Sadaf Jafar
Sadaf Jafar Image Credit: Facebook/sadaf.jafar

Dubai: Prominent social activist in Lucknow, Sadaf Jafar, was kicked in the stomach and was bleeding after she was hit with a baton by police, her sister has said.

Jafar was the only woman taken into custody in Lucknow during protests against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), reported the Hindustan Times. She has been since slapped with the most draconian charges.

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Ever since protests broke out last week over the CAA, thousands of people have been arrested nationwide. While protests are taking place on a daily basis in almost every major city, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has seen most arrests – around 5,400 – and highest number of fatalities.

Since December 19, around 350 people have been arrested in state capital Lucknow.

The Hindustan Times quoted police officer DP Kushwaha as saying: “Sadaf was arrested along with other violent protesters near Parivartan Chowk by our police team. She has been sent to jail. We have sufficient video evidence of her involvement in the protest on December 19. She can appeal against her arrest in court.”

According to website Scroll, the 43-year-old mother of two is among 34 people booked under serious charges.

'Draconian charges'

She has been booked under Indian Penal Code 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), among others, the website said quoting a police report.

The website added that Jafar was running a live stream on Facebook and recorded her own arrest.

“In the footage, she appears to be an observer to the aftermath of a protest, weaving her way through crowds of police officers, when she is suddenly hauled away. Upon asking why she is being arrested, she receives no response from the policewomen holding her,” the website said.

“We didn’t know that she was arrested, nobody told me and we found out when my niece [Jafar’s daughter] called to say her has not returned home,” Naheed Varma told Gulf News on Sunday.

“I met Sadaf on Saturday in Lucknow jail. She said she was roughed up in police custody, she was kicked in the stomach and was bleeding, she was hit with a baton,” Naheed said.

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Gulf News tried to contact OP Singh, Director General of Police in Uttar Pradesh but a comment was not immediately available.

“The police have booked Sadaf and 34 others under serious charges and we don’t know how long she will be in jail. Even a retired Indian Police Service officer was also arrested and faces similar charges,” she said, adding, “I sent a friend to a police station and he was also arrested and slapped with similar charges.”

Sadaf posted two videos on Facebook highlighting police inaction when hooligans resorted to vandalism during the protests.

“In the video clips, Sadaf can be heard telling cops to nab those pelting stones while she (Sadaf) was being abused by the male cops and later a women cop caught her hand and took her into custody. Everything was caught on camera,” Naheed had earlier told Hindustan Times.

The newspaper also quoted Dr Amira Dass, career counsellor, who said: “I have known Sadaf for over a decade. She is a kind, sensitive, gentle, polite and thoughtful person. She has always been outspoken about the rule of law and issues concerning human rights. Sadaf is a voluntary social worker who reaches out to the under-privileged.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have come out protesting against Citizenship Amendement Act, a law protesters say discriminates against Muslims, a charge denied by the government.

Protesters in Uttar Pradesh have accused police of opening fire on protesters and using disproportionate force, a charge denied by officials. While officials have denied opening fire, news channels have broadcasted video footage showing police officers opening fire with pistols.

According to official count, 18 people, including an eight-year-old died of bullet injuries. The police in the state, ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party, claims no one died of police firing and the fatalities were due to “cross-fire”. The police have denied opening fire on protesters and said 269 policemen also suffered injuries.