July 18, 2020
Shri Ram Nath Kovind
c/o Shri Kumar Samresh
Public Relations Officer, Museum
New Delhi 110004 India
Phone: 91 11 2301 5321
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We are writing to express our serious concern for Safoora Zargar, a 27-year-old Ph.D. student who was arrested for her participation in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that took place in Delhi in February. The CAA, passed in December 2019, is believed by its many opponents to put Muslims at risk of being reduced to second class citizens.
Initially arrested on April 10 and charged with minor offenses related to the protest – obstructing a street and blocking traffic – she was released, but then re-arrested and charged under the broad Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Now, she is being blamed for riots that occurred after the protests in which she was involved – riots that appear to have been largely instigated by supporters of the CAA; most of the 53 people killed in those riots were Muslims.
Despite the fact that she was pregnant at the time of her arrest, and suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Disease, she remained locked up in extremely dangerous conditions at Tihar jail before finally being released on bail on June 23.
On June 26, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the immediate release of Safoora Zargar and other protest leaders, observing that they are human rights defenders and “appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA.”
As a global organization that supports the human rights of scholars, we are appalled at the treatment of Safoora Zargar and, though grateful that she has been released, we urge you to see to it that the unwarranted charges against her under the UAPA are dropped. We further urge your government to end this criminalizing of legitimate, peaceful dissent. Freedom of expression and association are basic and fundamental human rights that your government, as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), is obligated to protect.
We call on you to respect the words of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and equally, to respect the rights of scholars like Safoora Zargar to engage in peaceful human rights work without intimidation or judicial interference.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
H.E. Taranjit Singh Sandhu
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-939-7000/Fax: 202-265-4351
US Ambassador to India
U.S. Embassy – New Delhi
New Delhi 110021
Phone: 011 91 11 2419 0017