On June 17, a Delhi court ordered an immediate release of student activists Asif Iqbal, Devangana Kalita, and Natasha Narwal after High Court on Thursday asked it to take decision with “promptitude” and “expedition”. They were granted bail on June 15 in the northeast Delhi riots case. The High Court on Tuesday had highlighted the distinction between the “right to protest” and terrorist activity as it permitted the activists’ bail. All three were released on personal bonds of ₹ 50,000 each and two sureties of a similar amount. For Pinjra Todd activist Natasha Narwal, the bail was perhaps a little too late.
In May, Natasha Narwal’s father, Mahavir Narwal, who had been campaigning for her release, passed away due to Covid-19. A Division Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani noted that there is nobody else in the family to perform the cremation and last rites and that her father’s body is waiting in the hospital to be accepted, LiveLaw reported. Following the judgement, Natasha was granted interim bail for a few days. A retired scientist, Mahavir Narwal, had succumbed to Covid-19, while his wife had died 20 years back.
Following Natasha’s release, an interview of her father, from March 2021 where he is seen talking about the day Natasha would be released has since gone viral on social media.
In the video, he can be heard saying, “When she comnes, it will be a great day, mujhe bohot ulas hoga (I’ll be very happy).” The video was one of the last interviews Mahavir Narwal was part of before his death. Posted on Instagram by journalist Anubha Bhonsle, the snip of the video was part of a longer interview shot in March 2021 on newsworthywithab.
Aakash, Natasha’s younger brother had told the Indian Express, “My father’s death was very traumatic for me. I had virtually stopped talking to people. When Natasha entered the home after interim bail was granted to attend the last rites of our father, she suffered a breakdown. As I was Covid positive at that time, I could hardly speak to her and she returned to jail again without much interaction between us.” After their father’s passing, Aakash decided to stand by Natasha like their father did after her arrest by the Delhi Police in May 2020 under UAPA charges in connection with the Delhi riots.
After their release, JNU students Narwal and Kalita thanked their friends and well-wishers, many of whom gathered outside the jail, for supporting them during their year-long stay behind bars. “We have received tremendous support inside jail and we will continue our struggle,” Narwal told reporters. Welcoming the Delhi High Court order granting them bail, Narwal, an activist of women collective Pinjra Tod, said that when they were arrested, it took them many months to believe that they were in jail under such stringent charges. Hitting out at the government, Kalita said people are in jail for raising their voice.
“They are trying to suppress the voice of people and dissent. We got a lot of support from people which helped us survive inside (jail),” she said. On the delay in their release after the high court granted them bail, she said it was unbelievable because they had secured bail two-three days ago. “…still we were inside jail. I almost kept expecting that some police officers will come and arrest me,” she added. Narwal, Kalita and Tanha were arrested in May last year under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The Delhi Police had on Wednesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to delay their release till verification of addresses and sureties were completed. Reportedly, the police have complained of delays in travelling to the ‘permanent’ addresses which are located in Assam, Haryana, and Jharkhand respectively.