A letter addressing the issue of detention of young women activists who participated in CAA-NRC protests has been written to the National Human Rights Commission. The letter is addressed to Justice Shri HN Dattu, Chairperson NHRC, and is written by several people from across various women’s rights groups, feminist organizations, journalists, filmmakers, etc. The letter urges NHRC to intervene in the “malicious prosecution of women activists and women’s rights defenders” like Safoora Zargar, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha Fatima, and Ishrat Jahan among others.
The Letter Seeks Urgent Intervention By NHRC
“We seek your urgent intervention in the continuing persecution and criminalization of women activists who have supported and participated in the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the announcement that it would be followed up with a National Register of Citizens (NRC) and a National Population Register (NPR),” the letter published by LiveLaw reads.
“It is clear that the Delhi Police is trying to prejudice the public against these young women activists as dangerous criminals,” the letter says.
The letter also highlights how the women activists continued to protest despite continuous vilification and trolling on social media and mentions about “physical attacks by agents provocateurs deployed by right-wing extremist outfits.”
“The Notion Of Equal Citizenship Was Brought Brilliantly To Life By Women”
“Recognising the discriminatory and divisive intent of the CAA and the exclusionary possibilities of the NRC and NPR, a small group of working-class women in Delhi spontaneously came out of their homes and sat on a round-the-clock dharna. This simple act sparked an unprecedented mobilization against the CAA-NRC-NPR across the country, creating a new political space and a new political discourse,” the letter states.
Further highlighting how women’s participation played a crucial role in protests, the letter reads, “The notion of equal citizenship was brilliant to life by women who interpreted it through their life experiences as citizens of India, in a language and idiom that found resonance with people across the country.”
“Primary Targets Are Women”
The letter elucidated, “Among the primary targets of this political vendetta are the young women student-activists who have participated in dharnas at various locations in Delhi.”It named Ishrat Jahan, Safoora Zargar, Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha Fatima, Devangana Kalita, as the women protestors who fell prey to the targeted arrests over the last two months. “These young women represent the latest generation of political activists who stand in defense of women’s human rights. In joining the movement against the CAA-NRC-NPR, they have asserted their rights and freedoms, protected under the Constitution and international human rights laws10, of participating in the political life of the country and exercising their freedom of political action as full and equal citizens,” it reads.
“The incarceration of these activists is a violation of their right to fair and unbiased treatment at the hands of the justice system.”
“The arrest and incarceration of these young women is completely unjustified. They have been named in one or more generic FIRs citing an assortment of charges including conspiracy under UAPA. It is noteworthy that they are not accused of participating in violence. In addition, they have been cooperating with the investigation and presenting themselves for interrogation by the police. The insistence on keeping them in custody is disproportionate and illogical,” it added.
Safoora Zargar’s Increased Risk To COVID-19
Safoora Zargar is one of the women activists who has been detained for their participation in anti-CAA protests. The M-Phil student from JNU is reportedly pregnant and was charged under UAPA, hence also denied bail. “The vendetta against these young women is clearly intended to deflect attention from the real perpetrators. Even as bail is granted to those who fired at peaceful protestors in full public view, it is denied to these activists, including Sarfoora Zargar, now in her second trimester of pregnancy and hence under increased risk of the COVID-19 infection and deterioration of her reproductive health,” the letter reads.