Indian activists jailed over citizenship law protests walk free on bail


Indian student activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita walked out of Tihar prison on Thursday, 48 hours after a court ordered their release on bail.

Ms. Narwal and Ms. Kalita are founding members of PinjraTod (Break the Cage), a popular student movement that wants women to reclaim public spaces.

The police said the reason for the delay of their release was because they wanted time to verify their addresses, to which the judge in Delhi said was “not plausible”.

The students were arrested in May 2020 under a stringent anti-terrorism law after they joined a protest last year against a controversial citizenship law, a day before deadly riots broke out in Delhi.

“We have received tremendous support inside jail and we will continue our struggle,” Ms. Narwal told reporters outside Tihar jail.

Granting bail on Tuesday, the judges had criticised the government for confusing the right to protest with terrorist activity.

A third activist, Asif Iqbal Tanha, also walked free on Thursday. He too was arrested in May last year for taking part in protests before the rioting, and spent two more days in jail despite having been bailed on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the three have accused the police of using delaying tactics to keep them in jail – and on Thursday, Judge Ravinder Bedi ordered them to be immediately released.

The Delhi police appeal against their bail will be heard by the Supreme Court on Friday.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) sparked massive protests across India. Critics say it discriminates against Muslims, a charge the government denies. One of the protests in Delhi sparked a political rally in favour of the law the following day.

Later that day, minor clashes were reported between Hindus and Muslims. But the situation escalated and soon turned into deadly riots that killed 53 people, mostly Muslims. (Source: BBC)