Activist couple Ekta and Ravi Shekhar, who were among over 60 people arrested in Varanasi for protesting against the amendments to the Citizenship Act on December 19, were granted bail by a court in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, PTI reported. Fifty-six other people were also granted bail.
The couple run an NGO called Climate Agenda that focuses on air pollution. They were released on Thursday, nearly two weeks after they were jailed. Ekta told ANI that she was worried about their 14-month-old daughter. Their arrest had led to massive outrage because of the toddler. “My baby daughter Champak is dependent on my milk, I was worried about her,” she said. “It was very tough for me”.
Additional Sessions Judge Sarvesh Kumar Pandey granted them bail on the submission of two bail bonds of Rs 25,000 each.
At least 19 people have been killed in the state in the past two weeks during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The police have been accused of excesses, with 15 of the 19 deaths caused by firearm injuries. The police in Bijnor district are accused of torturing five minors and other detainees.
The police in Lucknow arrested at least three dozen people in connection with the violence on December 19, including activist and actress Sadaf Jafar, who ended up recording her own arrest on video while live-streaming a protest. She is still in police custody. Meanwhile, theatre actor and director Deepak Kabir was brutally beaten up by policemen on the same day when he tried to find out the whereabouts of some of his missing friends after the protest the previous day. He too was arrested. Besides Jafar and Kabir, the police also arrested Mohammed Shoaib, a 76-year-old human rights lawyer, former Indian Police Service officer SR Darapuri and activist Robin Verma.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.