Women of JNU statement in solidarity with jailed anti-CAA activists Safoora Zargar, Ishrat Jahan and Gulfisha

Delhi Police accused Jamia Millia research scholar and leader of Jamia Coordination Committee Safoora Zargar, former Delhi Municipal Councillor Ishrat Jahan, Gulshifa, an MBA student and a coordinator of the women-led sit-in in Seelampur-Jafrabad against CAA and other Muslim students and activists of being the key “conspirators” in the Delhi pogrom that erupted in 2020 February. They all were arrested under draconian UAPA. The Delhi pogrom is widely acknowledged to have been sparked by incendiary comments made by Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader, about Muslims peacefully protesting against ‘anti-Muslim and unconstitutional’ citizenship law. International human rights watchdogs including Amnesty International and civil society groups, teachers associations, student organizations, and filmmakers across India had issued different statements calling for the release of anti-CAA activists who were ‘targetted by Hindu nationalist government for protesting anti-Muslim laws’ and ‘arrested under false accusations by Delhi Police.’

Here the unedited and full text of statement by Women of JNU:

It is in some ways obvious why the BJP-RSS regime is threatened by women like Safoora, Gulfisha and Ishrat. They have shattered the image of the ‘Muslim woman that needs saving’ by their sheer resilience. They refused to be the pawns in a game where BJP-RSS remembers them only when it has an opportunity to demonise their community. As many women articulated during the course of the anti-CAA movement, who is BJP to save them, when Muslim women were the ones who had come out on to the streets not only to save themselves but the entire nation from the fascist onslaught of this regime? This articulation cuts through the logic of the Modi-Shah rule, that likes to think of itself as the benevolent master, that has slowly turned the population away from a life of democratic citizenry towards a compliant, non-questioning slavery that would defend the masters louder than the masters themselves ever could. It is no wonder then, that women who are defiant and determined to ‘talk back’, are locked away in jails in the most inhumane of circumstances.

It is also not surprising that the Delhi Police, at the behest of the Home Ministry has decided to make most of these arrests during a lockdown necessitated by a global pandemic – when not only the lives of the political prisoners are at risk, but it is in some ways impossible to organise in their defence given the restrictions on political gatherings and movement in general.

Ishrat Jahan was arrested on February 26th from the Khureji Khas anti-CAA protest site, along with another prominent activist Khalid Saifi, after the police vandalised the protest site. Reports and visuals have surfaced where it appears that both were also subjected to torture while in custody. The lawyers who had reached Jagatpuri police station to get them released were beaten up as well. They continue to languish in jail, in extended judicial custody, while the pandemic rages on.

Safoora Zargar was arrested on 13th April. She was 13 weeks pregnant at the time. COVID-19 related restrictions have meant that she has had sparse contact with her lawyers or family to the extent that even letters or money orders have failed to reach her. In a classic move by the Delhi Police, when she was released on bail on the first FIR filed against her, she was quickly slapped with a new FIR on the spot and arrested again. Subsequently, the court denied her bail. While a committee has directed the DG of prisons to provide adequate medical attention to Safoora, one wonders how this is even possible for someone as vulnerable as a pregnant political prisoner, when it isn’t even possible for any citizen of the country in the middle of a pandemic. All she has received so far is vile online trolling at the hands of the BJP IT cell, and the true instigator of the Delhi riots, Kapil Mishra.

Gulfisha, an MBA graduate and resident of Jafrabad, was a beloved figure at the Jafrabad anti-CAA protest site. She has been slapped with the draconian UAPA law that makes any chance of a just defence, impossible. She, along with others, was also slapped with an FIR claiming that they instigated the blocking of the road at Seelampur-Jafrabad, which they falsely claim “led to the riots in Delhi”. She continues to languish in jail since April 9 and has had sparse legal help or contact with her family.

These arrests are part of the state propaganda that wants to achieve two things – first, to completely delegitimize the entirely peaceful anti-CAA protest that marked the peak of organising against the ruling dispensation’s divisionary tactics. Secondly, it wants to shield the actual culprits of the violence in North-East Delhi – the venomous state election campaign by the BJP, hate speeches made by BJP leaders, and the murderous mobs who proclaimed ‘Jai Shree Ram’ while on their rampage. The narrative for this was set in motion the day Kapil Mishra made his threat of ‘doing whatever possible’ if the protests did not stop. To save them, students and even alumni of Jamia Milia Islamia are being arrested with alarming frequency and being painted as the hub of the “conspiracy for instigating anti-CAA protests that caused the riots in North East Delhi”. When in fact there is no conspiracy – Jamia was a participant in the anti-CAA struggle since before it was ravaged by Delhi Police on 15th December, but the linkage between the protests and the violence is a facetious one. If anything, the protests and the pogrom is linked only so far as the protestors too, were victims of the pogrom, which was a way to criminalise the Muslim community for speaking out against a discriminatory law.

But as long as there are women who see through this ruse, and refuse to be a part of it, they cannot win. Fearless Muslim women took to the streets, independent of any particular hue of political leadership, ever since the divisive CAA-NPR-NRC combine has been announced by the Centre. What truly rattles the brahminical overlords is the resilience that these women have shown over three months, despite every kind of dirty trick in the book by the state to dismantle their protests. Instead, their protests, overflowing with innovative ideas like never before, made Shaheen Bagh a name that the world would reckon with whenever new revolutionary histories are penned down .

BJP-RSS’s ‘other’, the one it demonises as ‘Naxals’, ‘anti-national’, ‘Pakistanis’, is truly anyone who dares to speak against them. Be it students demanding affordable fees, or doctors demanding proper equipment while fighting a pandemic, workers demanding to be sent home, journalists who actually do their jobs or Muslim women who refuse attacks on their right to citizenship in this country. It is only prudent then, that protecting our right to dissent must be our priority. It is also important that these intimidatory tactics shouldn’t be a determining force in what politics emerge from this moment. We cannot let our dissent be muzzled or censored!

We stand unconditionally in support of Safoora, Gulfisha, Ishrat, Sharjeel, Khalid, Meeran, Shafi-Ur-Rehman, Dr. Kafeel and all other political prisoners and activists being targeted! We demand their immediate release! The government must end its shameful war on dissent! The BJP-RSS regime must take back the divisive CAA-NPR-NRC combine!

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