Bail for activists in riots case: Year later, students step out to freedom
A year after being incarcerated in the Delhi riots case, student activists Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and Asif Iqbal Tanha walked out of Tihar jail on Thursday and said the Delhi high court’s bail order was “a win for democracy”.
Speaking to HT, Pinjra Tod activist and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Devangana Kalita said, “We weren’t hopeful of getting out, but are thankful to the court for releasing us. This is a win for democracy and for dissenting voices.”
Kalita also said that her mother asked her to focus on her research thesis.
“My number one priority is to start working on it,” she said, laughing. The MPhil student is pursuing her research at the university’s Centre for Women’s Studies.
Friends and student activists gathered outside the jail complex on Thursday, welcoming the three as they walked out of the prison.
“People raising their voice for their rights are being suppressed through the fear of incarceration. Dissent is not terrorism. They (authorities) will not be able to threaten us with any kind of jail, locks, or walls,” said Natasha Narwal, another Pinjra Tod activist and PhD student at JNU who was released on Thursday.
Narwal lost her father, Mahavir Narwal, to Covid-19 complications last month. The Delhi high court gave her three weeks of interim bail last month to attend her father’s funeral.
“This should be a reminder for us that the system of incarceration keeps us away from our loved ones. My case got highlighted and I got a chance to go out. There are prisoners who were not even allowed to make calls to their families,” she told reporters after her release.
Tanha, too, said that the bail order strengthened his faith in the judiciary. “Our faith in the judiciary was rewarded and we have hope that people in the country can still get justice. The fight for our friends who are still in jail will continue and so will the agitation against CAA-NRC. We were being called traitors and terrorists from the day we were picked up. But we had to be patient because we know we are innocent,” he said.
“I would specifically like to appeal to the government to address the Covid conditions in prison. Prisoners with shorter sentences need to be released to end overcrowding and all prisoners must immediately be vaccinated,” he added.
Tanha’s mother Jahan Ara, who is in Jharkhand, spoke to her son over a video call on Thursday, and will travel to Delhi on Friday.