Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) scholar Safoora Zargar was arrested on April 10 and subsequently charged under non-bailable offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Since her arrest, social media has been brimming with vile personal attacks. Manoj Kumar Azad, who identifies as a BJP member from Muzzafarpur, tweeted on May 4, “Unmarried Jamia law student Safoora Zargar is in Tihar jail on charges of inciting riots. When she was given a coronavirus test in jail, it was found that she is two months pregnant.”
Another user Sweta Singh who claims to be a member of the RSS shared photographs of Zargar and promoted the same claim.
That she is unmarried and her pregnancy was discovered during incarceration is a claim viral on social media.
It has also been promoted using a Bengali text – “#শাহীনবাগ ধরর্নায় #বসা বিপ্লবী #সাফুরা_জার্গার তিহার #জেলের একটি #মেডিকেল চেকআপে #দুই মাসের #গর্ভবতী ধরা #পড়ছেে যার #অর্থ হলো ওটা #কি …… ছিল? #সাফুরা_জার্গার একজন #ছাত্রী এবং #অবিবাহিত সে #কি করে #গর্ভবতী হয়? #শাহীনবাগ এর সমর্থকরা এর উত্তর দিন।”
Before we begin this fact-check it is important to point out here that women are routinely targetted on social media with sexist and distasteful comments. The harassment is viler if they hail from a minority community. Zargar’s personal life has no bearing on her case yet certain people attempted to tarnish her reputation with hominem attack.
We have witnessed this culture before. Female voices on social media – activists, authors, journalists or student leaders – are attempted to be shunned with derogatory remarks. Personal attack is the easiest route. “It doesn’t matter if a woman is married or not. How she chooses to conceive is her choice. A mother is a mother. It is a shame that right-wing trolls cannot even show respect for an expectant mother. Such attacks prove that the government does not have a case against her. It shows the kind of ugly majoritarianism unleashed by forces emboldened under the Modi government’s protection,” Shehla Rashid, former vice-president of JNU students’ union, told Alt News. Rashid is a prominent voice on social media who regularly finds herself at the receiving end of cyberbullying. Her Muslim identity, just as Zargar’s, attracts the worst form of trolling.
Social media claims suggesting Safoora Zargar is an unmarried woman are false. Alt News spoke with Zargar’s husband who informed that they have been married since 2018.
Furthermore, the claim that her pregnancy was recently discovered in prison is also false. It was already in news since early April when Zargar was taken into custody. Below is a screenshot of an IANS report from April 12. It says that a plea for bail was filed in the court citing Zargar was three months pregnant when she was arrested on April 10.
A report in Al Jazeera states that Zargar had fainted during a scuffle between the police and students on February 10 and had to be hospitalised briefly. “Since then, with her advancing pregnancy a concern, she had gradually restricted her physical movement. And after the outbreak of COVID-19, she had virtually stopped stepping out of the house except for essential work. She was mostly working from home,” her husband is quoted as saying.
Another court application filed on April 21, requesting bail, also refers to her medical condition.
“Despite it being in the public domain that Safoora is married, a false impression is being created through motivated and malicious posts. It is evident that this issue is being raked up with the motive and hope of maligning her and the anti-CAA Shaheen Bagh movement with which she is associated. Safoora’s pregnancy is relevant to her incarceration. There is a serious concern that her health and well being will be adversely affected in jail,” said women’s rights activist and lawyer Vrinda Grover to Alt News.
“Spreading allegations and misinformation about women’s personal lives, creating the impression that women ought to be ashamed about aspects of their sexuality, is a common patriarchal and misogynist weapon, intended to undermine their politics. This has a chilling effect and deters women from being active in public life. It demonstrates how difficult it is for women and particularly young, bold women from marginalised groups to participate in civic discourse. It is a despicable and dastardly attempt to delegitimise her voice, the politics she espouses, and the movement that she is part of. Instead of engaging with the critical questions raised by Safoora on the unconstitutionality of CAA, she is sought to be silenced by questioning her morality,” continued Grover.
Social media claims suggesting that Safoora Zargar is an unmarried woman are therefore false. The claim that her pregnancy was discovered in prison is also baseless.