It has been over a year since Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, members of the women’s collective Pinjra Tod, were arrested in relation to the communal violence that swept northeast Delhi in February 2020. Through this period, Narwal and Kalita have remained incarcerated in Tihar’s Jail 6—the women’s prison—as under-trial prisoners, having repeatedly been denied bail. In May 2021, Narwal was granted interim bail for three weeks, following the death of her father, Mahavir, from COVID-19.
Kalita and Narwal are doctoral students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, in the centres for women’s studies and for historical studies, respectively. They are accused under several different first-information reports related to the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019 and the violence in February, and have secured bail in nearly all of these.
The duo was first arrested on 23 May, in an FIR related to a sit-in protest against the CAA. The next day, they secured bail, with a Delhi court noting that they were “merely protesting against the NRC and CAA, and … did not indulge into any violence.” Within minutes of being granted bail, the duo was arrested in a second case, under more serious charges, including rioting and attempt to murder. They were accused of instigating crowds at the Jafrabad metro station in Delhi, preceding the communal violence. Once again, little was produced in terms of evidence apart from their participation in the anti-CAA protests. In September that year, while granting bail to Kalita in the second case, a Delhi High Court judge noted that the Delhi Police “failed to produce any material” that she had instigated any crowds. In Narwal’s case, a Delhi district court ruled that none of the videos submitted by the police as evidence “show the accused indulging or inciting the violence.”