'Why did you stay back to take videos when everyone else fled': A friend records the arrest of Sadaf Jafar, the lone woman held for anti-CAA protests in Lucknow

  • Sadaf Jafar, a former school teacher, the lone woman arrested on 19 December in the aftermath of anti-CAA protests is among the 200 such people arrested in Lucknow

  • Eventually, the police saw it fit to arrest Sadaf. She live-streamed her arrest. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra later tweeted in Sadaf’s support.

  • She was capturing videos of ongoing protests at the time of her arrest. She is reportedly lodged in a Lucknow jail and has sustained internal injuries

“I had planned it in my mind. I would be so angry at her ..why do you have to be Rani Lakshmi Bai? Why did you stay back to take videos when everybody fled?? I wanted to ask her mundane things…and important things…but I forgot all that. I saw her in so much pain,” says Naheed Varma about Sadaf Jafar in a Facebook post she made few hours ago.

Sadaf Jafar, a former school teacher, the lone woman arrested on 19 December in the aftermath of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (2019) protests is among the 200 such people arrested in Lucknow. She was capturing videos of ongoing protests at the time of her arrest. She is reportedly lodged in a Lucknow jail and has sustained internal injuries.

Amid the utter frenzy and chaos that ensued in states including Uttar Pradesh (UP) after citizens protested the contentious Citizenship Act, I thought of checking on Sadaf, she is also a friend and former colleague. I saw on social media that people had written messages such as “I stand with Sadaf.” I began scrolling down her profile, seeing her video from 19 December, 2019. As I asked around for her whereabouts, harrowing details emerged.

Sadaf was arrested by the Lucknow police in UP at the city’s Parivartan Chowk. She was standing on the side recording the police force deployed there. In the video, Sadaf was heard saying: “Beta, step aside, please do not get hurt. These (pelters) have planned this". Eventually, the police saw it fit to arrest Sadaf. She live-streamed her arrest. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra later tweeted in Sadaf’s support.

 Why did you stay back to take videos when everyone else fled: A friend records the arrest of Sadaf Jafar, the lone woman held for anti-CAA protests in Lucknow

A file image of Sadaf Jafar (sitting) and Pooja Shukla from July 2018. Picture courtesy: sabrangindia.in

There were reports published that said Sadaf and 34 others were booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 147 (charges of rioting), 148 (charges of rioting with a deadly weapon), 152 (assaulting a public servant), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (violently causing harm), 506 (criminal intimidation), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with the intention to destroy a house) and 120B (being party to a criminal conspiracy), all non-bailable offences. Her friends were allowed to see her for not more than ten minutes.

Another report quoted the SHO of Hazratganj police station, who confirmed her arrest and said that she was arrested along with “violent protesters” and added, “We have sufficient video evidence of her involvement in the protest on 19 December. She can appeal against her arrest in court.”

However, her sister Nahid Verma, who is quoted in the report, refutes this. She has said that Sadaf was unarmed, as also visible in the video, and that she did not raise slogans.

I interacted with Sadaf while working for the human rights organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in the capacity of a researcher-writer. She helped us with Hindi translations. She gave me leads on important stories, one such being the police action against student human rights activist Pooja Shukla in 2018 during the Lucknow University protests. Shukla was beaten up by the Lucknow police then. She sat on a hunger strike and had demanded the results of her entrance exams along with 25 others. The allegation was that the results were forcibly withheld by the Vice Chancellor (VC). During the time, Sadaf was the one who helped bring to light Shukla’ story.

Merely twenty days after the detention of 2018, Shukla was “picked up” by the UP police and taken to an unknown location. Sadaf gave minute-by-minute updates of where she was being taken and was on phone with me till late night. Shukla was taken a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to visit Lucknow to attend a programme  to mark the “third anniversary of three key urban development initiatives”.

On Wednesday, the UP police issued notices to more than 3,000 people across UP warning them not to take part in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 and National Register of Citizenship (NRC) protests.

Of all the states in which police has acted against protesters, UP is the one with most number of killings and arrests so far. The president of Rihai Manch, a platform of human rights defenders, 76 year old Mohammad Shoaib, who was arrested/ detained from his residence remained untraceable for a long time as well. His name is mentioned in the FIR along with that of Sadaf’s.

Now, Sadaf’s students, well wishers and many others have resorted to social media to highlight her plight. Her niece, whose name I have left out of this report, shared concerns of Sadaf’s safety. “Ammi [my mother] could meet her merely for few minutes. We don’t know the full details of what has happened to her. But she was bleeding profusely. Everyone is apprehensive about how this will turn out,” she said.

At the time of filing this story, there are discussions of her bail to be filed tomorrow, Monday.

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Updated Date: Dec 26, 2019 17:58:23 IST