direction the wind blows and carries the spark. But alas, we are too focused on who carries what embers, to care about the damaged that the fire will cause.
Views are the author’s own