Student activists, bodies welcome bail to Devangana, Natasha, Asif; call for release of others

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Student activists and bodies on Tuesday welcomed the Delhi High Court order granting bail to women’s collective Pinjra Tod members Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal and Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, who were arrested under the stringent UAPA in connection with a case related to the riots in the national capital last year.

They also demanded that all political prisoners arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) be released.

Kalita and Narwal, who are students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and Tanha were arrested in May last year.

A bench of justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani set aside trial court orders denying bail to the three and allowed their appeals by admitting them to regular bail.

Reacting to the court order, Safoora Zargar, a Jamia Millia Islamia scholar and co-accused in the UAPA case, said it was one of the happiest days of her life.

“Bail to Devangana, Natasha & Asif in UAPA case. One of the happiest days of my life. Let more follow. Let justice prevail. Alhamdulillah,” she tweeted.

Zargar was granted bail in the case in June last year. The Delhi Police did not oppose the high court’s decision on humanitarian grounds as she was pregnant at that time.

Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, who was questioned by the Delhi Police in connection with the northeast Delhi riots in August last year, said the whole exercise “was to shield the real perpetrators”.

“None of them should have been charged or arrested in the first place. All others must be freed. This whole exercise is a conspiracy to shield the real conspirators and perpetrators of the violence of Feb 2020 in Delhi. They are out and ruling us. Spreading hate, planning violence. This is something to celebrate. Natasha, Devangana and Asif Tanha have been granted bail. All others implicated falsely under the UAPA must be freed now,” he tweeted.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh said all political prisoners should be released.

“Delhi HC grants bail to Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal in UAPA case. Release All Political Prisoners,” she said on Twitter.

The Left-affiliated All India Students” Association (AISA) tweeted, “Delhi HC frees Asif, Devangana & Natasha! Using UAPA to silence pro democracy student activists protesting against divisive #CAA_NRC_NPR law by Modi govt stands exposed.”

The students’ body also demanded the release of student activists Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid and others arrested under the UAPA.

Women’s collective Pinjra Tod also welcomed the release of its members.

“We celebrate and welcome the order that has provided immense relief to friends, family and comrades of Natasha and Devangana today. We hope that this will pave the way for the bail of others implicated under similar false conspiracy charges,” it said in a statement.

While stating that the fight is “far from over” as there are still many others in jail, the group demanded that other also be released.

The Pinjra Tod group said that the bail order did not materialise on Tuesday since the bail surety was not verified by the court.

The Students’ Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) also welcomed the bail order.

“The trio, along with others, was unjustly put behind bars over a year ago on false charges in an attempt to suppress the young leadership of anti-CAA movement and shift blame for the Delhi pogrom. We hope that this verdict will serve as a precedent in curbing the long and unjust incarceration of innocent persons under draconian laws,” the body said.

Communal violence broke out in northeast Delhi on February 24 last year after violence between supporters of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and those opposing it spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

Tanha had challenged a trial court order that dismissed his bail application on the grounds that he allegedly played an active role in the entire conspiracy with reasonable grounds for believing that the allegations were prima facie true.

Narwal and Kalita had challenged the trial court order that dismissed their bail pleas saying the allegations against them were prima facie true and provisions of the anti-terror law had been rightly invoked.

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