The Delhi Court on Thursday (June 4, 2020) denied bail to Jamia Millia Islamia scholar Safoora Zargar, an expectant mother, for the third time and reminded us that all motherhoods are not equal, not in the eyes of the country or state, the political classes or the society.
Earlier this month, Zargar, 21 weeks into her pregnancy, was refused bail saying it has “no merits”, despite her lawyers deliberately telling the court that she was suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Disorder. The lawyers also reminded the court of Zargar’s enhanced vulnerability amid COVID- 19, especially when all the three jails in Delhi have tested positive for the virus. Implicated in the virus that gripped Northeast Delhi in February and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Zargar, a research scholar, was arrested by the police on April 10. She was granted bail on April 13, but on the same day arrested based on a separate FIR. Rejecting her bail plea, the court said, “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.” Commenting on the court’s observation, a legal scholar Gautam Bhatia wrote that, “When the court needs to rely upon metaphor instead of law to justify keeping an individual in prison, it is perhaps time for the justice system to take a long, hard look at itself,” according to the report given by The Wire.
Right after the arrest, trolls went to the town about Zargar being an unwed expectant mother. With the social media toxicity spreading across the country, Zargar’s husband told Alt News that they were married in 2018. He also said that Zargar’s marital status, has no bearing on the case at hand, it should be a matter of speculation which is in itself unacceptable. The choice of being a single mother or a mother in a relationship, outside the institution of marriage is none of the business of the state or the public at large. But of course, the trolls were actions out of the political script, which they were well aware of and which is an attempt to turn public opinions and supporters against Zargar.
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The Pre-trial detention of Safoora Zargar does not appear to meet the standards of international law, including treaties to which India is a State-party, said the Centre for Human Rights, American Bar Association. The Centre on the custody of Zargar since April 10 said that “International law, including treaties to which India is a state-party, only permits pre-trial detention under narrow circumstances which do not appear to have been met in Ms. Zargar’s case.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states, “It should not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody.”The Centre opined that the denial of bail to her in the UAPA case was not consonance with the provisions of International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which hold that pre-trial detention must be only for narrow purposes as “to prevent flight, interference with evidence, or the recurrence of the crime.”
India is excited to be a part of the US Anti-racism movement but has forgotten its racism. Refusing Zargar bail is a part of the same vindicatory political culture where mothers are given a damn that allowed Sudha Bharadwaj’s daughter to visit her mother for barely five minutes in Pune’s Yerwada jail. There are dozens of people under trials also trying to catch up with their families, as reported by The Wire.
It is time to face the bald truth we don’t care about our “mothers and sisters”. After all, most common popular references to mothers and sisters in the Hindi heartland don’t idealize and allow women to grow as compared to the amount they are disparaged by bad-mouthing in the society. Lest we forget we should keep in mind that like the celebrities and the politically empowered people, motherhood is selective, it’s a reward for the obedient and punishment for the deviant.