Accused without proof of having instigated the outbreak of the anti-Muslim riots of February 2020 which left 53 dead and several hundred injured in the northeastern neighborhoods of the capital of India, three young trade unionists were released on Thursday, June 17. Incarcerated since May 2020 under a law on the prevention of terrorism, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha had obtained their release on bail Tuesday, June 15, by decision of the Delhi High Court, but were unable to get home as quickly as planned. The Delhi police have in fact asked the judges for an eight-day period to issue them with their exit vouchers, time to verify their addresses and their respective identity cards.
“Once a bail order is made, it cannot be obstructed for administrative or ministerial reasons. If it is a question of verification, the police know perfectly well where the defendants reside, since their address is part of the indictment ”, one of the defense lawyers protested. The Delhi police, which has the distinction of being placed under the direct supervision of the Ministry of the Interior at the federal level, also appealed for the release of the three activists to the Supreme Court.
Without waiting for the verdict of the latter, scheduled for Friday, the Delhi High Court severely raised its tone and demanded, Thursday, “Immediate release” of the three defendants, which she ended up obtaining in the early evening. Shortly after 7 p.m., Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha appeared at the exit of Tihar Prison, the prison in the western suburbs of Delhi, reputed to be the largest in South Asia, with 10,000 places.
Violence orchestrated by nationalists
The three days of arm wrestling that have just taken place give an idea of the sensitivity of the issue and the repercussions it could have for the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi. The magistrates of the capital emphasize that“None of the three accused is specifically accused of a terrorist act, of financing a terrorist act or of an act equivalent to a conspiracy to commit a terrorist act or an act preparatory to it”. They consider that “In its desire to suppress all dissent, the state has blurred the line between the right to demonstrate, guaranteed by the Constitution, and terrorist activity”.
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