Delhi riots: Student activists Natasha Narwal, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita released on bail

FPJ BureauUpdated: Thursday, June 17, 2021, 11:22 PM IST
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Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal (C) and Asif Iqbal Tanha |

Student activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha walked out of Tihar prison on Thursday, hours after a court here ordered their immediate release in the Delhi riots "conspiracy" case.

The order came two days after the Delhi High Court granted bail to Narwal, Kalita and Tanha, who were arrested in May last year under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The three student activists were not released from the prison on time over delays in verifying their addresses and sureties, it was claimed.

In its order for the immediate release of the trio, the Delhi court said the delay in the verification process by the police could not be a plausible reason for the accused to be kept imprisoned.

''It shows the desperation of the government... We are women who are not scared of them," Kalita told reporters after coming out of the jail, amid a chorus of sloganeering supporters. "We survived because we received tremendous support from friends, from well-wishers. I thank them all," she said.

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," 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," 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 on frivolous charges. When people protest, it is not terrorism," she said.

The three student activists were arrested in May 2020 and are accused of being the "masterminds" of the February 2020 violence, which left 53 people dead and more than 200 injured.

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".

The Delhi Police has, however, moved the Supreme Court, challenging the high court judgement granting them bail in the case.

The Supreme Court has listed on Friday a hearing on Delhi Police petitions challenging the bail. Three appeals moved on Wednesday to cancel the bail to the activists are listed for hearing at the end of the cause list before a vacation bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian.

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