Varanasi: An activist couple, who was arrested by Uttar Pradesh Police in Varanasi for attending a protest against the citizenship law, have been granted bail nearly two weeks after they were jailed. There has been controversy over arrests and the crackdown by the Yogi Adityanath government after the violence protests in the state against the citizenship law.
Over 60 people were arrested in Varanasi on December 19 for protesting, despite a ban on large gatherings. Among them were well-known activists Ekta and Ravi Shekhar. They run an NGO called Climate Agenda that focuses on air pollution.
Varanasi is among India’s most polluted cities.
At least a dozen students of the prestigious Banaras Hindu University(BHU) too were given bail last night along with Ekta and Ravi Shekhar.
The couple was picked up by the police during a protest organised by Left groups in the city on December 19. Ayra, their 14-month-old daughter, was being taken care of by her relatives at their home.
Baby Ayra or Champak, as she is called at home, was reunited with her mother Ekta Shekhar as the activist walked out of jail this morning.
“We had felt that we will be released the next day. My daughter is not old enough that I can leave her and go… I was not part of a riot that such charges be brought against me (by the police). The rally was stopped even before it began. It was a peaceful gathering. We were taken to the police lines,” Ekta Shekhar, emotional on being back with her daughter, told to the reporters.
Over 60 people, including at least a dozen students of BHU, civil society members and the general public were jailed by Varanasi Police over the protests. The police brought serious charges like rioting against them.
Terming the police action arbitrary, the protestors insist they were holding a peaceful agitation.
Twenty-one people have died across Uttar Pradesh, many of them from bullet injuries, in violence during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or the CAA.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.