NEW DELHI: Activists and various civil society groups came together on Tuesday to mark a year of arrest of women’s collective Pinjra Tod members Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal under the stringent UAPA in a case related to the 2020 Delhi riots.
In a statement, Pinjra Tod said Narwal and Kalita were arrested because they raised their voice to demand equal and substantive citizenship for all.
“Both of them were granted bail in every case against them yet they remain imprisoned on account of the UAPA under FIR 59, an extraordinary law which presumes guilt rather than innocence and accords the State the power to incarcerate people even before the trial commences,” it said.
Narwal and Kalita were arrested in May 2020 for allegedly being part of a premeditated conspiracy behind the communal violence that broke out in northeast Delhi in February that year during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
At a virtual meeting organised by Pinjra Tod, speaking about the incarceration of Narwal, Kalita, and others like former JNU student Umar Khalid, activist Jignesh Mevani said the way they were “targeted” was “unfortunate”.
He said the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) ensures that a person doesn’t get bail.
“It is an unconstitutional way of suppressing the voices that the government does not like,” he said.
Mevani said people need to “challenge false incarcerations”.
“The judiciary needs to hold accountable the police, the politicians and the governments for making false offences,” he said.
Former president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) Aishe Ghosh said, “They (Kalita and Narwal) were arrested not only because they were educated but because they were challenging the thought process of BJP, RSS and because they were able to connect to the masses.”
“That they were speaking out about how we were not progressing as a society is what the RSS, the BJP did not like. They were asking the community to come together,” she said.
Ghosh said people should continue speaking out at all protests and gatherings.
“The one thing we should fear is the breaking up of our society. BJP will lose sooner or later, but the society will be broken,” she said.
Ghosh said the government targeted people who were becoming role models for their communities.
“By imprisoning Umar Khalid, the government wants to teach a lesson to young Muslims, and by imprisoning Natasha and Devangana, they want to teach a lesson to young women.
“The government wants to alienate them from the masses,” she claimed.
Other speakers at the meeting included writer and activist Farah Naqvi, senior journalist Hartosh Singh Bal, Supreme Court lawyer Shahrukh Alam and human rights activist Mohammad Aamir Khan.