Video Editor: Naman Shah
Student activists Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha were released from the Tihar Jail on Thursday, 17 June, two days after the Delhi High Court granted them bail in a case related to the Delhi riots.
Visuals that have since emerged from outside the jail, show the three flanked by well-wishers and journalists, as they addressed the media.
Natasha Narwal thanked the Delhi High Court for its "upholding what we believe in".
“They won’t be able to threaten us with jail. If they threaten to incarcerate us, that will only strengthen our resolve to carry on our fight.”Natasha Narwal
"We are women who are not scared of them (the government)," Devangana Kalita was quoted by NDTV as saying.
Donning a mask that read, ‘No NRC, No CAA’ Asif Tanha, on his part, said that he had kept hope that he will be released some day.
‘Survived Because of Support From Friends and Well-Wishers’
"We survived because we received tremendous support from friends, from well-wishers." Devangana Kalita told NDTV. "I thank them all," she added.
She also hit out at the government, saying it’s trying to suppress dissent and the voice of the people, reported PTI.
'It Was a Democratic Protest, Led by Women'
Stating that she does not want to comment on the case as it was still in court, Natasha Narwal said:
“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.”
She also told PTI that for many months, they could not fathom that they were "in jail under such charges". But she added, “We have received tremendous support inside jail... (we) will continue our struggle.”
Natasha lost her father Mahavir Narwal to COVID-19 last month while she was still in jail. Speaking about her father's death, she said, “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.”
‘Address the COVID Situation in Prisons’
“I am grateful to Almighty Allah and thank all supporters, my lawyers and all people fighting for the freedom of others.”Asif Tanha
"I hope that all political prisoners, everyone who is imprisoned due to their ideology or identity, will be released very soon," Asif Tanha said. He also reiterated that "our fight is against the discriminatory CAA and not against people of any faith."
He further said that he was glad that the court had asserted that "our peaceful and democratic protests had nothing to do with the riots", expressing hope that the judgment will serve as an important precedent.
Tanha also appealed to the government to address the COVID conditions in prison.
“At this time, I would specifically like to appeal (that) prisoners with shorter sentences need to be released to end overcrowding, and all prisoners must immediately be vaccinated.”Asif Tanha
More Details About the Release
Earlier, on Thursday, a trial court had ordered for the three activists’ immediate release.
Despite the bail being granted by Delhi HC on Tuesday, their release was delayed as the police cited procedural hurdles, including verification of addresses and sureties.
The court on Thursday dismissed the applications filed by the Delhi Police seeking more time for the verification of the addresses and the sureties, before releasing the three accused held under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
After not being released immediately on Tuesday despite the Delhi HC ordering so, the three activists had moved the trial court. However, the trial court, after hearing the case on Wednesday, had deferred passing the order, leading to the activists having to spend another night in prison.
The three activists then moved the Delhi HC on Thursday against the trial court deferring their release. The HC, however, asked them to wait for the trial court order.
“We're not going to monitor the process before the trial court. Let the matter be heard by the trial court at 12 pm. It is expected to hear the matter expeditiously and with promptitude,” the high court had said, as quoted by LiveLaw.
The three activists had moved the trial court on Tuesday seeking their immediate release following the HC order.
During the trial court hearing on Wednesday, the police claimed that their permanent addresses were in different states of Jharkhand, Assam, and Haryana, and they were in a “paucity of time to complete the verification.”
The activists’ lawyer advocate Adit S Pujari had argued that even if their permanent addresses were in other states which are their hometowns, the three accused primarily lived in Delhi in rented houses. Additionally, they were arrested in Delhi as mentioned in the arrest memo and the same was listed in the documents submitted to the police.
Additional Sessions Judge Ravinder Bedi then deferred the order to Thursday, 11 am, citing a “heavy board” of other bail applications, as reported by Bar and Bench.