NEW DELHI — Sadaf Jafar, a member of the Congress Party, says that she knew that her name was in two First Information Reports in connection with the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Uttar Pradesh, but the political activist recently found out that the UP Police had booked her in two more FIRs.
Jafar says she is now booked in four FIRs containing 34 criminal provisions, with some of them common to all the FIRs. HuffPost India counted 20 separate crimes in the four FIRs.
Jafar, who was the only woman arrested in Lucknow following an anti-CAA protest on 19 December, has alleged that she was tortured while in police custody in Hazratganj Police Station.
The protest, held amidst Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s crackdown on dissent in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state, descended into chaos and violence that gripped UP in the days that followed. Over a thousand people were arrested including almost all the prominent social and political activists in Lucknow, even the elderly among them.
It took nearly a month for the anti-CAA protest to resume, this time in the form of a sit-in staged mostly by Muslim women near the iconic Ghanta Ghar, inspired by the sit-in staged by women in Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi.
Jafar, a 43-year-old mother of two children and a former school teacher, told HuffPost India that she knew about two FIRs — the first registered at the Hazratganj Police Station on 19 December in connection with the anti-CAA protest that same day, and the second registered at Thakurganj Police Station on 10 February in connection with the Ghanta Ghar protest.
Jafar says she found out about the other two FIRs on Tuesday when she was summoned to the Thakurganj Police Station to complete certain formalities with respect to FIRs.
“It is only when I went there that I found out that my name had been appended to the FIRs,” said Jafar, speaking to HuffPost India over the phone.
“I could see it coming. What is happening in Delhi is also happening in UP,” she said, referring to the spate arrests of students and activists who were protesting against the CAA in the months leading up to the Delhi Riots. They are now being investigated in connection with the religious violence in February that claimed 52 lives.
What is happening in Delhi is also happening in UP.
Of the two FIRs that took Jafar by surprise on Tuesday, one was registered at the Thakurganj Police Station on 18 January and lists fours crimes — obstructing public way, disobeying a public servant, unlawful assembly and rioting.
The second FIR registered at Thakurganj Police Station on 25 January lists six crimes — four are the same as the 18 January FIR — and assaulting a public officer. It also includes Section 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act — “molesting a person to prejudice of employment or business.”
Incidentally, the six sections in this 25 January FIR are exactly the same as the FIR registered on 10 February.
Of the 18 sections in the first FIR registered against Jafar on 19 December, the gravest is Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code — attempt to murder.
Reflecting on the same penal sections being invoked across FIRs, Jafar said, “I feel what they are trying to say is that we are the kind of offenders who like repeating our crimes and so we are doing the same things over and over again despite our names coming in the FIRs. They want to increase the quantum of cases against us so they can keep us in prison indefinitely without bail.”
They want to increase the quantum of cases against us so they can keep us in prison indefinitely without bail.”
Jafar spent two weeks in jail in the 19 December FIR before being released on bail on 3 January.
The UP Police says that 52 FIRs were registered following the violence on 19 December. News 18 today reported that the UP Police have filed chargesheets — the final report of its investigation — against 287 accused, and is looking to charge 18 people under the National Security Act, and 63 under the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities Act.
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court granted Jafar a stay from being arrested in the 10 February FIR until a chargesheet is filed in the case.
In the two other FIRs, Jafar on Tuesday signed an undertaking promising that she will not influence witnesses and tamper with witnesses while she is out.
“The message they are trying to send is that if you are against the government then this is what happens to you,” she said. “You can’t protest against the government. It is authoritarian and arbitrary.”