Student-activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha walked out of Delhi’s Tihar jail today, hours after a court ordered their immediate release. They were arrested for alleged conspiracy in the north-east Delhi riots case.
“It shows the desperation of the government… We are women who are not scared of them,” Ms Kalita told reporters after coming out of the jail gates, amid a sea of supporters shouting slogans. “We survived because we received tremendous support from friends, from well-wishers. I thank them all,” she said.
Ms Narwal said she doesn’t want to comment on the case as it’s still in court. “However, we would like to thank the Delhi High Court for upholding what we believe in. Any such protest that we have done is not terrorism. It was a democratic protest, led by women,” Ms Narwal said.
“They won’t be able to threaten us with jail. If they threaten to incarcerate us, that will only strengthen our resolve to carry on our fight,” Ms Narwal said. Her father, Mahavir Narwal, died of Covid in May while she was in jail. Her brother, who came to receive her, said they miss their father, who if alive would have come to greet her on walking out of jail.
“I don’t know how I will deal with it (father’s death)… This should be a reminder for us how the system of incarceration separates us from our loved ones. My case was highlighted. But there are many who are not allowed even one phone call,” Ms Narwal told NDTV. “We should ask ourselves, how did we reach such a point where the line between terrorism and dissent has been blurred? People are jailed with frivolous charges. When people protest, it is not terrorism,” she said.
Today’s order to immediately release the three student-activists came two days after the Delhi High Court granted bail to Ms Narwal, Ms Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha, arrested in May last year under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear tomorrow a Delhi Police plea against the Delhi High Court decision to grant bail to the three student-activists.
All three were given bail on Tuesday on personal bonds of Rs 50,000 each and two sureties of a similar amount. Other conditions for their release included the surrender of their passports.
The high court, while granting them bail on June 15, had observed that “in an anxiety to suppress dissent, the state has blurred the line between right to protest and terrorist activity” and if such a mindset gains traction, it would be a “sad day for democracy”.