Sadaf Jafar, an academician, activist and former Spokesperson of Congress in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested by Lucknow police while she was participating in a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in the city. Jafar visited Ahmedabad on January 10, a city where she once lived as a young girl, to narrate her ordeal during her arrest of 20 days.
Jafar who was still in pain from her injuries from custodial torture during her arrest addressed an audience at the office of Advocate Anand Yagnik in Ahmedabad.
“I was here in Gujarat in 1992, I was a witness to Advani’s Rath Yatra and its aftermath. When I left Gujarat, I hardly knew the Gujarat model would follow me to Uttar Pradesh,” said Jafar from the stage that she shared with independent MLA from Vadgam Jignesh Mevani.
Jafar, a single mother and a teacher by profession has been an active women’s rights and LBGTQ activist.
“I have played a leading role in calling protests and got detained multiple times; so, when a protest against CAA was called, I joined assuming I will safely return home since I am just a participant this time,” narrated Jafar.
“I was standing at a circle and women had formed a shield of human chain asking men to come inside it as we were confidant that police will never beat up women. After a while, however, we witnessed some men, mostly young, wearing skull caps, with stones in their hands coming towards to site of the protest. At this point, I started video recording and live streaming on Facebook whenever I could access internet. It was the time between the afternoon and evening namaz, but the young men in skull caps suddenly sat down for namaz on the road. I even asked the police personnel present at the spot why they weren’t arresting them. But instead of a response, the police came to me and asked me to accompany them. I still had no idea that I was being arrested. Worst, I thought it could be detention like always,” she recalled.
Lucknow police began thrashing Jafar as she was made to walk towards a van, she said. Another protester, a friend of Jafar was thrashed badly at the spot even before his arrest.
“As I was made to get into a van, I saw Ambedkar bhai bleeding; yet, the police personnel hit him with a helmet on his head and it broke into pieces. I saw that he did not react. Perhaps, he was unconscious by then,” she said.
Jafar was then crammed into a van with other men “with no female police personnel” and was brought to Hazratganj police station in Lucknow.
“I was put into a corner cell from where I could hear screams of other male protesters and abuses hurled by the police personnel. I quietly awaited my turn to be thrashed. After a while, female constables came to my cell. One of them was angry as her two-wheeler was burned down by some protesters. One of them hit me on the head. I instinctively covered my head. They began thrashing me, kicked me in my stomach and even dug their nails in my face. When they left, I stood in horror still telling myself that I would be home soon with my children,” said Jafar.
When she did not return home by late evening, many activists and friends went looking for her. Some of them came to Hazratganj police station, but most of them were not given information about her and they retuned. One of the activists, Deepak Kabir, who came looking for Jafar was arrested and reportedly thrashed.
“More than 24 hours had passed and I was sure by now that I had been arrested. I became desperate for making a call to inform my kids that I would be away from home for a while. I was thinking of requesting a female constable to call my family when I was told that Inspector General of Police was visiting and wanted to meet me. I suddenly became hopeful that I might be released now by a senior official. Later, however, I got to know the police personnel was not the Inspector General of Police but an Inspector who was hit by a stone during the protest,” said Sadaf.
“He asked me how much I had studied. I told him that I had completed MA in political science. At this, he became angrier and shouted at me asking if I understood the CAA at all. He kept yelling at me, questioning if I had a home to stay in, food to eat, job to earn, why I wasn’t I grateful to this country. He then pulled me by my hair, bent me down and kicked me in my stomach. He screamed at the female constable to take me away and said that he did not want to see my face,” she continued.
By the third day of her arrest, Jafar had been beaten black and blue, suffered internal injuries in her stomach and had vaginal bleeding, she said. She asked for medical help which was delayed until her blood pressure dropped drastically as she had not eaten anything in two days. She, along with other male protesters, was taken to the Lucknow civil hospital thereafter.
“I had been bleeding and by now my pajama was wet from my blood till my thighs. I asked for a sanitary napkin which they gave me at the hospital. The male protestors were stripped in front of me for check-up. I was administered an injection and was asked to wait,” said Sadaf.
“I felt so humiliated and dehumanised,” she added.
Lucknow police sought for judicial custody thereafter and Jafar was transferred to Lucknow Central Jail. While in jail, she was informed that she had been served with a notice stating Uttar Pradesh government is attaching her property as compensation for destruction of public property during the protest.
“I felt scared of being a Muslim for the first time as a young girl when I lived in Gujarat. This ordeal brought back those memories. My identity was reduced to being a Muslim. I was asked to be grateful and be silent or else, go to Pakistan,” Sadaf narrated.
“As a mother and a responsible citizen, I was always scared of and averse to abusive language and violence and jail. This ordeal has taken away all my fear. I came out determined. I am now ready to fight till the end against this inhuman Act,” she concluded.
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