Surprised, But Grateful: Natasha, Devangana, Asif’s Family on Bail
After the Delhi riots accused were granted bail by court, their families open up about patience, hope and faith.
Filled with hope and excitement, looking forward to properly catching up and eating grand meals together, the families of three UAPA who were granted bail have welcomed the Delhi High Court judgment from 15 June.
The trio are among those accused of being conspirators of the communal riots that took the lives of 53 people in the capital in February 2020. The court categorically noted that the state failed to produce evidence to show that the three accused prima facie committed a terror offence as contemplated under concerned sections of UAPA.
As a result, 32-year-old Natasha Narwal, 31-year-old Devangana Kalita and 25-year-old Asif Iqbal Tanha shall be home soon. While the first two are members of Pinjra Tod and are pursuing their PhD in JNU, Tanha is a student of Jamia Millia Islamia pursuing Persian. All three of them are vocal anti-CAA protesters.
The Quint reached out to their families who told us how they were filled with hope, grateful to the courts and were eagerly awaiting their return.
While the families wait patiently for the three of them to leave Tihar Jail in Delhi, the formalities for the grant of bail have not been completed even 24 hours after the court order. The lawyers have said this delay is unusual and concerning. Especially considering the Delhi Police challenging the Delhi HC order granting bail via a Special Leave Petition filed in the Supreme Court.
After hearing the arguments by the police who asked for more time to complete verification and from the counsels of the 3 accused, the Delhi court reserved its order on release after the hearing on 16 June.
‘Trust in Judiciary Rekindled’: Natasha Narwal’s Brother Akash
Natasha Narwal was in Tihar jail when she lost her father Mahavir Narwal to COVID about a month ago on 11 May. “The news about her bail plea getting accepted came as a surprise to me. I wasn't expecting such good news at this time of my life when everything has been going downhill,” Akash Narwal, Natasha’s 27-year-old brother, said in a response to The Quint’s query.
Her lawyers had moved an urgent interim bail plea to see Mahavir on 9 May, the matter was heard only on 10 May, by when their father had already breathed his last. Delhi High Court had granted her three weeks interim bail after his death to ensure the cremation etc go on smoothly. Natasha and Akash had lost their mother about twenty years ago.
Speaking about the order, Akash said:
“Reading such a strong and powerful bail order rekindled my trust in the judiciary system and it gives me hope that everyone else that is wrongly accused and incarcerated gets justice too.”
Speaking about Natasha in particular and how he plans to catch up with her, Akash said, “Natasha stood strongly and wisely during her perils that kept growing larger and larger ever since the arrest. She gave me hope and guidance even from inside the jail. I can't wait to meet her and catch up with her properly.”
‘Will Cook Her Favourite Meal Soon’: Devangana’s Mother
While Natasha’s brother can’t wait to catch up with his elder sister, Devangana’s mother is looking forward to making her favorite meal.
Devangana’s mother, 60-year-old Kalpana Deka Kalita, who is a professor and Head of Department of Applied Geology in Dibrugarh University, said:
“In Assam fish is our normal diet, so whenever she would call she would say how she did not even get to eat one egg for a year and laugh. At home, we also made less non-veg food in solidarity with her. In one letter I wrote to her that after she is released I will come to Delhi and cook a grand meal with fish for her.”
She says the family is happy, relaxed and busy responding to congratulatory messages from everyone. "We did not expect that Devangana and Natasha could get bail in the UAPA case, where it seems that jail is the rule and bail is the exception. This is based on what I have read as I do not have background knowledge of the law. The news from the court has surprised us, shows us that there is democracy in India,” she said.
Kalpana says they had mentally prepared themselves and her to spend more years in jail. “In every letter we would tell her that it is not a dark time for her, but her golden opportunity or golden moment of her life to use it to write and spend time to productively think as well,” she said adding that they got to speak to her briefly after the verdict.
“We spoke to her for a few minutes after we got to know of her bail, she was telling her father excitedly that she has been granted bail and her father jokingly said that she should have stayed in jail for more days, to which she said that she was already disciplined enough now and can return. They were joking around of course,” she chuckled and said.
Devangana’s family is all praise for their lawyers and repeatedly told this reporter, “There is one thing I have to say, while the judiciary has shown that those who are innocent will be proven innocent we are deeply thankful to our lawyers Adit Pujari and Tusharika Mattoo, the credit for all this goes to them only. They worked very hard.”
Her brother, 25-year-old Devang Bidrum said, “I can’t wait to meet my sister and hear several more stories of the time she spent in jail. I am also proud that she did good work in jail, like teaching kids drawing, taking care of the children and trying to ensure everyone gets vaccines.”
‘Other Innocent UAPA Accused Must Also be Let Off’: Asif’s Brother
Asif Iqbal Tanha’s brother, 27-year-old Shahnawaz Hussain, is quick to pray for the other UAPA accused who continue to languish in jail under the same case. He said:
“We trust the courts to see through everything and see the truth. Hope the other innocent people who are in jail in this case are also released from jail soon. This judgment is good for the other UAPA accused in jail.”
He told us how Asif Iqbal Tanha, 25, gave his exam today morning online, as part of the final year of graduation in Persian in Jamia Millia Islamia.
“Last night our lawyer called and said we had trust that we would get bail but that we will approach the Supreme Court if we do not. We were not expecting it to happen as the summer vacations of the court are on, so we were shocked. Everyone would say that UAPA cases do not get bail easily, but now people are just so happy and calling,” Hussain, who works at a Common Service Centre in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, said.
Asif’s mother, 57-year-old Jahaan Ara can’t contain her excitement. She said her faith in the judiciary has been answered, “We had complete faith that he would get bail. These were baseless accusations on my son, he would study a lot and now he will come home soon. I am only thinking about how I will give him a tight hug when I see him next.”
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