Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
“I was waiting for this day for the past seven and a half years. To be very honest, I'm extremely happy and glad I have her (Ishrat Jahan), that is more important to me than how many people attend our wedding,” former Congress councilor Ishrat Jahan’s husband, Farhan Hashmi, tells The Quint with a smile tucked under his white mask a few minutes after their wedding on the evening of 12 June.
Out on interim bail, Ishrat, who was slapped with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), got married on 12 June at her residence in Preet Vihar. In a low key wedding that was attended by around 25 people, mainly relatives, the mood altered between uncertainty, worry and a celebration commemorating the beginning of a relationship.
While her family was concerned and worried about Ishrat, who they call Pinky at home, her husband was delighted that his wait of over seven years had ended and that he could finally call Ishrat his wife.
8 Days As a Married Couple, Before Ishrat’s Bail Ends
Ishrat sat in a room surrounded by female relatives, including her aunts and cousins, in a red and gold lehenga with her arms adorned with henna (mehendi) half way up to her elbows. She told this reporter that she was lucky to have found a guy who stands by her.
“He has been my strength in these painful days and I am thankful to god that I am blessed with a man who is there with me and with my family in my absence. Especially at a time when the family has had to face big problems and considering the uncertainty that may arise in the future. Despite all that he has stood by me and been there with me a hundred percent,” she says feeling grateful and relieved.
These big problems in Ishrat life began on 26 February when she was arrested from the Khureji protest site, while riots ravaged parts of northeast Delhi. She was arrested under FIR number 44/2020 at Jagatpuri police station where she was accused of inciting the mob to remain present at the spot. She was granted bail in this case about a month later on 21 March. The very same day she was arrested again under FIR number 59/2020 under the anti-terror UAPA. Ishrat is the first UAPA accused from those arrested under the same FIR, to be granted interim bail.
Farhan, who we were asked to speak to in a different room of the home with a few kids and Ishrat’s sisters, spoke in stark contrast to the rest of the home. He sounded elated, relieved and self-assured. He looked towards the sky and told this reporter, “I would like to thank Allah for this as the day has finally come. She might say that I am her strength, but to be honest she is my strength also. We share a very good bond. That is the best part about our courtship period. For me she is my strength and hopefully, let the time pass, things will be good.”
Considering there remain eight days to her bail ending, Farhan told us he plans to make sure these days are filled with a lot of happiness for his newly wedded wife.
“I'd like her to live her life, because... we can not predict the future. So I would like to keep her smiling and happy for the next eight days and maybe even cook food for her and make her have it,” he said while he smiled forcing everyone else in the room into a laugh.
Farhan, who is from a political family, is the son of former Delhi minister ex-Rajya Sabha MP Parvez Hashmi.
In strong defense of his wife he said that those who have accused her do not know who she is. “I think they do not even know 0.1 percent of who Ishrat is. If they would have known, they would not have done that. All these charges are completely false.” When asked who Ishrat was then? He said, “My life.”
A Concerned Mother
While Farhan oozed of optimism, Ishrat’s mother Firdos Jahan seemed reticent and concerned. Her husband died in 2010 of heart failure and ever since she has taken charge of her children.
While speaking to this reporter she seemed to be in a hurry to leave and used her words sparingly, “When she came out of jail on 10 June, she hugged me and cried for very long. My daughter is innocent. Of course she thinks about how she got stuck in this predicament,” she pauses and then adds, “When someone gets stuck then they have no choice but to find the strength to survive.”
The only time Ishrat’s mother Firdos spoke without pause, was when she said, “My daughter is innocent. She was a councilor from that seat, the ladies from that place would come and take my daughter there for support. This is it. There is nothing more than this,” she said indicating that she was done talking.
In another room on the floor below, Ishrat sat surrounded by her relatives, her distress apparent when she says, “Look I will not deny that I was a part of the protests in Khureji. I am the local president and I have been a representative as well, so I would attend it several times. However, I was not alone. Over 1,000 women were there so why was I the only one who was targeted?"
When asked if she was mentally prepared to go back to jail on 19 June, she said, “It is up to God, I can not say anything but I will say that even the time I have spent in jail has been an injustice done to me. So it will be gross injustice if I have to go back to jail in the future. For three and a half months they false implicated me and kept me in jail, that was a wrong. It was very painful.”
Speaking about how she wants to concentrate on living in the moment Ishrat says, “ My past has been very hard, very painful, I have also been falsely implicated. Now instead of thinking about the future, I do not want to ruin this moment, the present, at all.”
Belief in The Judiciary
Ishrat, Farhan and Firdos expressed the same faith in the judicial process. Aware that Ishrat is the first UAPA accused to be out on bail, they see it as a good sign.
Her husband, Farhan said the interim bail was a step towards justice. “Despite these big charges that have been slapped on her we have taken a step towards justice. Today stands as a live example for that. Ishrat is at home today. Even if it is for ten days. I am thankful with all my heart to the country's law and judiciary that they ensured justice.” Ishrat too said she felt very lucky, “I am lucky that the judiciary has given me the chance, appreciated me.” When asked that this was only regarding interim bail, she said, “It is interim bail, but I am the first one. I feel that even ahead the judiciary will appreciate the injustice to me and Inshallah I will get justice soon.”
Ishrat’s lawyer Lalit Valecha, from Evision Legal Solution LLP, said that while he usually does not accept cases pertaining to riots, terrorism or other such offences, but after going through the details of the case and Ishrat being an enrolled advocate with Bar Council of Delhi since 2006, he was convinced to represent her.
Speaking about the case, he says, "My client was granted bail in the first FIR, FIR 44/2020, that was slapped against her and the court had said in its bail order that 'no overt act has been assigned to her whereby she incited the crowd to take law in their hands and use force against the police.' After which they have slapped her with FIR 59/2020, however the investigating agency has failed to provide evidence to justify framing my client under such a stringent law, as is the UAPA. We will continue to take the matter up in court."
Talking about the ambiance at the wedding, Ishrat’s mother said that they had planned this wedding before hand. “It had to happen. We moved court for it. The judge heard us out and gave interim bail, we felt good.” However when asked about the days ahead, when it will be time for Ishrat to return to jail, she sounds less optimistic. “Let's see... Let's see what happens.”